PapaJohn Productions

Newsletter #176 - Nov 19, 2007
Microsoft Virtual Earth

The Virtual Earth group is running a video contest. Here's the link Rob posted on his forums which sucked me in... and led to this newsletter topic.
Chicago Summer FunI submitted my entry and wrote this issue as I went... it ended up as a 4-1/2 minute flick about Summer Fun in Chicago. I rendered it twice:
for MSN Soapbox at a higher quality
and for YouTube using my custom profile that aligns with the Flash file it creates
The project includes 4 special video clips made from Microsoft's Virtual Earth, the subject of the week.
Before getting into it, here are...
a few notes...


Support Space is gearing up to do its QA test phase of Vista support software... I'll be helping by testing from my Ultimate and Home Basic systems.


The first conference call with BrightHub was very positive from both sides, BrightHub staff and contributing writers.



Frank DelaneyFrank Delaney produces Raw Bytes Computer News, a radio show broadcast from KPBX FM 91.1 Spokane, Washington Public Radio NPR. 


He kicked off a new project about Movie Maker and I'm helping with what I can... first by adding this website page to my site...

The page has an embedded video, a takeoff on the contest entry... substituting two of Frank's personal guitar strumming and folk tune singing sessions... one of his passions. Click on the picture of Frank above to see and hear more of him on YouTube.


The embedded video is on my website, at a higher quality than the contest submittals on YouTube and MSN Soapbox.



Here's a sideline note about Movie Maker 2.1, something I found when working on my latest project... a 4-1/2 minute flick about Chicago. Source files were DV-AVI files, about 6 WMA music files, and a WMV Photo Story. The project and source files were on an external USB drive.

My laptop's Tools > Options > compatibility tab codec/filter list had 62 line items. By default all but one or two were checked, which lets the unchecked ones 'work with' with Movie Maker.

  • With the default settings it took a full 4 minutes to open the project file
  • With all line items unchecked it took 5 seconds to open... and project editing worked snappier and fine
This sets the stage for a change in my routine use of Movie Maker
  • I tend to let software work with its defaults until I have an issue to resolve or a specific setting to change... so 60 codecs were allowed to interface.
  • I'm now going to leave all the line items unchecked and turn them on one at a time as needed... such as the ffdshow codec to be able to use Motion JPEG video files.
It makes me wonder what's happening during the project opening. Why with the 60 codecs checked does it take so long? More to ponder.


.... back to the main topic...
the Bean
Virtual Earth
Why is Virtual Earth better than Google Earth or Nasa's World Wind?
For me, it's because the images of the U.S. cities are more complete and up to date. When I last compared all three, Virtual Earth was the only one that showed Chicago's big stainless steel 'Bean'.
Here's the link to Virtual Earth. You'll need to log in (free) to turn on all the features.

Moving Around
Once open it's a quick thing to zooming into anyplace in the world. Chicago is the biggest nearest one to me, a 2 hour each way day trip that we make often.
Turn on 3D and opt for Hybrid, a combo of computer graphics and real life pictures. Tilt the viewing angle using the second up control at the bottom-left... and navigate using the East/West/North/South navigation control at the upper left. This view of Chicago is from Lake Michigan looking west, at the Navy Pier level.  
You can do all that without logging in.
Virtual Earth
To create a collection, and save/record a 3D virtual tour, keep going.

Creating a Collection
Save Collection
Move around the globe and add  pushpins to your favorite places. Name them as you go and it'll add them to your collection.
Save the collection to turn on the Tour in 3D option in the drop down list of actions.
The collection is saved to an online Virtual Earth server so you can open it from a different computer.
3D Tour Option
For these screen shots I made a new collection with just 3 pushpins and saved it to a collection named 'Chicago'. Once your collection is saved, you have the option of recording it.

Recording a 3D Tour
When you open a saved collection, touring in 3D lets you select any of the pushpins and the monitor will take you to it. You can also opt to press the red button which will record the full tour starting with the pushpin you're at.
Record 3D Tour
Recording in ProgressPress the red record button, select the folder and give it a file name for the wmv.
Recording in progress... >> completed.
Recording Complete
Looking at the wmv file shows it with a healthy  800kbps video data rate, with pixel dimensions of standard aspect ratio 640x480. It's a wmv video file that works great as a source file in Movie Maker.

Beyond the Recorded 3D Tour

The 3D tour recordings are great. But they remind me a bit of the AutoMovie feature of Movie Maker in that you get to pick the source material but it gets to do the editing. And it's a standard aspect ratio video that doesn't align with my personal video footage of Chicago in recent years, mostly shot widescreen.
Your choices are many... crop the standard 3D tours to make widescreen clips... crop the widescreen camcorder scenes to make them standard.... do a screen recording of the 3D tour using the Windows Media Encoder... or whatever else works. What you do will depend on the specific project.
For this project I put my camcorder on a tripod and recorded some widescreen scenes of Virtual Earth on my laptop. I zoomed into part of the screen and left the camcorder running as I manned the navigation controls. That got me the clips for the quicker fly-bys.
For the final scene where the movement along the shore of Lake Michigan is slower and more evenly paced, I turned to Photo Story 3. With 3 screen shots of Virtual Earth (using IrfanView), I stitched them into a panoramic picture using Microsoft Paint, distorted the panoramic image to align with the size need for a widescreen story (multiply the picture height in IrfanView by 133%), made the story with the movement changing directions to go out to the end of Navy Pier, and saved the story using one of my custom widescreen profiles.

Movie Maker Project
The project was made and rendered as a single pass project. Running down the tracks and the clips on them, here are some notes.
Video - first half of the project
  • the first clip has an Adorage frame effect and 3 shots of the Ease In effect. You can use as many as 6 effects on each clip
  • the first of the Virtual Earth clips is tucked between two clips, overlapping the 3 clips as much as possible... two-blocking the two clips of the group of 5 planes with the quick diving into Chicago clip between. I split the 5 planes clip and put the city scene between, so the two-blocking of the two split parts makes for a continuous scene fading out and in, and maintaining the audio through the two split parts.
  • the Apache helicopter had it's spot-light on, so it begged for the Pixelan spot-light soft pan effects on the city scenes, making it appear that the chopper was overhead. The audio through the scene adds to the illusion.
  • I added the 'Film Look 05 Bronze' Pixelan effect to the clips of the Apache chopper and the city fly-over clips... another step of integrating the separate clips to help with the illusion.
Audio - six WMA files for music... along with a copy of the Helicopter-5 (my clip name) DV-AVI clip for sound effects during the fly-overs.
Title Overlays - nothing special except for mis-spelling the word Millennium... that'll teach me to cross-check spelling using a random Chicago website rather than a more official one, or a dictionary. The same font, Miriam Fixed, is used in all of the title overlay clips. I work on the font with the first overlay, and then copy/paste it through the rest of the project so there's easy continuity of style through all the text clips.
Project Part 1
Video - second half of the project
  • the boat on the Chicago River has an Adorage effect on it... postcard-like with flowers
  • the long fireworks clip had an Army stunt parachutist clip overlapping it as far as I could make it go, with the Persian - Chroma Blue transition applied so it's a 'blue-screened' effect.  The day of the airshow when I videod the parachutist was totally sunny and clear, making for a perfect blue background. I fade both the background and foreground clips to black to prevent that last flash of blueness due to not being able to totally overlap clips.
  • the final longer city view clip with another 'blue-screened' clip of the parachutist is the Photo Story I mentioned above... a good chance to see Movie Maker's 'bluescreening' in action.
Project Part 2

Conclusion and Closing... and What's Next?
Comments on the video have been super positive. We'll see if it's good enough to win a Zune in the Virtual Earth contest.
Virtual Earth is great!!! I'm hoping the contest is showing by example that the rules and regulations allow such personal use of clips made from it as a routine thing, so we can plan on it being a long-term resource. Any vacation project can be accented by a scene or two from Virtual Earth. 
Have a great week!!