Newsletter #176 - Nov 19, 2007
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.
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
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
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.
Delaney produces Raw Bytes Computer News, a radio
show broadcast from KPBX FM 91.1 Spokane, Washington Public Radio
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...
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.
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
This sets the stage for a change in my routine use of Movie
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
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
It makes me wonder what's happening during the project opening. Why
with the 60 codecs checked does it take so long? More to
.... back to the main
Why is Virtual Earth better than Google Earth or Nasa's World
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.
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
You can do all that without logging in.
To create a collection, and save/record a 3D virtual tour, keep
Creating a Collection
Move around the globe and add pushpins to your
favorite places. Name them as you go and it'll add them to your
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.
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.
Press the red record button, select the folder and give it a
file name for the wmv.
Recording in progress... >> completed.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
Conclusion and Closing... and What's
Comments on the video have been
super positive. We'll see if it's good enough to win a Zune in the Virtual
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
Have a great week!!