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PapaJohn's Newsletter #135

The Bitrate of Stories

If you need to review your bitrate math, and brush up on your understanding of CBR versus VBR, here's a quick brief...

Bits and bytes and bitrate...

What's bitrate? If you watch a video file that is 100 MB (megabyte) in size and is 10 minutes long, the math says it's 100,000,000 bytes (or 800,000,000 bits, as a byte = 8 bits) over 600 seconds.

Smooth transmission and playing of such a file means the data flows at an average rate of 133,333 bits per second, or 133.3 Kbps (Kilobits per second).

The Profile Editor for Movie Maker and Photo Story gives you a choice of CBR (Constant bitrate) or VBR (Variable bitrate)...

When you plan a long car-ride and use an average of 60 miles per hour for the whole trip, that would be a constant rate.... but in the real world you go faster on better roads and slower on city streets... you use variable speed to adjust for conditions.

A video file of constant bitrate makes for nice easy calculations, but in the real world with variations in visual scenes, the overall quality is better if more bits are used when there's a lot of visual changes going on, and fewer bits when there's little change from one frame to the next. It's like you can save or budget your bits for use when most needed. In the long run the video average might be the same.

For a Movie Maker movie you can choose either CBR or VBR. But when making a profile for Photo Story, the Image codec will only work if you select VBR. Like it or not, we use VBR for stories.

When doing a file download, the buffering of bits offers the luxury of having some saved-up bits ready to use when the bitrate needs demand them. Streaming video on the other hand, demands that your player use the bits as provided... and when the flow of bits can't keep up with the demand, the video goes to blackness. We'll see that illustrated in the example for this issue. 

Newsletters #130 and #131 were about making a story from a video clip, and then notching it up in size to higher-def ones that still play smoothly online... over a good broadband connection....

This week takes all the successes to make my 'best-ever story'... the first good draft of a Florence story, one of my Europe-301 vacation projects. In doing it I found some things that worked, and others that didn't. As I explored the failures I found myself deeply into bitrates.

Florence StoryHere's the link to the finished 9-1/2 minute story (or click the picture). The 'video-like' segment that I thought would make a good opening clip is in it, but it starts 1-1/2 minutes into it.

Florence, Italy

It's the most complex story I ever made... with 270 pictures... 187 of them are those pictures of the river with the moving boats, pictures being flipped through at the rate of 5 per second to make a 'video-like' segment.

It turns out the segment needs a lot of saved up bits. They were when playing the file-download video, but not the streaming file.

What didn't work?

  • The story plays smoothly as a file download from my 1&1 website server... but the video-like segment goes to blackness when viewed from the mydeo streaming server. If you want to compare them yourself, here's the link to the  story on mydeo to contrast to the file downloading from the first link.
  • The complexity of the story was such that it wouldn't get through the rendering step on my laptop with XP and 2 GB of RAM. I resolved it by doing the rendering on my Vista system with its 1 GB of RAM. The laptop renderings kicked into gear after a few days, so the complexity and available memory may be going into and out of borderline territory. Neither XP or Vista could render the story to a size of 1280x720, so I settled for a still respectable size of 852x480.

To check why the story would download smoothly but not stream, I took WMSnoop out of my toolbox and studied the bitrate frame by frame. The modest overall video bitrate of 108.4 Kbps says it should play well... but the batch of 187 pictures going through quickly needs almost 3 Mbps for a 40 second period.

The mydeo streaming starts into the segment, but the overall bitrate can't flow through the pipeline between mydeo and me fast enough to satisfy the playing, and the visual turns to blackness. It recovers by itself when the story returns to a normal bitrate after that segment. 

High Bitrate Segment

Why doesn't the file download run into the issue? Because the long buffering before starting saves up enough bits to get over the hill smoothly....

... pause for a few notes...


Reader's Comments about Last Week's Newsletter...

One provided info about the c:\Windows\Prefetch folder, with things that auto-start at bootup... an interesting place I'd never explored. 

I looked in my prefetch folder, and sure enough, it explained why I had an iPodService.exe and an iTunesHelper.exe running even though the services list in Computer Management shows iPod Service as a Manual startup type. The prefetch list is what turns it on at startup. I'm using 3,852 K of memory for my laptop as it waits for me to plug in my iPod, but I don't own one. I changed the setting from 'Manual' to 'Disabled' and it turned it off, so the prefetch item no longer 'manually' turns it on. Turning off iPod Services also turned off the iTunesHelper.exe process, which used another 5,032 K.

Another reader passed around the comments about laptop batteries to some 'in-the-know'... who say the limited number of "cycles" for Li-Ion batteries is in the order of 300-500 IIRC (if I recall/remember correctly), but leaving it plugged in when shut down shouldn't be cycling it. He also provided a link to a site with useful info about getting great battery life.... charge often and alternate batteries.

Vista Corner...

The transition from the marketing team to the tech support team happens in a few days. 

Vista scored again in better memory management, saving my final story when my laptop XP system with twice the RAM couldn't.


I think highly of TripAdvisor... mostly for the useful trip planning info we've gotten from their site, but partly because they've rejected me three times so far.

  • When I wrote about the hotel we stayed at in Florence, they edited out the link to my website page where readers could see videos.... this was before they started accepting videos themselves
  • When I uploaded two videos about Florence, they let one go online but stopped the other one about the B&B we stayed at, on the basis of it being too commercial looking... it was!!
  • I submitted an application to become an affiliate and add appropriate links on my Europe 301 pages, which are still in progress.... they said to try again someday when the website was more finished

We did a lot of trip planning last year using their website, and will be doing more this year... if they are that careful screening my stuff, they must do it to everyone, a clue that info on their site is highly credible.

While bleeping and rejecting, they have been very quick to turn around each item, and responsive to my questions and comments... and they recently started accepting videos, which adds a whole different slant on our possible relationships.

Lesley at TripAdvisor, who I've been working with lately, uses a Mac, so she couldn't view the online Photo Story for this newsletter, and didn't know if they could accept such a file. She checked with their engineers, who use Linux machines and said they couldn't view it either... they asked if I'd upload it to see if their conversion process would handle it... conversion to flash format.

... and it did. Here's the link to my playlist at Trip Advisor... this week's story is

An Overview of Florence

As a widescreen story, it's got the right aspect ratio, but I suggested moving it up to the middle vertically, more normal letterboxing.

.... back to the main topic...

the Rest of the Story for this Story

CBR versus VBR...

A video produced to play at a Constant Bitrate (CBR) has a fairly even pattern... here's a picture of what the story looks like when I run it through Movie Maker and save it to a 2.1 Mbps CBR file. Relatively nice and even throughout, at least compared to the VBR story pattern.

Note the average file bitrate of 1.907 Mbps versus the 108.4 Kbps of the story file... the movie is 18+ times the bitrate of the story, too much for even good broadband internet pipelines to deliver a steady streaming file..... file download is possible, but it's a long time between starting the download and being able to start viewing a smoothly playing video. 

CBR Pattern

Photo Story, using the Image 2 codec, only does VBR mode.... which rules out the bitrate leveling of a CBR setting. 

Frames per second and keyframe intervals

File SizesMy starting profile used 30 frames per second with keyframe intervals of 8 seconds.

I made changes to the profile to see what effects changes to them would have. You can see from the file list at the right that the changes had minimal effect on file sizes.

And the bitrate patterns in WMSnoop were remarkably similar.

Varying fps and keyframe interval

To check what the wave patterns were saying, I uploaded the 24 fps story with keyframes every second to mydeo.... not only did it not resolve the blackness in the video-like segment, but the viewing was terrible throughout. It was easy to see that reducing the frame rate or the interval of keyframes isn't the way to resolve the streaming issue.

The quality of the local playback for all of the files was too close to call. I have a personal preference for online viewing at the same rate as movies, 24 fps... but I'm not seeing enough reduction in file sizes to adopt or recommend it as anything more than a personal choice.

My last shot at a frame rate change was to try 5 fps... more curiosity about the bitrate pattern than the visually jerky playback. The playback was as far from smooth as you'd guess, and the file size and bitrate pattern aligned with the other changes.  

Conclusion and Closing... and What's Next?

For large-size high quality stories, go with a file-downloading process and not streaming video... I wrote to mydeo a few days ago asking for any comments, but haven't heard back yet.

I started into the next layer of exploring, but didn't do enough except to say where I was heading. It's the profile settings which you don't see or tweak when using the Profile Editor... could lines such as these in the profile mean anything?


They can be changed manually using Notepad... and I noticed that if I temporarily toggle to CBR mode in the Profile Editor, change the bitrate setting that isn't an option when the mode is VBR, and then switch back to VBR... the setting change in the profile remains where you left it, so you can change the setting (but does it do anything or does the quality setting drive it all?).

Have a great week!!


I look forward to comments and discussion about this and other newsletters on the forums at:

Windows Movie

Have a great week...


Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story 3 -
Photo Story 2 -

Products and Services

I'm involved in anything and everything that supports the users of Movie Maker and Photo Story, and adding more regularly. Some are free and others reasonably priced.

Radio and Podcasting

theDVShowTheDVShow is the only weekly Podcast having more useful information about desktop video editing and production than anywhere else on the Web. Digital video editing, nonlinear editing, streaming media, software releases, tutorials, business tips, technical help, download of the day and news on the latest products to make everything easier. It's where professional and consumer desktop video users go to stay on the cutting edge. 

Call the phone mail machine to get your technical question answered on the air... call (206)-203-3516

The radio broadcast is from Boston, and the website has downloadable podcast files. The June 19th 2005 podcast was the first 'bi-weekly' show with a segment about Movie Maker 2. The frequency of radio Q&A sessions about Movie Maker has fallen off as submitted questions are minimal.  Maybe Vista will perk it up a bit.

Do Amazing ThingsBooks and Magazines

Movie Maker 2 - Do Amazing Things (with its online companion on ), published by Microsoft Press...

Movie Maker 2 - Zero to Hero - with support on the publisher's forum -  Friends of Ed

MaximumPC's winter 2005 quarterly special had a 7 page tutorial 'Make a Killer Home Movie with Maker 2'. The special edition of the video made for it is  on my website as a file download.

The November 2005 edition of Maximum PC had a well done reworked 6 page reprint of the same article, starting on page 42 after the Happy 20th Birthday article for Windows.

A 7 page tutorial about Photo Story 3 was in the 2006 Summer Special edition.

I just submitted an article about Movie Maker, DVD Maker, and Photo Gallery in Vista for an upcoming issue.

Virtual DubLearning VirtualDub - published by Packt Publishing in April 2005, is the first book about VirtualDub software. I wrote the introductory chapter about downloading and setting up the software: VirtualDub, VDubMod and AVISynth.


Movie Maker and Photo Story - - the site's goals are: doing amazing things, providing a detailed tutorial for PhotoStory 3, and helping you solve Movie Maker 2 problems.

It's being expanded to include the new version of Movie Maker in Vista, along with the new Photo Gallery and DVD Maker apps.

PhotoStory 2 - - a detailed tutorial about using the earlier version.

Online Support - Forums and Newsgroups

I'm a regular or moderator on many online forums and newsgroups, the key ones being:

Forums are open to all for viewing, but require registration of those who want to post. Moderators actively participate to ensure the forum discussions move forward and stay on track.

Movie Maker and Photo Story forums at Windows Movie Makers

Movie Maker 2 forum at

Newsgroups are wide open for all to view and post... moderation is collective by the participants.

Windows XP Movie Maker newsgroup - microsoft.public.windowsxp.moviemaker

Photo Story 2 newsgroup -

Photo Story 3 newsgroup -

Weekly Newsletters

Movie Maker/Photo Story newsletter. The subscription is $20 for 52 issues, and a link to subscribe is on the main page of or the Products and Services page.

Topics for upcoming newsletters (always subject to change):

#136 - Feb 3 - (open)

#137 - Feb 10 - (open)

#138 - Feb 17 - (open)

Newsletters issued more than 6 weeks ago are posted by Rob Morris to an Archive Site on his Windows Movie Makers' website. Links from my website pages to specific newsletters make it easier for viewers to see the content of both while browsing a topic.

Drop an email to suggest a topic...


Add-On Transitions and Effects

Transition Maker 2  (TM2) is a utility for the ultimate in making your own personal and custom transitions for Movie Maker 2. It's a joint product from Patrick Leabo, the programmer, and myself.

I've beta tested some of the Pixelan packages , including the new packages for Vista, and think very highly of their people and products.

ProDAD's Adorage packages for Movie Maker 2 are  additional sources of very professionally developed transitions and effects. Here are links

TransiitonsEffectsPackage for Movie Maker - Volume 1 

PapaJohn's Transitions - Volume 2

PapaJohn's Video Effects - Volume 3


I use a lot of professional background music for movies and stories that was created by Randon Myles, and act as his agent in selling tunes individually. 

There are 62 tunes available from 4 of his many albums... at 99 cents per tune (MP3 or WMA format). Here's a Sample - 45 seconds from 'Groove 2'. The 4 albums are: In the Fields of the on-Feretin , Music for Film Volume III, the Emerald Way, and the Fourth Door.

I don't have a full set of online samples yet, but if you hear something you like in one of my videos, there's a good chance it was done by Randon. Send an email if you are interested.

Personal Database

With more info to manage, consider additional tools that help.

My personal database has been an ongoing project over many years, and is now available to others. A tutorial about using it is on the Managing > Personal Database page of my site, and more info is in the database package itself.

It's free for the asking to regular newsletter subscribers... send an email request and I'll return it with the zipped file, which is less than 1 MB.

To others it's $10. To order, use the button on the top of the Managing > Personal Database page.

On my list of things to do is a video tutorial showing users tips about using it.

Online Galleries Neptune Gallery

neptune Mediashare is the preferred file download service for Movie Maker users... there's a  'PapaJohn Expert Zone' where I keep many of my samples and personal videos. 

Check it at N eptune and the Distributing > Neptune page of the website, where there's a developing tutorial about how to use the service.

Mydeo... and mydeo is the preferred video streaming service. Many of the video samples for newsletter are on it.

Photo Stories stream as well as or better than movies.


In conjunction with the Portage, Michigan library , I offer free training sessions about Movie Maker and Photo Story, an intro session and a workshop. Upcoming classes are 7-8:30 PM on:

Feb 22, March 29, April 19 and May 17

The classroom has a large screen overhead projection system... and individual laptops for each attendee. You learn by doing, with some coaching.

Other fee-based services

If you can't save a movie because your project has become too complex, e-mail a copy and I'll divide it into manageable sub-projects, and provide detailed instructions about how to render the parts and assemble them into your final movie. $49.95 (no cost if it's not the right solution or doesn't work) - for details, see the sidebar on the Problem Solving > Can't Save a Movie page of

Movie Maker 2/Photo Story training and support services start at $75 per hour - send an email and I'll help you determine your needs, and work with you to plan and implement them.

Wedding combo website/video packages - check the Living Projects section of the website for samples of what you can expect for the online portion of a package.

2006 - PapaJohn; Microsoft is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.


About John 'PapaJohn' Buechler from
John 'PapaJohn' Buechler John "PapaJohn" Buechler, of Kalamazoo, Mich., goes by PapaJohn online. An avid user of Movie Maker since its first release, and a regular supporter of the community of Movie Maker users, John received a 2003 MVP award from Microsoft for that support. In March 2003, he started a comprehensive website about Movie Maker 2 at He maintains the website, writes books and articles, teaches, and provides support services - all for the community of Movie Maker 2 users. An engineer by formal education, John is a computer database and multimedia expert by business and personal experience. He co-authored the first book about Movie Maker 2 and is actively working on a second one. You can find his advice in the Windows XP Movie Maker newsgroup and in the Windows Movie Makers Forums.

This newsletter is republished with permission of John "PapaJohn" Buechler.
Please note that this is an archive of newsletters and some information may become outdated. PapaJohn, and the webmaster of this site, provides this information "AS IS" with no warranties.

Visit - PapaJohn's Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story 2 Newsletter Index



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