Newsletter #186 - Jan 26, 2008
Chasing a 'Spoiler' in Photo Story
a professional photographer and long-time user of Movie
Maker, Photo Story and other multimedia software. This picture is a
link to his website...
I have a CD he sent years ago with a dozen images I
could use on my website and related work. You've probably seen a
couple of them... this week I started to make a Photo Story that used them
all. That led to this week's topic about a gremlin, a spoiler... whatever you
I stopped work on the story to chase it down and write this
The pictures on the disc are 1200x800 pixels, and I
opted for a widescreen story. The steps I took were...
annotate them with the names of the scenic spots, using
do a batch resize/distortion to make two sets of them,
one without the annotated names and the other with... again
using IrfanView to multiply the height by 133%. The saved
story will distort them back to their
put 5 copies of each on the filmstrip of a PS3 project,
one with the text and the rest without. the extras were
to transition into and out of the text,
and change directions during pans and zooms.
save using a custom profile to make an 852x480 pixel story at
The previews in PS3 looked great, but viewing the
story in Windows Media Player showed a 'spoiler',
something I've encountered before and didn't understand.
With no deadline or customer delivery for this
story... I decided to set aside the project, do some detective work,
and learn something.
In the dozen pictures, there were 3 with the 'spoiler'...
2 resolved by seemingly random changes in the motion settings. One was
stubborn enough to hang on. It became my study piece. Here's the
Again, the previews in PS3 are perfect... but playback of the
saved story in WMP and Movie Maker show this blackness at the bottom of
some pictures during panning/zooming. The black part suddenly pops into
normal view at some point and the story continues along as it should... click
the image to see the problem portion of the saved story... it starts just past
the half-way mark.
I like exploring unusual repeatable issues that
are important to a project, something that obviously needs at least
enough understanding to do a work-around. I don't expect to resolve bugs,
just understand what to do to work around them.
Before going into the findings, here's...
Being always on the lookout
for neat pictures, sounds and video clips, this picture of New
York City is a link to a commons wiki site where I just
downloaded a copy of the 6 megapixel file.
It was their picture of
the day for January 25, 2008, an HDR on Photomatix, made using 3
exposures, 2 stops each.
I'll pass along the notes
about permitted usage on the wiki site... copyright issues
can get sticky-wiki... This one seems OK to use.
This file is licensed
under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 License (cc-by-sa-2.0). In
short: you are free to share and make derivative works of the file under the
conditions that you appropriately attribute it, and that you distribute it
under this or a similar cc-by-sa license.
This image was
originally posted to Flickr by paulo.barcellos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulobar/230134559/.
It was reviewed on 15:47, 21 December 2006 by FlickreviewR, and confirmed to
be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-sa-2.0.
|Description= New York City at night, photographed using the HDR technique.
|Date= August 31, 2006 |Author=[http://www.flickr.com/people/paulobar/ Paulo
Barcellos Jr.] |Permission=Fre
... back to the main
As mentioned in the opening section, my seemingly
random changes in motion settings resolved 2 of the 3 problems, but not the 3rd.
After stripping the project of music and all the
other pictures but this one set of 5, to eliminate the issue being something
interactive between it and other items, the 'spoiler' was still there, 100%
repetitive on both my XP and Vista laptops.
Each of the scenes used 5 copies of the same
pictures... three to go into and out of the text title, followed by two
How the starting and ending positions
After comparing each of the dozen picture
sequences to see how the applied motion settings differed, I
noticed the problem was with one that zoomed out, and the part that was cut
off was the entire bottom below the starting selection.
The previews showed the complete picture... the
'spoiler' was just in the rendered story, where the bottom part showed
The work-around became obvious... if something is
hot and you don't want to burn your fingers, don't touch it. By moving the end
position to keep it above the line, there wasn't an issue. That worked as the
That wasn't good enough. It didn't begin to
define the underlying reason, and it added too much of a constraint.
You would need to stay away from a large part of the picture. Who would
know about this and remember to resolve it as they rendered the
story... when the previews all looked perfect?
I remembered the last time I wrestled with
this issue, that time leaving it totally unresolved as I was eager to
upload a story to Trip Advisor... I hadn't drawn any lines and didn't know
about this work-around. That story also was a widescreen one that used
the same custom profile.
I checked lots of other things, none of which made
a difference. It was time to dig into the custom widescreen profile.
How Does Changing the Width of
the Saved Story Effect It?
Standard 4:3 NTSC videos are 640x480
pixels. Doing the math for widescreen 16:9 videos of 480 pixels in
height says the width should be 853.33 pixels. As you can't use
odd numbers in a story or movie profile, I'd been using 852 pixels.
That was working fine except for this
For testing I
cloned the profile over and over, doing nothing more than changing the setting
of the width. Regardless of size, the rendering of each went along with no
issues except for a few odd cases as noted below.
The playback of the test stories in Windows
Media Player 11 was smooth... with or without the 'spoiler'. Here are my
raw notes about what I saw as I tried various width settings from 800 to
'Spoiler' is there at widths from 800 to 858
on Vista... the 'spoiler' is there
808... checked on Vista... the
'spoiler' is there
816... checked on Vista... the 'spoiler' is
822... got this
'standard' error message on XP about memory, disc space... whatever. It
saved on Vista but playback wasn't smooth...
on XP and Vista... the 'spoiler' is there
832... checked on XP and
Vista... the 'spoiler' is there
840... checked on XP and Vista... the
'spoiler' is there
848... checked on XP and Vista... the 'spoiler' is
852... checked on XP and Vista... the 'spoiler' is
there... this is a significant number as my published widescreen profile
has used it in the past -
853.33 - the math would have you using this number
for a 16:9 aspect ratio and a height of 480 pixels. This is the crossover point
from stories that are narrower than reality to those that are
on XP and Vista... the 'spoiler' is there
856... checked on XP and Vista... the 'spoiler' is
858... checked on XP and Vista... the
'spoiler' is there
859... tried an odd
number just for fun... an error message in the Profile Editor says
you can't use odd numbers... I did it in Notepad outside the Profile
Editor, and Photo Story 3 ignored it entirely, not including it in the
list of choices. As Photo Story opens, it checks to be sure you haven't slipped
in a profile with an odd number.
'Spoiler' leaves when the width is 860 or more
fine on Vista... no 'spoiler'
862... worked fine on Vista... no
864... checked on XP and Vista... no 'spoiler'...
this is what I revised the widescreen profile to use. I could have used
something closer to the one the math suggests... like 860... but I prefer a
number that nicely divides by 8.
If you look a bit
wider in your story, you can blame the profile.
wider stories showed the 'spoiler' didn't come back.
on XP and Vista... no 'spoiler'
880... checked on XP and Vista...
888... checked on XP and Vista... no
890... in XP I
got the same error message as the width of 822. What's common about 822
and 890 that results in this error message about disc space in
XP?... it works OK in Vista, which continues to do better than XP on
To see if 890
pixels wide was some kind of maximum barrier, I did one more. It worked OK
so I call the 890 size an anomaly... like the 822 point.
on XP... fine with no 'spoiler'
And for much larger stories,
I tried one of my existing downloadable profiles of 1024x768... checked on XP and Vista... no 'spoiler'. That's enough
for checking the different widths.
Yet Another Clue
profile resolved the issue, or at least provided the work-around. But I did some
By the time I was
done whittling the project down to the problem picture, I had a
project with a single picture... no starting transition, no
music, no narration. Just one picture with a pan/zoom that I was manually
setting. I was staying away from the black borders and doing fairly modest pans
and zooms, letting Photo Story automatically set the duration.
These two screen
shots provide another clue about the nature of
For profiles using widths of 860 pixels or
more, the spoiler isn't there no matter what the motion settings
For profiles with a width less than 860 pixels, the
pictures here illustrate when the 'spoiler' appears or doesn't. It only
appears when the starting position is within the area of the ending
Could this reflect a bug in Photo Story 3 or the
image codec? Yes, I'd guess so.
Could this be a user-caused problem with my custom profile?
Yes, custom profiles for Photo Story and Movie Maker are not
'officially' supported by Microsoft.
Conclusion and Closing... and What's
Running into 'spoilers' is challenging and fun,
providing things to explore and write about. Some lead nowhere
and don't get written about. This one led to a change in one of
my widescreen story profiles.
The downloadable custom profile for widescreen stories
now uses a width of 864 pixels, where the 'spoiler' doesn't
Now I'll keep going on the story with Randy's
Have a great week....