Newsletter #171 - Oct 13, 2007
Microsoft Office 'Live Meeting'
Difficult file conversions are
often in the limelight, much of them about Divx, Xvid, MOV and other
'outsider' file types . It's less usual to
have wmv 'insider' files made by Microsoft software.
I perked up when I
read this 10/5/07 newsgroup post by Marco Shaw, a Windows
I've got 2 WMV files
from a recorded Live Meeting 2007 session. They were
split up on purpose.
I've loaded them into Movie Maker 2, and was
trying to edit the first, then join the 2 together. When I go to "save movie
file", a timer starts to give me an estimate of how long it will take to
create the file, but it counts *forever* (999+!).
Are there any known
issues with saving WMV files within Live Meeting 2007 and them being
"compatible" with Movie
Here's a snapshot of a recorded Live Meeting being
viewed. The file is online and the viewer is part of Microsoft Office Live
Checking the properties of the video shows it as
a wmv file compressed with the Windows Media Video 9 Screen codec for video, and
the Audio 9 Voice codec for audio. Online
The Windows Media
Video 9 Screen codec is optimized for compressing sequential
screenshots and highly static video that is captured from the computer
display, which makes it ideal for delivering demos or demonstrating computer
use for training. The codec takes advantage of the typical image simplicity
and relative lack of motion to achieve a very high compression ratio.
During the encoding process, the codec
automatically switches between lossy and lossless encoding modes, depending on
the complexity of the video data. For complex data, the lossless mode
preserves an exact copy of the data. For less complex data, the lossy mode
discards some data to achieve a higher compression ratio. By automatically
switching between these two modes, the codec maintains video quality while
Overall, the Windows Media
Video 9 Screen codec delivers better handling of bitmap images and screen
motion, even on relatively modest CPUs. It is also up to 100 times more
efficient than the commonly-used run length encoding.
The Voice codec is designed
for very low bit rate encoding of 4 kbits/s to 20 kbits/s for speech, sampled
at rates from 8 kHz to 22 kHz. It is intended for internet
streaming. The encoder can switch
between the normal WMA coding mode when music is detected, but switches to a
code excited linear prediction (CELP) mode for
With that background, let's get and
check Marco's files. They played
fine in Windows Media Player 11, and nothing says they won't work in Movie
Movie Maker 2.1 on my XP laptop, with my most complete
collection of codecs, could preview them in the collections and as clips on
the timeline, but couldn't effectively save movies if the files were
included. My new Vista laptop couldn't do any better. I saw the same as
Marco, the estimate to completion rising higher and forever. File conversion is
the standard approach when files don't work.
We don't learn as much from things that go well
and easy as we do from things that don't work. Let's see what
we learn from these. You might find yourself wanting to use Windows
Live Recordings someday.
Before getting into them, here
installed the full Expression Suite and expect
to spend time this winter getting to know it enough
to enhance the appearance of my website, and use Silverlight
for things beyond simply playing the same videos I have on my site
YouTube, my library training sessions for this school
year start again on Oct 17th... with the first class about putting
movies on YouTube.
I'm into another
busy period of writing more software reviews for Bright
Hub. 4 more of them over the next couple weeks.
.... back to the main
Live Meeting 2007
The two files played fine in Windows Media
Player, and imported/previewed in Movie Maker 2.1 on XP and MM6 on
But drag one to the timeline and try to
save just the first trimmed minute as a movie, and you never
got past the 4% complete mark... and the estimated time to completion ramps up
to forever. It was time to look at them closer.
Checking the file properties with
a right mouse click showed:
one was 13 min, 16 sec, and the other 1 hr, 7
min, 16 sec
pixel dimensions: 704 x 528
audio: bitrate of 224kbps, 16 bit sample size,
mono, 8 kHz sample rate
video: 200 kbps data rate, 24 bit sample size,
stream name of video 2
They aligned with the properties of the playing file we looked
A checkup with GSpot showed the
files were made by the Windows Media Speech codec for audio compression, and the
MSS2 Windows Media 9 Screen Codec for video compression.
Screen captured files are not that unusual. I make
them using the same MSS2 codec with the Windows 9 Media Encoder, but
somehow those produced by the Encoder work fine in Movie Maker projects.
There must be something different about these coming from the Live Meeting
The next checkup tool is the Windows Media File
Could it be all they needed was indexing
Simply opening the files with the File Editor and
saving them is enough to reindex them. But that by itself wasn't enough to make
the files usable to Movie Maker.
After each step, I'd try again in Movie Maker...
trying to save the first minute of the first file to a new file. The 4%
mark was the hurdle I was trying to jump over. No luck with the file
While in the File Editor I saw all those markers
and the script command. Using the File Editor, I removed them all and tried
again. No luck!!
I was trying to use Movie Maker as the conversion
tool, and not having any luck.
WMSnoop was next. The
properties aligned with what we'd seen with other tools.
What I didn't see in WMSnoop was the typical
regular rhythmic beat of keyframes, a usual feature of a video file.
Even stories, with the Image codec, show routinely spaced keyframes.
My guess is Movie Maker needs source
video files with keyframes. When not seeing any, it keeps looking and
looking.... forever. It doesn't know what to do without them.
I don't have access to the software code to know
what Movie Maker is actually thinking about... it's just like people... you can
see them doing something, but you don't know what they are
I knew we were needing to do file conversions.
Marco had already gotten input from another MVP that the Windows Media Encoder
could do them. I thought of trying the newer Expression Encoder but went with
the tried and true Windows Media 9 Encoder.
Windows Media Encoder - File
The Encoder starts with the New Session Wizard asking what you want to
do > Convert a file > Select the source file and provide the folder
and name for the output file
At the next step you pick the method of
distribution (see the image at the right). At this point none of the
choices seem appropriate as I'm just wanting to make a video file that
works in Movie Maker and give it back to Marco. I'm not going to distribute it.
For the highest quality, I opt for File archive.
It really doesn't make a difference which
choice you pick at this point. Once the wizard is finished you can tweak the
properties of the session and change anything you want.
In the encoder session properties I opted
for a high video bitrate of 5,000 kbps for a high quality output file
(the bitrate of high quality DVDs, more than twice the highest choice
in Movie Maker 2.1 unless you use a custom profile or opt for DV-AVI).
I kept the video output file the same pixel size as the inputs... 704x528
The videos were Power Point type shows with lots of
smaller sized text, the kind of content that can significantly degrade when
converting to movie files at lower bitrates, or recompressing the
video to different pixel sizes.
The actual conversions went pretty quick, giving me
two new source files for the movie project, ones rendered with a video
codec rather than a screen codec. They'll have keyframes.
the Movie Maker Project
The project was the easiest part of the process.
Marco knew exactly what he wanted for trim points and arrangement.
Key to saving the movie at an appropriate level of
quality is knowing where it's going, something I didn't know. I assumed it would
be either played online using a broadband connection, or downloaded and
played locally on a computer. Maybe he'll let me know after he reads this
To keep the size of 704x528, I needed a custom
profile. Page 2 of the profile in the Profile Editor
shows what I opted for.
The two original files had
low quality mono audio... carried over into the converted source files
by the Encoder as high quality stereo. To save file size in the
final output, I went back to mono, at a higher quality than the
original... to preserve whatever quality it had.
The video size is the same as the originals...
704x528 pixels. It's a standard 4:3 aspect ratio but not of the pixel
dimensions normally used. Again, because of the large amount of small text in
the content, I didn't want the text effected by resizing one direction or the
15 frames per second is high for a slideshow, but
only half of the usual 30 fps for NTSC videos. Using 15 fps saves lots of
file size space and makes the movie easier to render.
The video bitrate of 500 kbps is only 10%
the size of the source files from the Encoder, low enough for smooth
playing on broadband connections, yet high enough for good quality
viewing of slideshow content.
Conclusion and Closing... and What's
Thanks to Marco for a good newsletter topic. I didn't have the
frustrations of being at his end. These are the usual kinds of things
experienced users of Movie Maker run into all the time.
Next week's topic will be about adding an animation in
Movie Maker by bluescreening... the one minute sample file is online.
Here's the link.
Have a great week!!