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PapaJohn's Newsletter #151

Photo Story Tips and Tricks

This week's topic was requested by a newer subscriber... who commented I had lots of stuff about Movie Maker, but less about Photo Story.

That's true. It's the 80/20 Prado Principle in action... 80 percent of the people have digital cameras and are interested in slide-show type videos... they get 20% of the newsletters. The 20 percent with the camcorders get 80% of the articles. Maybe they need the help more!

Actually, it's partly because my website has 'how-to' info about Photo Story, along with tips and tricks. As I add them to the website as I come across them, maybe there's less need to cover them in newsletters. We'll see... I usually don't have a problem filling up space with words after I start.

Here's a cut at some things we can cover here

  • Photo Story works in a standard 4:3 aspect ratio, and comes with quality settings that only save stories to that ratio. With TVs, monitors and website viewers more and more supporting widescreen... you can trick Photo Story to produce a widescreen 16:9 or any other aspect ratio story. Do it by deliberately distorting the images before you import them, combined with using a custom profile to distort them back in the other direction when you render the story... here's a link to a  Sample
  • When Photo Story was released, the high end of quality was a standard DVD. With custom profiles you can make stories equal to or better than High Definition ones... here's the link to the  Same Sample... High def 1080 and 720 are widescreen, but you make them standard if you want, with a custom profile.
  • Today broadband service is better and better... but not yet close enough to what's needed to stream DVD quality movies... yet stories of High Definition quality can be easily streamed . Why? Story files are only about 10% the size of movie files.... I could point to the same sample, as it's a streaming high-def story on the mydeo service.
  • The quality of the panning and zooming of still pictures in Photo Story beats the pants off the same panning and zooming in Movie Maker. Photo Story uses all the selected pixels from a picture as large as 52 megapixels, while the best Movie Maker can do is High Definition sizes of about 2 megapixels... the long-standing website  Sample - Echo the Owl illustrates it.
  • Title effects are unlimited when you go beyond the titling features built into Photo Story. Panning and zooming isn't limited to up and down, or right and left... go diagonally and do it with text added to the pictures before importing, as in this  Sample
  • Narration and music don't share the same track as they do in Movie Maker, so you're free to use both with a single rendering...

Beyond those, tricks and tips include

  • Swapping a project's narration file with a different one... any wav file, not just a narration
  • Preventing your music from stopping too soon
  • Let Photo Story generate music, and grab a copy of it for a Movie Maker project.

I'll cover some of these items in the rest of the newsletter. First...

... a few notes...


My Laptop is my main computer... and it uses XP, not Vista. Unless noted, assume anything in the newsletters was done with XP using MM2.1. This would be important for something like the custom PIP transitions of last week's issue, as the xml code for XP and Vista systems differs. 

Vista Corner

This 'sticky note' ends with this issue... Making Movies with Vista! a six page article in the Spring 2007 Special Edition of MaximumPC, is on bookstands until May 29, 2007. Starting on page 78... the article covers the movie making process from camcorder tape to viewing on a standard video DVD.

Silverlight Packages

I couldn't get Silverlight packages to play on my website... while they played fine locally on my laptop. With lots of help from Microsoft, the issue ended today on a positive note. Here's the story:

  • Servers that use IIS 7.0 or higher are all set to host Silverlight packages... it seems my 1&1 service host uses something less than 7.0.
  • Servers with IIS less than 7.0 should tweak their properties to add the MIME type of .xaml... I chatted with 1&1 tech support and found that, as I'm on a jointly used server, neither they nor I could or would tweak the IIS properties. Of course I could opt for a service that includes a dedicated server and tweak it the way I want.
  • After my chat with 1&1 I kind of threw the towel in with the thought of using Silverlight packages on my site, not wanting to pay 5 times as much for dedicated server space... but Microsoft provided an easy to implement hack that lets me go forward. Rename the player.xaml file to player.xaml.txt and make an appropriate tweak in the StartPlayer.js file. Here's the link to the now playable Silverlight package on my 1&1 website.

Sample Silverlight Package


It's time now to go to the next step... making cool vector graphics stuff with Expression Design to include in Silverlight packages.

I had another ongoing issue with my 1&1 service, which also got resolved this week. I have an allotted 300 GB of hard drive server space, but for some reason I had been two-blocked at my current usage of just over 2 GB, constantly running into messages about the server being full. With that resolved, I now have 298 GB of space open for my Silverlight packages, or whatever I want to use it for.

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

Selected Tips and Tricks


Rather than repeat the info already on the website, I'll focus on a few items and do some learning as I go. I know story files have stereo audio, and imported stereo background tunes will stay stereo. But, what about narration?

The little mic that came with my laptop is mono, as would be the audio created by it. What if I had better audio recording equipment and made a high quality stereo audio track? Could I pass it over to the story project? Would the rendered story keep it at stereo and high quality? Let's explore it as best I can without the stereo mic.

Wave PatternsNarration Files...

Let's first look at where narration files are stored before they get saved in a project wp3 file... and then swap one with a high quality music file. Here are the steps...

  • I narrated the first picture of a story... for about 20 seconds. That file must be stored someplace
  • It's a WAV file, saved with other temporary project files. The temp folder names move around a bit... this one was c:\Documents and Settings\PapaJohn\Local Settings\Temp\PhotoStory1\
  • Copied a 3-1/2 minute song (WAV format) from my music library... replacing the narration0.wav file. Even though the temp file is in use by Photo Story, it'll let you copy and paste another file over it
  • Saved the story project and the new music file went into the wp3 project package... the complete tune, not the trimmed first 20 seconds that you hear when previewing the story or viewing the saved one.
  • Saved the story and used TMPGEnc to rip the audio track from the WMV file to a WAV file
  • Looked at the WAV file in Audacity. The wave patterns and volume settings over the first 20 seconds were different for the two channels... which verified the beginning stereo music successfully made it through the rendering, not being changed to mono 

Then I looked at one part of the story's audio track that came from a narration, done with my little microphone.

  • Narration

The audio segment had 2 channels

  • The two channels showed the same wave patterns and variations in volume level. It's mono, but good mono as it uses both channels to play from both speakers.

Not only did this exercise show that Photo Story handles the audio well, it's setting the stage for audio editing you can't do as easily with Movie Maker...

... Movie Maker's narration files are WMA, not WAV files. That makes it a two step process to get a narration to Audacity for 'enhancing'.

The story narrations can easily go back and forth between Photo Story 3 and Audacity for whatever adjustments you want.

Whenever the project is open, copies of the current narration files are in the temp folder, where they are easy to copy, enhance in Audacity or mix in more audio, and put them back. When you re-save the project, the latest enhanced narration files will be included.

Background music...

The background music files also show up in the temp folder when you open a project, provided you added them from existing files. Those computer generated files done by Photo Story are not saved as audio files.

If you look inside a project WP3 file, the added background music file will be named something like 'Soundtrack0.wma'. But when you open the project in PS3 and look at the set of temp files, the file shows with its original file name, like 'Track 1 from a CD.wma'. The project's XML file does the linking between the two names. It doesn't do that with picture files, as it drops the file names during importing and doesn't include them in the xml file.

As noted, the background music auto-generated by Photo Story are not included. As computer generated midi music, they get rendered into the final story without having to be saved as music files first.

Photo Story didn't like a WAV files substituted for a WMA background music file. Stay with the WMA file type and you can easily swap them out as done with the narration files. Use whatever file names Photo Story is using and you'll be in good shape.

LosslessTo enhance an audio track that includes auto-generated midi music, rip the audio track from a saved story to a WAV file using an app such as TMPGEnc, tweak it in Audacity, then run it through Movie Maker to a new WMA file.

For the highest quality audio to rip... use a custom profile that renders the story with 'lossless' wma audio.

Audio files that are too long are nicely faded out by Photo Story... much better than those that stop too soon and leave you silently watching the rest of the story.

What About Visual?

There's been a number of newsletters recently that focused on the visual of a story.

For making high definition sized ones, see issues #130, 131 and 146. For stories with quasi-animations see #135 and 141. Three of these haven't made it to the online open distribution point yet, but they're in the pipeline.

About cropping black borders...

If you opt to remove the black borders, you can't undo the feature to get the full image back. When you save a project file with the borders removed, are the full images in it, or just the cropped parts?

To test it, I started with this picture. Of course it offered to do the border removal to get it to a 4:3 aspect ratio.

Wide Image

When I gave it the OK I was surprised to see this note, one I hadn't run across before.

Cropping Not Good

I tried again with a closer to normal sized picture. This time it did the border removals. After saving the project file and copying a picture from it, I compared it to the original and found them identical.

The cropping isn't done to the picture itself... it's in the XML code of the project. If you need a copy of the original picture back, you can easily reach into the project file to get it. Here's how.

Inside the Photo Story Project File...

Inside Project FileThe screen shot at the right shows the contents of a wp3 project file, a compressed package similar to a zipped file.

Here's how I go into them...

  1. rename the .wp3 extension to .wp_
  2. double-click the renamed file using a file manager such as the shareware Total Commander  (my favorite - the website doesn't mention Vista, but it works fine on it too)

If the extension is .wp3, double-clicking automatically opens it in Photo Story. When it's .wp_ Total Commander treats it as a compressed folder, shows the contents, and lets you copy any of the files from it.

The pictures are sequentially numbered from 0 to whatever. The narration files are named aptly. Imported background music files are named with sequential numbers starting with SoundTrack0. Similar to the pictures being the complete uncropped ones, the music files are also complete. If you used 15 seconds of a 4 minute tune, the complete 4 minute file is in the project.

Start with High Quality Pictures

Probably the most important tip for the visual of a story is to use high quality pictures... not only in pixel dimensions but in content.

Pixel count is easy... one of the digital cameras I'm currently testing is a 10 megapixel Nikon D40x SLR, a great camera for story pictures.

Content is something else, as it's a very personal thing... I like making stories from a single picture. To make a new sample for this newsletter, I used one of the shots from the Nikon, a bronze sculpture in a little park in Saugatuck, Michigan. We started our regular seasonal visits to the beach a few days ago. Get ready for more seagulls, sand and water...

Sample Story - Bronze Sculpture

I used 11 copies of the same picture... with transitions removed, and motion settings that start each picture where the last one ended, a great feature of Photo Story.


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

Photo Story works well on XP and Vista.

I have a client who has lots of high quality still pictures and wants to get her first camcorder to start making videos. As she hadn't heard of Photo Story before, I asked her to email a couple of her high quality pictures for me to make a demo. She had reservations, saying that she had Power Point, all she needed for slide-shows... so why bother. With nothing to lose, she emailed two pix. Her next response was 'WOW!!!' 

We'll be getting her camcorder, but I wanted her to include Photo Story in her software toolbox.

Have a great week and enjoy your video work...


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

Windows Movie

Have a great week...


Movie Maker, Photo Story 3, DVD Maker, Expression Media -
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

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

Learning 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.

Virtual Dub

A large percentage of book sales are of electronic copies. The Packt Publishing Website page  for the book provides a full table of contents and chapter summaries... and a link to a full free online copy of Chapter 3, Capture Preprocessing.



A six page article Making Movies with Vista is in the Spring 2007 Special Edition (page 78), on bookstands until May 29, 2007. It covers the movie making process from camcorder tape to viewing it on a standard video DVD.

The 2006 Summer Special edition included a 7 page tutorial about Photo Story 3.

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

The 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.

Microsoft Home

I had been interviewed by phone by someone doing an article about Movie Maker for an upcoming Microsoft Home magazine article. An editor called the other day to check some things... I guess it'll be out soon... probably in the issue published the first Tuesday of June.


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 problems.

It's been expanded to include the version 6 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. It's been a long time since I've updated anything on it, but it still gets pretty good viewer traffic.

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

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

Windows Vista newsgroup -

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):

#152 - June 2 (open)

#153 - June 9 (open)

#151 - June 16 (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 newsletter subject...


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 about how to use 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.

Normal sized 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.

Classes will resume at the end of summer, when schools re-open. We'll be re-inventing the topics offered, as the subject of Movie Maker doesn't draw very many... maybe topics such as making and uploading videos to YouTube, and vacation videos to Trip Advisor... using Movie Maker as the tool rather than the primary subject.

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.

© 2007 - 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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