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PapaJohn
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PapaJohn's Newsletter #171

Microsoft Office 'Live Meeting' Recordings


Difficult file conversions are often in the limelight, much of them about Divx, Xvid, MOV and other 'outsider' file types . It's less usual to have wmv 'insider' files made by Microsoft software.

I perked up when I read this 10/5/07 newsgroup post by Marco Shaw, a Windows PowerShell MVP.

I've got 2 WMV files from a recorded Live Meeting 2007 session. They were split up on purpose.

I've loaded them into Movie Maker 2, and was trying to edit the first, then join the 2 together. When I go to "save movie file", a timer starts to give me an estimate of how long it will take to create the file, but it counts *forever* (999+!).

Are there any known issues with saving WMV files within Live Meeting 2007 and them being "compatible" with Movie Maker?


Live MeetingHere's a snapshot of a recorded Live Meeting being viewed. The file is online and the viewer is part of Microsoft Office Live Meeting software.

Checking the properties of the video shows it as a wmv file compressed with the Windows Media Video 9 Screen codec for video, and the Audio 9 Voice codec for audio. Online info says:

  • The Windows Media Video 9 Screen codec is optimized for compressing sequential screenshots and highly static video that is captured from the computer display, which makes it ideal for delivering demos or demonstrating computer use for training. The codec takes advantage of the typical image simplicity and relative lack of motion to achieve a very high compression ratio.

    During the encoding process, the codec automatically switches between lossy and lossless encoding modes, depending on the complexity of the video data. For complex data, the lossless mode preserves an exact copy of the data. For less complex data, the lossy mode discards some data to achieve a higher compression ratio. By automatically switching between these two modes, the codec maintains video quality while maximizing compression.

    Overall, the Windows Media Video 9 Screen codec delivers better handling of bitmap images and screen motion, even on relatively modest CPUs. It is also up to 100 times more efficient than the commonly-used run length encoding.
  • The Voice codec is designed for very low bit rate encoding of 4 kbits/s to 20 kbits/s for speech, sampled at rates from 8 kHz to 22 kHz. It is intended for internet streaming. The encoder can switch between the normal WMA coding mode when music is detected, but switches to a code excited linear prediction (CELP) mode for speech.

With that background, let's get and check Marco's files. They played fine in Windows Media Player 11, and nothing says they won't work in Movie Maker.

Movie Maker 2.1 on my XP laptop, with my most complete collection of codecs, could preview them in the collections and as clips on the timeline, but couldn't effectively save movies if the files were included. My new Vista laptop couldn't do any better. I saw the same as Marco, the estimate to completion rising higher and forever. File conversion is the standard approach when files don't work.

We don't learn as much from things that go well and easy as we do from things that don't work. Let's see what we learn from these. You might find yourself wanting to use Windows Live Recordings someday.

Before getting into them, here are...

a couple notes...


Notes...

I just installed the full Expression Suite and expect to spend time this winter getting to know it enough to enhance the appearance of my website, and use Silverlight for things beyond simply playing the same videos I have on my site and YouTube.  

Speaking of YouTube, my library training sessions for this school year start again on Oct 17th... with the first class about putting movies on YouTube.

I'm into another busy period of writing more software reviews for Bright Hub. 4 more of them over the next couple weeks.

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


Live Meeting 2007 Recordings

The two files played fine in Windows Media Player, and imported/previewed in Movie Maker 2.1 on XP and MM6 on Vista.

But drag one to the timeline and try to save just the first trimmed minute as a movie, and you never got past the 4% complete mark... and the estimated time to completion ramps up to forever. It was time to look at them closer.

GSpot Assessment

Checking the file properties with a  right mouse click showed:

  • one was 13 min, 16 sec, and the other 1 hr, 7 min, 16 sec
  • pixel dimensions: 704 x 528
  • audio: bitrate of 224kbps, 16 bit sample size, mono, 8 kHz sample rate
  • video: 200 kbps data rate, 24 bit sample size, stream name of video 2

They aligned with the properties of the playing file we looked at above.


A checkup with GSpot showed the files were made by the Windows Media Speech codec for audio compression, and the MSS2 Windows Media 9 Screen Codec for video compression.

Screen captured files are not that unusual. I make them using the same MSS2 codec with the Windows 9 Media Encoder, but somehow those produced by the Encoder work fine in Movie Maker projects. There must be something different about these coming from the Live Meeting environment.


File Editor

The next checkup tool is the Windows Media File Editor

Could it be all they needed was indexing or reindexing?

Simply opening the files with the File Editor and saving them is enough to reindex them. But that by itself wasn't enough to make the files usable to Movie Maker.

After each step, I'd try again in Movie Maker... trying to save the first minute of the first file to a new file. The 4% mark was the hurdle I was trying to jump over. No luck with the file indexed.

While in the File Editor I saw all those markers and the script command. Using the File Editor, I removed them all and tried again. No luck!!

I was trying to use Movie Maker as the conversion tool, and not having any luck.


WMSnoop was next. The properties aligned with what we'd seen with other tools.

What I didn't see in WMSnoop was the typical regular rhythmic beat of keyframes, a usual feature of a video file. Even stories, with the Image codec, show routinely spaced keyframes.

WMSnoop Details

My guess is Movie Maker needs source video files with keyframes. When not seeing any, it keeps looking and looking.... forever. It doesn't know what to do without them.

I don't have access to the software code to know what Movie Maker is actually thinking about... it's just like people... you can see them doing something, but you don't know what they are thinking.


I knew we were needing to do file conversions. Marco had already gotten input from another MVP that the Windows Media Encoder could do them. I thought of trying the newer Expression Encoder but went with the tried and true Windows Media 9 Encoder.

Windows Media Encoder - File Conversion

Encoder ConversionThe Encoder starts with the New Session Wizard asking what you want to do > Convert a file > Select the source file and provide the folder and name for the output file

At the next step you pick the method of distribution (see the image at the right). At this point none of the choices seem appropriate as I'm just wanting to make a video file that works in Movie Maker and give it back to Marco. I'm not going to distribute it. For the highest quality, I opt for File archive.

It really doesn't make a difference which choice you pick at this point. Once the wizard is finished you can tweak the properties of the session and change anything you want.

In the encoder session properties I opted for a high video bitrate of 5,000 kbps for a high quality output file (the bitrate of high quality DVDs, more than twice the highest choice in Movie Maker 2.1 unless you use a custom profile or opt for DV-AVI). I kept the video output file the same pixel size as the inputs... 704x528 pixels.

The videos were Power Point type shows with lots of smaller sized text, the kind of content that can significantly degrade when converting to movie files at lower bitrates, or recompressing the video to different pixel sizes.

The actual conversions went pretty quick, giving me two new source files for the movie project, ones rendered with a video codec rather than a screen codec. They'll have keyframes.


Windows Media Custom Profilethe Movie Maker Project

The project was the easiest part of the process. Marco knew exactly what he wanted for trim points and arrangement.

Key to saving the movie at an appropriate level of quality is knowing where it's going, something I didn't know. I assumed it would be either played online using a broadband connection, or downloaded and played locally on a computer. Maybe he'll let me know after he reads this newsletter.

To keep the size of 704x528, I needed a custom profile. Page 2 of the profile in the Profile Editor shows what I opted for.

  • The two original files had low quality mono audio... carried over into the converted source files by the Encoder as high quality stereo. To save file size in the final output, I went back to mono, at a higher quality than the original... to preserve whatever quality it had.
  • The video size is the same as the originals... 704x528 pixels. It's a standard 4:3 aspect ratio but not of the pixel dimensions normally used. Again, because of the large amount of small text in the content, I didn't want the text effected by resizing one direction or the other.
  • 15 frames per second is high for a slideshow, but only half of the usual 30 fps for NTSC videos. Using 15 fps saves lots of file size space and makes the movie easier to render.
  • The video bitrate of 500 kbps is only 10% the size of the source files from the Encoder, low enough for smooth playing on broadband connections, yet high enough for good quality viewing of slideshow content.

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

Thanks to Marco for a good newsletter topic. I didn't have the frustrations of being at his end. These are the usual kinds of things experienced users of Movie Maker run into all the time.

Next week's topic will be about adding an animation in Movie Maker by bluescreening... the one minute sample file is online. Here's the link.

Sample Animation Bluescreened 

Have a great week!!

PapaJohn


I look forward to comments and discussion about this and other newsletters on the forums at: 005701c80cfb$61ab4cc0$6501a8c0@Hummer

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Movie Maker, Photo Story 3, DVD Maker, Expression Media - www.papajohn.org
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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.

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© 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.

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