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PapaJohn's Newsletter #164

a codec named ffdshow

It's easy to swear about codec issues, and much harder to learn about how they work. Part of playing and editing multimedia files is about using codecs... the compressors and decompressors that work behind the scenes. If all goes well you see the videos and hear the sounds... if not, you might not see or hear part of a movie, or you may experience the crash of a software app such as Movie Maker.

This is the first newsletter devoted to a codec outside the world of the Windows Media ones from Microsoft. I'm doing it because the world of MPEG-4 files such as those compressed with Divx and Xvid codecs is so popular, and because this codec worked well in the first tests on my Vista Home Basic laptop.... in Movie Maker 6 projects made with a mix of Divx, Xvid, Motion JPEG and DV-AVI video clips.

ffdshow is a DirectShow and VFW codec for decoding/encoding many video and audio formats, including DivX and XviD movies using libavcodec, xvid and other open sourced libraries with a rich set of post processing filters.

My Problem Solving > Crashes and Hangs page includes in the list of codecs that are problematic to Movie Maker. A Vista newsgroup comment to a post about DVD Maker by zachd of Microsoft a few days ago perked my interest "...

It's common for AVI files to use DivX variations, and there's tons of bad versions of DivX codecs out there. I suspect that the best current decoder to use is FFDShow Tryouts beta 3 (July 2007)..."

So I downloaded and tried it. Here's the link.

FFDShow Tryouts beta 3 (July 2007)

The installation went well, and checking the codecs on my XP laptop with GSpot showed promise as it used the new codecs to test the viewing of Divx and Xvid encoded files.

For my first test, I imported one Divx and another Xvid encoded file into MM2.1, previewed them in the collections, added them to a project and edited them by a number of splits and adding transitions and effects... and successfully saving the movie. Maybe zachd is right!! 

For my second test, I ran the intriguing little utility included with ffdshow... makeAVIS.exe. You open an AviSynth script (.avs file) with it, and convert it to an ffdshow script (.avi file). Theory has it you can then use the avi script as if it was an avi file in apps that work with avi files, such as Movie Maker.  ffdshow is then a middle man between AviSynth and the user app.

Intriguing yes, but it didn't work for me. I tried to open the avi script in Movie Maker 2.1, WMP11, and VirtualDub. Each promptly crashed.

And a day or two later, my initial positive experiences with MM2.1 in XP didn't continue.... I was watching crashes and reading error messages. But Vista kept chugging along without problems, maybe because I haven't filled it up yet with lots of other codecs.

Let's explore this new version of ffdshow, my first using any version of it... so I won't be commenting on changes from previous ones. Before getting into it, here's

... a note...


Support Space is ramping up into a topline professional online support service. A number of MVPs are involved, and we're almost at the point of opening the gates a little to let friends and family members in help them with any Windows XP related computer problems.

If you're a regular newsletter subscriber and have an issue you would like some help solving, send an email and I'll invite you into the service for a 'free' support session.

In addition to providing problem-solving I'm looking forward to using it to provide quick-start learning experiences about Movie Maker and Photo Story to a wider audience.

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

ffdshow on Windows XP

The downloaded file is 4+ MB in size and named ffdshow_beta3_rev1324_20070701_clsid.exe. Opening or double-clicking the file runs the installation. There are a number of steps at which you can stop and select different options, but after the first window shown below I simply used 'Next' at each screen to accept the defaults.

I installed and uninstalled the package many times on both the XP and Vista systems without an issue, and without pop-ups trying to sell me something. The app comes from the open source community... Source Forge.


This figure shows my installation choices, all but the DScaler plugin. The default installation would be for just the VFW interface.

Install Options

Here's a list of the files and subfolders in the new ffdshow folder... just one .ax file... one of the problem ones on my website's Crashes and Hangs page.

ffdshow Files - Main

Checking the installed codecs on the system, using GSpot... 4 new audio and 4 video ffdshow items.

GSpot - ffdshow items

Some Quick Checks... XP

I checked a couple Divx and Xvid Encoded Files with GSpot... indications were the new codecs were being used, and the system could play them.

My XP laptop has hundreds of codecs... and is already able to play Divx and Xvid encoded files, so I didn't know how much of a check this was. My new Vista system isn't setup yet to play such files... we'll see that system later.

Now to see what that makeAVIS.exe utility does...

Make AVI ScriptConvert an AviSynth script to an AVI script...

If you're not familiar with AviSynth and it's avs scripts, feel free to skip these sections...

An AVI script was a new subject to me so I had to give it a quick try.

Open the makeAVIS.exe and point it to an existing AviSynth script, an .avs file.

The settings shown at the right are the defaults.... I usually go with them on first attempts.

Clicking the Create button at the lower left makes a new .avi script from the .avs script.

Opening the .avi script in VirtualDub gave me this interesting warning about my favorite DV codec.

VDub Warning

I've experienced Movie Maker crashes that point to codecs, and I've read a lot about the behind the scenes rivalry between codecs. But this is the first time I remember seeing such an outright finger-pointing about a codec.

In Movie Maker 2.1, the files imported and previewed well as clips in the collection

After some uninstalls and reinstalls of ffdshow, my next attempt to make a project didn't get too far.  Here's the error message for the crash of Movie Maker 2.1... pointing to a Divx codec.

Crash Divx

The good news is it not pointing to the file... the file in my system32 folder has a file date of 11/10/2005. Maybe it's the codec being used to handle Divx files before I installed ffdshow. If I were to go down this path further, I'd rename it and try again. That's for another day. This is typical of the kinds of codec issues you can experience.

uninstalled ffdshow - XP

Uninstalling is easy. Open unins000.exe found in the c:\Program Files\ffdshow folder. Or run the uninstall from the main Windows start menu, one of the choices in the ffdshow folder.

My XP system needed a system reboot to fully remove it. The Vista system didn't but the uninstall left a single residual ffdshow folder behind that needed manual removal. The cycle from installation to removal is easier on Vista as the system reboot isn't needed. I'm running Vista with User Access Controls (UAC) turned off... it might be more complicated if I left it on.

I exercised installations and removals a number of times on each computer and had no issues. The whole package feels very stable.

Vista... Home Basic

Vista Main MenuThe figure shows the menu items added by the installation of ffdshow.

Before installing I checked how the 4 test files played in WMP11...

  • Divx encoded AVI....heard it fine, but the video was just blackness
  • Xvid encoded AVI....heard it fine, but the video was just blackness
  • Motion JPEG encoded AVI from a Canon TX1 hard drive camcorder.... played fine
  • DV-AVI made by VirtualDub with Panasonic DV codec... played fine

GSpot said I didn't have a Divx codec and I had an Xvid one, yet it couldn't test play either successfully... I didn't take time to try to sort it out. Sometimes GSpot doesn't get it right.

The ffdshow installation went fine...

Checking with GSpot after the install showed each of the files testing fine with both GSpot and Microsoft solutions.

All four played well in Windows Media Player 11.

Vista - Moving to TimelineInteresting things started to happen when moving the Divx, Xvid and MotionJPEG clips to the project... see the message from the ffdshow compatibility manager.

This message popped up as I moved each of the three to the project, for the first time... I went with the default, and if I wasn't looking at the time, the default would have been implemented in about 20 seconds.

The first attempt at a project went well... it previewed fine with the 4 clips in place. Publishing it to an email file also worked.

uninstalled ffdshow - Vista

After removing ffdshow Movie Maker could no longer preview the Xvid and Divx clips in the collections. It could preview the project and see/hear parts of it, but not the parts that needed the new codecs. It didn't crash, not even when rendering a movie from it. But the saved movie had silence and blackness where a codec wasn't available.

reinstalled ffdshow - Vista

I left Movie Maker and the project in it open as I reinstalled ffdshow. The project still couldn't preview the parts that it had been missing the codecs before.

Simply reopening the project was enough for Movie Maker to effectively use the reinstalled codecs... no need to restart Movie Maker. That means it checks for the codecs at the point of opening a project, not when starting the preview.

Compatability ListWhile they're installed, let's look at the compatibility list in Movie Maker 6.

Here's the section of the computability list... showing ffdshow as decoders for audio and video, with a check to leave them involved with playing and rendering in Movie Maker.

That's enough checking for now...

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

My party line about Divx and Xvid encoded avi files may be changing with this new version of ffdshow, combined with Vista.

The change might be from the party line for XP to 'convert such files' to others before importing into Movie Maker to a new line for Vista reading... '... if you're using Divx or Xvid encoded avi files, install ffdshow first...". It's a bit too soon to know for sure. Comments about your experiences will help sway me.

And if diving into the settings of a codec is a fun task for you, here's a peek into the ffdshow VFW Configuration utility, when you open it from the start menu. There's a lot of stuff in the configuration utility, so if we get into using ffdshow seriously, there could be many more newsletters about it.

VFW Settings

Next weekend is the long end-of-summer holiday one here in the U.S. I'll probably be publishing the newsletter on Thursday night.

Have a great week and enjoy your summer fun and 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 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.


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):

#165 - Sept 1 - tentatively a closer look at embedding a Silverlight package in a web page

#166 - Sept 8 (open)

#167 - Sept 15 (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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