PapaJohn Productions

Newsletter #167
Movie Maker in Vista's Home Basic Version

Vista's Home Basic doesn't include High-Def or MPEG-2 support in Movie Maker, nor does it have the new DVD Maker... that doesn't say anything about what it does have and how well it works.

In this issue, I'll give my newer Toshiba laptop with Vista Home Basic a general checkup by importing and previewing lots of test files .


The app files in the Movie Maker folder of the Home Basic system are identical to those on my Vista Ultimate system. But not having high-def and DVD Maker features, it lacks the executable and DLLs for DVD Maker, along with eight .ax codec files and a few font files.

I started by feeding it 70 audio files of many different file types. It accepted about 40 of them, gave nicely worded messages for most of the ones it couldn't accept, and crashed totally with one of the file types.

Unchecking all 10 of the line items in the Compatibility list didn't result in Movie Maker accepting the crashing file type, but it replaced the non-elegant crashing with a message saying it couldn't handle the file. Now to get on with seeing if the imported files preview and work in projects.

I don't know what I'll learn from the exercises.... but with only ten line items to uncheck in the compatibility list, it should be easy to figure out which one is involved in the crashing.
After the audio files, I'll do the same with still pix and video clips. But first....
... a couple notes...


I tried the new Windows Live Photo Gallery Beta software. It worked well, but using it coincided with new regular error messages from Outlook Express saying "Outlook Express could not be started. It may not be installed correctly. Make sure that your disk is not full or that you are not out of memory. Contact Microsoft support for further assistance. (0x8004005, 183)". Confusing in that outside of the error messages, Outlook Express is working fine. I'm writing this newsletter with it. 


Besides the Photo Gallery, I had installed a number of Windows Live features. Not only was I getting the error messages, but the performance of my system had slowed down noticeably. Yesterday I started to resolve things by uninstalling the Windows Live Photo Gallery, followed by Windows Live Writer, Windows Live Toolbar, Windows Live Sign-in Assistant, Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live Installer, Windows Live Favorites, and Windows Live Toolbar...


The system returned to it's perky normal but the Outlook Express errors continue, popping up every few minutes as I use the app to read or write emails.


I'm using my Vista Home Basic laptop more and more... and it's working well. I'll be pretty busy over the next 2 weeks writing 4 software reviews about: morphing, icon editing, picture management, and desktop publishing. The icon editing one makes Vista icons so the laptop will get some more of a workout.



.... back to the main topic...

Importing Files...
Let's go through the audio files first, followed by other file types.
Audio Files 
The file types that imported, with notes about those that didn't preview in the collections, were:
Compatibility ListOGG - Movie Maker crashed on importing until I unchecked the ffdshow audio decoder in the compatibility list... you may remember my installing the ffdshow codec a few weeks ago for newsletter #164. Once unchecked the OGG files imported and previewed fine. I left the ffdshow video decoder checked.
PCA - imported but didn't preview in the collection, and doesn't open in WMP.
WMA - 6 of my 7 samples worked fine, but one 128 kbps file made by FX Audio plays OK in WMP but doesn't preview in Movie Maker. And later we'll see that it has the strange behavior of going to the video track of a movie project.
Audio file types that didn't import, and for the most part didn't play in WMP, were:

Still Pictures
Aspect ratios of thumbnails and previews look good.
The biggest file I tried was a JPG of 26,788 pixels wide by 3,916 pixels high. MM6 handled it well, reducing it's size appropriately to fit the proportions of the preview window.
The smallest files were one pixel by one pixel, which is still 1 pixel in total. There were no issues with the black one... but the white one appears in the thumbnail and preview monitor as a gradient rather than an all white image, but all-white in the preview monitor when on the timeline. They both are square in shape in the thumbnail and preview monitor.... pixels on computers are square.
File types that imported:
NEF - RAW pictures from my D40x Nikon 10 megapixel camera
TGA - imported but didn't preview... got just a Targa icon in the preview monitor
File types that didn't import:

Animated GIF
Animated GIFs imported into collections. These are special files in that Movie Maker by design handles as still pictures in the collections and video clips on the timeline. 
But unlike normal video clips on the timeline you can grab the right trim handle and change the clips duration... but when doing so, it plays at the same speed, just increasing the number of cycles it goes through.
My spinning globe sample was going way too fast and the overall clip duration had nothing to do with the speed. Adding the Slow Down, Half effect a few times was needed to have it rotate at a visually appealing speed.
Movie Maker in Vista maintains the aspect ratio of animated GIF files... the spinning globe is round, not egg-shaped as in MM2.1 on XP.

PDF slideshows play on the laptop but don't import into Movie Maker.

Video Files
File types that imported and previewed fine were:
ASF - made by MuVee
AVI - DV-AVI types I and II files made by XP's MM1, MM2, MM2.1
AVI - DV-AVI files made by Vista MM6
AVI - DV-AVI files made by VirtualDub using the Panasonic DV codec
AVI - Motion JPEG made by Canon HDD camcorder TX1 in HD 720 size
AVI - MPEG4 made by MovieXOne
AVI - MPEG4 made by Stoick's VideoConverter
AVI - uncompressed made by VirtualDub
AVI - Divx encoded made by VirtualDub
AVI - Xvid encoded made by VirtualDub and VDubMod
MMG - made by TMPGEnc
WMV - Photo Story 3 files, standard and widescreen
WMV - VC1 encoded files made by the Expression Encoder
WMV - created by Zwein-Stein
Imported OK but had a preview issue or other quirk:
Video clips that didn't import:
DVR-MS from a Sony HDV camcorder, with mixed HD and DV clips
DVR-MS from a CanonMV10 high def camcorder
FLV - Flash
GVI - Google Video
M2V files from a mini-DVD camcorder, after being extracted from the MPEG file
MOV - Quick Time
RM - Real Media
SWF - Flash

Continue to use Photo Story for the best panned/zoomed clips...
To see if MM6 handles high quality still images any better than XP, when you do a pan/zoom, I ran through this exercise.
The starting JPG is 26,788 pixels wide by 3,916 pixels high, a stitched together panorama of my office... made from 10 megapixel pictures. In MM6 I applied one of the Pixelan Pan/Zoom effects to pan the full picture from left to right, which cropped the top and bottom black borders as it went.
I rendered the clip to a 3000 kbps WMV file, the Windows Media DVD Quality (3.0 Mbps) choice, a pretty high quality one. See how soft the video is compared to the same part of the original picture.
Quality Comparison
story to MM6The limit of a picture size used in a Photo Story 3 project is 7,200 pixels in either dimension. Give  MM6 an 'atta-boy' for being able to handle it.
Using Photo Story and Movie Maker together has always been one of my favorite subjects, so I explored this a bit more.
I cropped a 7200 pixel wide segment off the picture so it would go into PS3, used the motion settings to zoom into the same area, rendered it to a 640x480 pixel sized WMV with a generic profile for computer playback, imported the story into MM6, rendered it there using the same 3.0 Mbps profile used above, and viewed it in WMP.
You can see the result, much closer to the original than the panning and zooming by MM6. This again illustrates the value of using Photo Story to make panning/zooming clips for movie projects.

Movie Project...
As the final check, I put the imported video, pix and audio clips on the timeline... almost 35 minutes in total duration and placed randomly. I used the AutoMovie feature of Movie Maker with it's Music Video style to get the project started.
After checking over my clips, AutoMovie gave me an interesting error message, one I hadn't seen before. Have a read!
Auto Movie Error
So my content is too poor, and I didn't even copy it from YouTube!!!
I starting looking closer at the variety of clips in the project and stripping them out to see if I could find the ones that AutoMovie didn't like. I wasn't successful, but did see one very interesting one.
WMA file in Video TrackThe 128 kbps WMA file made by FX Audio, the one I mentioned above about it playing in WMP but not previewing in the collection. 
It was the first time I'd ever seen an audio file go to the video track of the project, not the Audio/Music track. That's a clip to study some more someday.
No luck with that clip removed. I then deleted the files little by little until there was just one video clip and music file left... and got the message over and over. The bottom line was it didn't like the content I had used.
I tried with a long clip from a mini-DV import session and AutoMovie worked well, confirming the issue was my content and not Movie Maker or AutoMovie. If it would just tell me the clip(s) it doesn't like, it would have saved lots of work and wondering!!!

Conclusion and Closing... and What's Next?
The exercises for this newsletter didn't uncover any issues. It's another week of helping me warm up the day I'll only be using Vista.
As I mentioned in the notes section, I'll be busy writing software reviews over the next two weeks. I don't expect them to effect my newsletter schedule.