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Using Photo Story 2

PapaJohn
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PapaJohn's Newsletter #155

Tweak PS... Under the Hood


Mark Coffman's Tweak Photo Story utility main screenMark's Tweak Photo Story utility has been in use now by many, including myself, for almost 2 years. I've mentioned it before as an essential tool when making some special projects such as a 'quasi-movie' with hundreds of quickly flipping pictures looking like animation.

But I've never done a newsletter using it as the focus... this issue is for you Mark, even though you didn't ask for it.

I'll start the comments with the picture at the right, a link to Mark's website where you can download the latest version 1.0.4. Use it to go to his site, where his really old screen shot doesn't include the button to Remove Transitions. Nor does it mention that it installs and runs on Vista in addition to XP.


One early version of TweakPS had an expiration date of Dec 1, 2006. That was followed by another that turned into a pumpkin on June 1, 2007.

Mark gave up on embedding an end date, so this newest version 1.0.4 released this week will run forever. More importantly, this is the first version that also installs on Vista. We now have both Photo Story 3 and TweakPS running on Vista, where I've been able to render stories that wouldn't render on XP. I've credited it to Vista's better memory management as the apps are the same.


Project ContentsThis utility works by tweaking selected items in the xml file embedded in a Photo Story 3 project (the saved wp3 file). 

The picture at the right is a look inside a sample project for this newsletter. It has the 100 JPG pictures, 3 external music files, and the text-based xml file... the super-script that runs the rendering process to make the story. 

TweakPS has 4 options

  • Changes the picture durations from their 5 second default times to whatever you want... from 0.01 to 300 seconds. The ability to go as low as 0.01 second durations is beyond the lower limit of 0.1 seconds built into Photo Story. 0.1 is 10 frames per second while 0.01 is 100 frames per second, letting a series of flipping pictures go faster than movies.
  • Removes all motion settings... the default is for some motion on each picture in a story. When I did my 'quasi-animation' stories the motion is done by flipping through pictures quickly, not using the pan/zoom feature of Photo Story. With hundreds of pictures to remove the motion from, going through them one at a time is prohibitively time consuming. 
  • Removes all transitions... used by Photo Story as the default for each picture.
  • Randomizes the pictures in the story... something I don't use after carefully planning the sequence the pictures display.

As the app becomes more popular, and extends it's useful life through Vista, there are some rough edges that can run into real issues. I'll explain below.

Before getting into more details, here are...

... a couple notes...


Notes...

Vista Corner

My new Vista laptop works well, and I find myself alternating nights at Barnes & Noble with it and my 'Hummer' XP laptop. Having moved my current working projects onto a little SimpleTech external drive helps.

It's getting to the point that it's not a matter of which computer I'm using, more of where the originals of the project files are located.

Video

Yesterday's USA Today had 3 separate articles that focused on or included video in a big way... continuing the expanding interest in it. Part of that interest rubs off onto Movie Maker. I see it in my increasing website traffic and daily comments in my YouTube inbox.

Online Ventures

In parallel with online videos, new internet-based organizations are evolving. I'm actively working with two of them.

Support Space will soon be providing online support services for Windows-based users in North America. I expect to be one of the experts providing such service.

The other is an online provider of software reviews. It's too early to provide a link, but I'm finishing my first drafts of reviews of some audio editing utilities.

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


Under the Hood

Download

the download from Tweak PS - Photo Story Tweak Tool  is a small 1/2 MB msi file... open it to do the automatic install.

Install

The install went smoothly on both XP and Vista laptops.

On my XP system with the previous version, the default installation was to a different folder... TweakPS versus the previous one in TweakPhotoStory. As the installation wasn't over the previous version, and it didn't remove the old version... I have two installed versions, one that won't open because it expired, and the new one.

I quickly forgot which was which... the working windows look identical unless your computer clock is current and you can't open the expired one, they don't show the version number, and don't have a pull down menu with a Help > About item to check.

It was hard to find the version number of 1.0.4 as it's buried someplace inside the main executable.

Control Panel

VersionSelecting 'Click here for support information' is the only place I found it. 

Right clicking on the main executable and checking the Version tab shows it as version 1.0.2728 19455.

I've uninstalled my older version now.


Operation

Let's go down the options and explore what happens with each. To test the features, I made a story project with 100 JPG files from a 7 megapixel camera, using default Photo Story settings all the way, but adding some external and computer generated music.

Change Picture Durations...

At the low end of picture durations, you can run into an issue by making the picture durations less than the usual video frame durations.

Tweak PS lets you set the picture durations as low as 0.01 seconds. That means in one second you would have 100 pictures going by.

NTSC videos are typically 30 frames per second, and PAL are 25. That would mean that 3 or 4 pictures would pass by in each frame. Would the frames be a composite of 3 or 4 of the pictures? Would it skip some pictures? What would Photo Story do? You can see from the PS3 filmstrip view that it accepted the change to .01 seconds and all the pictures are still in the project.

File strip at .01 seconds

Motion Setting Window... .1 secEven after the tweak, the motion setting windows show durations of 0.1 seconds, pegged at the low end of what it can be used for... at this point we have the motion setting window showing something different than the setting in the xml file.

The proof will be in the story which saved fine.

The wmv file properties showed it as 3 seconds long... 3 times longer than the one second for all 100 pictures. Browsing the wmv file in WMSnoop lets you see each frame, which showed the story having used one picture per frame, with a few dropped totally. Which ones? 

Story Project - same picture

The first picture wasn't used, and neither was the last 2. The 97 pictures between the first and last 2 where each there as full pictures... one for each frame. 

To see what part of the picture is in the saved story, here's a typical one, showing the starting and ending positions of the motion settings. The picture at the left was taken in the motion settings window of PS3.

Here's the same picture in the saved story, using WMSnoop as a viewer... cropped a bit differently than expected, but for this test I'll accept almost anything, as long as it's the same picture.

Study in Snoop

Black Border Issue

For another test of the .01 second durations, I used a project with just 5 pictures, exercising the PS3 option to remove black borders before tweaking the duration setting.

When I opened the revised project and moved to the second screen I received the usual notice about having black borders... I had already removed them before the tweaking. I accepted the offer again, and somehow ended up with worse black borders than in the beginning.

As TweakPS is a third party utility not officially tied into PS3, I don't expect any such joint issues to be resolved by either Microsoft or Mark. Use the best of each app and if something doesn't work right, that's the price you pay for the benefits you get.  


The other extreme of using 300 seconds per picture for my 100 picture test project would end up with a 500 minute story... let's try it.

the effect of having music in the project...

Before tweaking, I added music... a few external pieces, and a few computer generated ones. Will it readjust the computer generated pieces to fill the expanded time? Will it continue playing the external ones that stopped early because of picture durations?

I learned something at this point. If you tweak the project and try to open it in Photo Story, it considers it corrupt if it had external music files added before tweaking. But internal computer-generated ones can go for the tweaking ride without causing issues. 

PS3 says the tweaked story project file with external music files is corrupt.

Another check with a different story project with just 5 pictures and one external music file... worked fine all the way. So I didn't get to the bottom line of the issue.

Remove Motion...

This one should be easy.... I removed the motion from the 100 pack, with music.... but got the same issue about a corrupt file when trying to open it in PS3.

Tried it again after removing the external music files... leaving the computer generated ones. Similar to the issue with music and changing durations, it worked OK.

I saved the story and checked for any missing pictures... using WMSnoop again. Everything looked good.

Remove Transitions...

TweakPS give some feedback during changing of durations or removal of motion, and said Complete when it finished.

When removing transitions there was no feedback other than the mouse-over the window turning into an hourglass while it was still working. And it didn't say Complete when done.

When really done the mouse cursor returns to normal and there's a new wp3 file and associated backup file.

The issue with external music in the project continued, and was by now a routine pattern.... the lesson learned was not to add external music to a project until all tweaking is done.

As with motion removal, the saved story looked good.

Randomize Slides...

Again there was no feedback about the process working. Give it enough time to finish. You'll know it's done when the new project file shows up in your file manager.

The usual file corruption message when opening a tweaked project file with external music included. Computer generated music appeared to stay anchored to the same pictures it was originally assigned to, and there was a long quiet period before the first music started... unless the random first one has music tagged to it.


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

Mark's TweakPS utility is routinely used by hard core Photo Story 3 users. Thanks to him for moving it on into the Vista environment where we can't see the horizon beyond.

From my perspective the utility is just an easier way to hack the xml file of a saved story. Any such hacking is done assuming an acceptable risk of something not working right when the project is re-opened in Photo Story. I hope this newsletter helps you understand things a bit more.

Don't add your background music until after the tweaking is over and everything should be fine. 

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

PapaJohn


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

Windows Movie Makers.net

Have a great week...

PapaJohn

Movie Maker, Photo Story 3, DVD Maker, Expression Media - www.papajohn.org
Photo Story 2 - www.papajohn..org/PhotoStory2/PS.html


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 www.papajohn.org ), 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.


Magazines

MaximumPC

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 (online magazine)

I was interviewed by phone for an article about Movie Maker for an upcoming Microsoft Home magazine  article.


Websites

Movie Maker and Photo Story - www.papajohn.org - 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 - www.papajohn.org/photostory2/PS2.html - 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 - microsoft.public.windows.vista.music_pictures_video

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

Photo Story 2 newsgroup -  microsoft.public.plus

Photo Story 3 newsgroup -  microsoft.public.windowsxp.photos


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  www.papajohn.org or the Products and Services page.

Topics for upcoming newsletters (always subject to change):

#156 - June 30 (open)

#157 - July 7 (open)

#158 - July 14 (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...


Software

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


Music

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.


Training

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 www.papajohn.org

Movie Maker 2/Photo Story training and support services start at $75 per hour - send an email -  PapaJohn@CharterMi.net 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 Microsoft.com
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 www.PapaJohn.org. 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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