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PapaJohn
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PapaJohn's Newsletter #161

Codecs and GSpot...


I've been using and mentioning GSpot pretty often lately. The latest version 2.70a, released in

February, runs on Vista in addition to XP, started to support WMV and MOV files, and extended its  MP4 support.

GSpot is the best general purpose tool to:

  • see what codecs are on your computer
  • tell you which of them are capable of making or playing a media type
  • check a multimedia file (video, audio, image) for properties, including the codecs it was made with

The checking doesn't stop with providing properties or a list. The utility includes a built-in mini player that shows the results of using the selected codecs.

On the other hand, it's bitten off a lot and needs to chew on things a bit more before it's a comfortable and usable tool for most. I'm still scratching my head trying to understand most of what it tells me.


I'm an experienced user and hacker, but not a programmer. I understand the basic concepts of file compression and can move files around from one software app to another to achieve something. But I have a long way to go to understand such things as fourcc code, and now there's the ftyp code for MP4 files. 

What's an "ftyp"?

... from the GSpot website...

Description

An ftyp is a four letter code (sometime including blanks) that is used to identify the "type" of encoding used, the "compatibility", or the "intended usage" of a media file. It only pertains to MP4 or newer QuickTime (.mov) container file formats. It is somewhat analogous to the so-called fourcc code, used for a similar purpose for media embedded in the AVI container format.

The four letter code "ftyp" itself is the atom type (in QuickTime terminology) or box type (in MP4 terminology). An atom/box with this label contains data comprised of certain identifier(s). The table created for this website is an attempt to compile a list of all such identifiers one might find.

While there are many sites with comprehensive lists of AVI fourcc codes, I have found no satisfactory listing of ftyp codes. Because I needed such a list to improve the MP4 support of my GSpot application, I compiled a list myself from websites, specifications, samples, and helpful information from other contributors. The original and main intent of compiling the data was (and still is) to incorporate into GSpot's external database file. But while I was at it, I decided to create this webpage as well, since there really does seem to be a need for one.

Yes, the subject of codecs gets more complex as time goes by, increasing the need for a tool such as GSpot. I appreciate very much his pulling together all this info about codecs and filters, and providing GSpot as a free to use utility.

For this newsletter, I'll skim over what GSpot provides.

Before getting into details, here's...

... a couple notes...


Notes...

With over 100 videos on YouTube, my most viewed one is a 2-1/2 minute Father-Daughter Dance at a traditional wedding.  It's not far out, not wild, not R-rated... just a classic wedding dance which lately is being viewed about 18 times a day.

It has no star rating and no comments... just views. I can only assume the clip is helpful to some movie makers working on editing their wedding videos.

I mentioned my first 3 software reviews on VoxBuy.com last week... this week the site moved into its official alpha stage with the URL of www.BrightHub.com. It has a bit to pull together yet before it's ready for prime time, but it'll get there.

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


GSpot...

... is developing nicely. I'll go over it's main features, starting with...

checking a multimedia file's (video, audio, pictures) properties

This feature is the one of most help to me... checking a file to see if it will play OK on the computer being used, and getting clues about why a source file isn't importing or working in a project.

I selected 6 assorted video clips, opened them in GSpot, took screen shots, and annotated them to point out some of the things I look at when assessing a file.


WMV Photo Story 3 - standard 320x240

If I hadn't made it myself with Photo Story 3, I'd have a hard time determining what the file was from this info. The WVP2 video codec isn't in the list of installed codecs and filters, and it's codec status is undetermined to GSpot. As the opening paragraph says, this version of GSpot has only begun to support WMV files.

I found WVP2 as a line item in GSpot's list of media types found in the registry, a feature I only use when writing a newsletter.

PhotoStory


WMV movie from MM2.1 - widescreen 856x480

This one's a bit easier. The WMV3 file format is in GSpot's list of all codecs and filters. The clues all point to it being a Windows Media Video file.

As for the Photo Story, the codec status isn't determined yet. But what info is provided is accurate. 

Widescreen-WMV


MPEG2 file... this one a SVCD (Super VCD) made by TMPGEnc... 480x480 pixels

Note the metadata telling you the software app and version I used to make the file... and the info at the lower right includes the SVCD label being bold... versus the other choices of VCD or DVD labels.

Important to converting MPEG files is understanding the audio stream. In this file, it's an MPEG-1 layer 2 stream (MP2).

SVCD


AVI - Motion JPEG file from a Canon Hard Drive TX-1 Camcorder- widescreen High Definition 1280x720

This is an interesting one as it's an AVI file compressed with a motion jpeg codec, and it's high definition. I got into it to help someone wrestling with getting clips into Movie Maker from a new Canon TX-1 camcorder. He didn't have the codec, and I did. What was impossible for him was easy for me.

I used MM2.1 as the conversion utility, saving it using a custom profile to preserve the 1280x720 size. He sent an AVI file and I returned a WMV.

MotionJPEG


DV-AVI type I standard aspect ratio... made by MM2.1

This file is a full hour tape from my mini-DV camcorder, captured using MM2.1.

The audio codec info isn't shown, as the type I DV file type doesn't have the second audio stream like the type II DV-AVI has. You know the audio is there because you can hear it... it's just wrapped up with the video track so the properties are not picked up by GSpot.

DV-AVI type I


DV-AVI type II... made by VirtualDub compressing it with the Panasonic DV Codec

The audio info of GSpot is a good clue that it's a type II DV-AVI file... the 2nd line of info in the Container area is an even better clue.

The metadata includes the software and version used to make the file.

DV-typeII


the next major feature of GSpot is to...

check your computer to see what codecs it has...

Open - XPMy older HP laptop is a high end system with the Media Center Edition of XP on it... it has collected lots of codecs as software was added over time.

When GSpot opens, it routinely checks the codecs and says 'Ready' when it's time to start using it. It says my XP system has 447 codecs loaded.

Vista - 447My new Toshiba laptop is a low end system with the Home Basic version of Vista on it, not used long enough to have collected as many codecs. When GSpot is ready, it says there are 169 video codecs loaded.

Many codecs come pre-loaded on a computer. Others come and go with associated software... I don't try to keep tabs of them. I only dig into them when I try to open a file and find I don't have a needed codec, or my software or system is crashing because of codec issues....

The list of all codecs and filters is first sorted by 'Type'... all of the codecs listed being first classified into one of five types. I'll skip over the first 4 types and spend more time on the last one.

  • A handful of ACM line items all point to ID's of msacm.xxxxx... in the quartz.dll file, the Microsoft Audio Compression Manager. There are 15 of them on my XP and 8 on Vista.
  • DMO type... input uncompressed media data and the DMO delivers compressed media data.  10 of them are on my XP and Vista systems, and they all point to the qasf.dll library file.
  • Most of the listed items fall into the DSH (Direct Show) type. They include the audio codecs, the families of those for MPEG videos, Real files, Divx and Xvid, Motion JPEG.
  • The REND type accounts for 33 on my XP and 15 on Vista. They all have something to do with things like rendering, outputting, muxing, or synthesizing... geekie words for making things. Of note, the Midi output device and wave table synthesizer are in this group.
  • The last type is VFW (Video for Windows), with 23 on my XP system and 5 on Vista. Let's look at the lists of items.

VFW for XPVirtualDub FiltersThe list reminds me of what I see when using VirtualDub or TMPGEnc to work on or do a conversion to an AVI file.

The list at the left shows the VFW types listed by GSpot on my XP laptop.

The list at the right shows the video compression choices in the picklist of VirtualDub. It's the same list.

The VFW files include AVI and WMV, files we are familiar with and maybe most comfortable with when doing video editing.

VFW for VistaThe VFW type stands out as the one with the largest difference in the number of items on my XP and Vista systems. The list above was on the XP... the short list at the right is the five of them on the Vista system. 

I checked the five VFW codecs on the Vista laptop by opening the high-def (1280x720) Motion JPEG AVI file from the Canon TX1 hard drive camcorder, using VirtualDub. I rendered it to new files using each of the codecs.

  • The Cinepak codec worked fine and took its usual long time, as it has to do lots of compressing
  • Intel 1420 IYUV did it in a few seconds... and gave a big file
  • Intel IYUV also did it in a few seconds... another big file
  • The Microsoft RLE codec gave an error message about the source image format not being acceptable
  • Microsoft Video 1 did it about as quickly as the Intel codecs, and the file was about as large

To see why VirtualDub returned the error for the Microsoft RLE codec, I did an online search and found a post that said...Microsoft RLE Filter Details

.... the MS RLE codec will only accept 8-bit colormapped images, and there is absolutely no way to create such a sequence with VirtualDub....

Maybe not, so I added VirtualDub's greyscale filter to rip the color from the clip, and the codec worked fine. I ended up with a nice looking black and white video. It also saved the new file very quickly.


I couldn't resist taking a look at the VFW filter type list on my desktop Vista Ultimate system... it has a few more than the laptop with Home Basic.

  • the Panasonic DV codec
  • Zoran Decompressor
  • PCLEPIM1 32 bit Compressor
  • PCLEPIXL 32 bit Compressor 

I usually add the Panasonic DV codec, and surprised I didn't already put it on the new laptop. The others seem to be from installing the Dazzle80 video capture device driver to test it under Vista.


On to another feature of GSpot...

what media types are listed in the registry?

Media Types found in Registry

I'm not advanced enough in the subject of codecs to get much out of this info. Maybe someday!!!

All I can say is that you get to this list via System > List Media Types...

Maybe there's something more in the info you get by right-clicking on one... let's check the WMV3 one.

The options to list all filters accepting or producing this format are long, and still not of any practical value to me, but we'll take a look at what's in such lists.


which of your codecs are capable of making or playing a media type?

With that right click on the above list... using WMV3 as the line item... you get a list of the filters that accept the item as an input, or those that produce it as an output.

Good info for programmers, but beyond the needs of most users.

WMV3-Inputs and Outputs

That finishes the run-though of the main features of GSpot.

One thing I didn't do was run any of the dynamic checks that GSpot offers as it tests the Microsoft and non-Microsoft options to play a file, viewing it in its little embedded media player.


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

There's no conclusion. More codecs will go into my system over the upcoming months and years... and GSpot info will be more complete for lots of file types.

And we have the flood of new MP4 codecs and 'ftyp' type codecs and filters to learn about.

Have a great week and enjoy your summer fun and 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 Create a Ken Burns-Style Slideshow with 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 and others you'll recognize were interviewed for an article about Movie Maker for a  Microsoft Home magazine article... here's the link.


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):

#162 - August 11 (open)

#163 - August 18 (open)

#164 - August 25 (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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