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PapaJohn's Newsletter #154

Vista Handles Aspect Ratios Better than XP...

Two seemingly unrelated things happened earlier this week to lead me into this topic...

The first was a newsgroup poster asked why his video clips were handled differently in Vista's MM6 versus XP's MM2.1... I looked at one of his clips in XP and Vista, and tried to explain to him the differences. Everything was 'normal', just different in how Movie Maker handled them.

His viewpoint was that Vista's MM6 has a problem because it's not handling his clips the same way he's used to seeing them. My viewpoint is that Vista is smarter and better than XP, not distorting the video clips to fill the working window.... adding black borders to letterbox the video clips instead. 

The other event was my shopping for a new spare laptop... something low-priced to use in a pinch when my high-end HP isn't available for whatever reason (it recently developed an issue that might need its first visit to a repair shop). Shopping shows that, if you like Vista or not, unless you want an Apple you end up with something running Vista. I came home with a Toshiba Satellite L35 notebook with Vista's Home Basic - $399 after rebates... amazingly low price. It's running fine and I'm breaking it in by alternating nights at Barnes & Noble between it and my big HP Pavilion. I'm doing some software reviews and it helps to see how things work in both XP and Vista.

As Vista moves more and more into my computer life, differences between how Movie Maker in XP and Vista handle widescreen and standard clips will be worth understanding. It may seem like a subtle difference, but it can significantly change how you approach a movie project.

Standard aspect ratio is 4:3 in both XP and Vista... and widescreen is 16:9. The big difference is:

  • Movie Maker in XP distorts video clips as needed to fill the screen. No black letterboxing borders appear... good if you dislike black borders, but not good if you dislike the distortion of the video.
  • MM6 in Vista doesn't distort video clips... instead it adds black borders as needed to the top and bottom, or the sides.

It you've grown accustomed to the distortion in MM2, and rely on it, you could find yourself in the same bind the poster was in.

My camcorder doesn't 'letterbox' by adding borders to the clips as they are recorded on the camcorder. But the poster's camcorder does. His library of tapes with black borders on them work well in MM2 as he has grown accustomed to the distortions. Beyond accustomed, he considers it a good feature.... and is in a dilemma with Vista as he can't use it to make the same distortions.  

Sometimes our familiarity with software is such that even improvements can upset the apple-cart.

Odd sized movies and stories that don't align with the standard 4:3 or widescreen 16:9 aspect ratios are still in need of the same customized treatment. The good news is that the custom profiles used to make them in XP still work in Vista.

Before getting into more details, here are...

... a few notes...


Vista Corner

When importing video clips into MM2.1, you have the option to turn off the 'create clips for video files' option. You don't have the option in MM6. Auto clip generation is part of the importing process. I noticed some differences...

  • a DV-AVI file captured by Vista automatically sub-divides into clips as part of the importing into Movie Maker
  • DV-AVI files captured by MM2.1 in XP import into MM6 in Vista as single clips

I reached across my network and imported a full 13 GB 1 hour file that was captured in XP, and it imported into Vista in a second... without auto clip splitting. The tags and markers in the DV-AVI files must have some differences, something to explore more fully someday.

If you don't want auto split clips in the collection, select them all and use the Combine feature. Unfortunately, you'll have already spent the time to have the auto-splitting go through the file. Combining them is much faster.

Test Files...

I'm often in need of quickly grabbing a test file to see how something works in an app. Often it's easier to make a new test file than to find one I've used before. But with two working laptops and smaller more portable external hard drives, I'm consolidating my test files into one place.

One of my external USB drives is a cute little red SimpleTech 40 GB one. It's been sitting on my desk for a month waiting to be used. It's powered from the USB port of the computer, which makes it super portable. I'm rounding up my test files, and attaching the drive to whichever computer needs it most at the moment. The others can reach across the network to them. And it goes in my backpack when I leave the house.

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

Widescreen versus Standard

Let's look at the usual 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios first, and then those that depart from them. Given any standards, there will be those who want to deviate from them... for fun like me or for artistic effect.

Usual Aspect Ratios...

The two options in Movie Maker's settings pretty much define the usual ratios. The standard 4:3 and widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio video clips are usually shot in those proportions on a camcorder, and the ratios carried along in movies. Photo Story includes profiles for standard 4:3 aspect ratios only, but by using custom profiles, you can make widescreen stories.

Mini-DV and other camcorders usually record video clips with pixel dimensions of 720x480 (NTSC). When brought into the square pixel environment of computers, a tag in the clip tells the software that it was shot as standard or widescreen. The software will squeeze it in a bit to make it standard 4:3 or stretch it a bit sideways if it's 16:9 widescreen.

Computer software use some combination of pixel dimensions and the standard/widescreen tags to determine how to show it. The programmers changed how Movie Maker in Vista makes its decision versus how it displays the same clips in XP.

Clips shot in standard or widescreen and saved by MM2.1 in XP as either standard or widescreen fill the working screen... with distorted images as needed.

MM2 Distorting as needed

MM6 in Vista maintains the aspect ratios of the source clips, and adds black borders to the top and bottom as needed to fill the window.

In both XP and Vista, standard clips in a standard project, and widescreen clips in a widescreen project fill the working window just right and don't need black borders.

In Vista's MM6, a widescreen clip saved to standard gets black borders at the top and bottom. A standard clip saved to widescreen gets black borders at the sides. Vists Adding Borders

Distortion may be acceptable for some scenes but not others... in these snapshots, distortion might even be considered an 'enhancement'.

In XP I've been trained to make either standard or widescreen movies, not mixing different clips. In Vista I can relax, feed a project any mix of standard and widescreen clips, and let Movie Maker automatically do the letterboxing.

Unusual Aspect Ratios...

I have a couple embedded videos on my website's Save Movies > Custom WMV Profiles page. One tall and thin, and the other short and fat. The short one is made of 6 Picture-in-Picture thumbnail videos over a short extremely wide background video of 850x60 pixels.

Movie Maker in XP and Vista treat the video the same, distorting it to fill the window. Viewing results vary with the viewing software. Here it is looking as designed by opening it in TMPGEnc. It was hard to find something that would open and display it at its pixel dimensions.  

Opening in TMPGEnc

Vista snapshotFrame snapshots of this video taken in the collection bin by Movie Maker differed a bit in the two systems...

The one by MM6 in Vista is shown at the right (384x288 pixels), while the one by MM2.1 is below (80x60). Both of them show the same distortion, making the clip fill the window at a standard 4:3 aspect ratio... of 16:9 widescreen if I toggle to that setting.

Snapshot by MM2

I'm not the only one who uses odd-sized movies and stories. There's an occasional request from someone who needs help making a profile that aligns the pixel dimensions with their preference.

If you're using such custom profiles, copy the whole Profiles folder from the Movie Maker/Shared/location of XP to the same location in Vista... make the folder if you don't already have it. Restart Movie Maker in Vista and the profiles will be in your pick list when saving. They should function.

the Aspect Ratio of Still Pictures and Animated GIFs

Movie Maker in XP and Vista handle still pictures the same... centering the usual snapshot type images within the window, and resizing them as needed to fit within the window and yet maintain the aspect ratio.

Globe in XPVista's enhanced handling of video clips extends to the hybrid animated GIF files.

VistaAt the right the animated globe GIF file (a series of square pictures at 96x96 pixels) is handled in XP with the usual video distortion to fill the window.

At the left is how it appears in Vista.... and although not a standard 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ration, the squareness of the globe pictures is right for the roundness of the globe. It's letterboxing the clip by adding black borders on the sides.

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

The poster who asked for help wasn't really satisfied by my conclusion that there wasn't an issue in Vista... beyond that I was calling it an enhancement.

His camcorder shoots in quasi-widescreen mode, adding black borders to the video as it captures footage. My DV camcorder doesn't do it that way, but I have an older Hi8 model that offers the option. It adds a complexity to the situation that he'll have to deal with after understanding what's happening. 

There's a new tip #10 on my website's Vista > Movie Maker > Introduction page, about how MM6 handles aspect ratios differently than MM2.1. I didn't check MM2.6 in Vista but expect it to work as MM2.1 does in XP. I downplay MM2.6 by not mentioning it or including it in my studies.

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 was in the Spring 2007 Special Edition (page 78). It covered 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 was interviewed by phone for an article about Movie Maker for an upcoming Microsoft Home magazine  article.


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):

#155 - June 23 (open)

#156 - June 30 (open)

#157 - July 7 (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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