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PapaJohn's Newsletter #173

Movie Maker 6 Source Files (Vista)

The Manage Your Files > Source Files page of my website was written about Movie Maker in XP.

I've seen a number of posts lately from Vista users asking for advice about having made a project full of source files that won't work when it comes time to rendering the movie. Answers usually are to convert the files to ones that work.... but that puts the user in a dilemma... do they need to redo the project from scratch?

That page of my site is meant to help, but I hadn't checked MM6 in Vista and wasn't sure if the same info is applicable. This newsletter will take a big step toward doing that checking, and lead to an update of the page.

It might be boring reading... until you need it. This issue is pretty sparce on pictures.   

Before getting into it here are...

a couple notes...


I submitted two of my current four-pack of BrightHub software reviews... just GEAR Video and GEAR DVD to finish.

Support Space set up their 'forums' at Facebook. Wanting to be a member but not having used Facebook, I started a PapaJohn's Cocktail Party group to warm up to it, and opened it to the 30 million Facebook users. There are a dozen at the party so far. Bring comments, pictures and videos... it supports them all. I wanted a place that was more peer-to-peer and less formal than a website or blog, something like a cocktail party.

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

Movie Maker 2 - Managing - Source Files

I'll italicize the words from the existing website page... written about Movie Maker in XP. And then I'll indent and preface the comments about how Vista's MM6 works.

Source files can be all over the place... hard drives, CDs, DVDs, floppy discs, external hard drives, ZIP drives, memory cards and sticks, digital camcorder tapes and drives, etc. Anyplace that you can store a digital file.

Vista - yup, same thing... this is just for a warm-up.

When you 'import' a source file, Movie Maker doesn't make a copy of it. It gets some info about the file's name, drive and folder location, and makes a little thumbnail image if it's a picture or video file.... and adds the info to the collection database. It doesn't hold the source file open, but the source file needs to remain in place so it's there if and when needed again. In one sense (getting summary info and a thumbnail image), the process is an importing one. In another sense, it's more of a dynamic 'linking', opening the file only when it needs additional information.
Info about the source file flows from the collection database into project files (MSWMM extension) when you drag a clip to the storyboard or timeline... the project file needs the source files to remain in place until you've produced your final movie and are completely finished with the project.

Although the project file needs the source files, it doesn't need any more info from the collection database. Deleting the clips from the collections doesn't effect the continued use of the project file or the ability to render a movie from it.

Vista - the relationships between source files, collections and projects is the same.

It's possible to fix or edit source files without effecting their use in a project. It's even possible to re-capture a DV-AVI file from your digital camcorder tape to replace a corrupt or deleted source file... as long as the starting points of the original and newly captured files are aligned. You can easily make an adjustment after the capture... if you know where to start the file.

Vista - I didn't run this through a test, but everything I see in MM6, things should work the same, making a lost DV-AVI source file recoverable if you still have the tape.

Video files use lots of hard drive space... but rendering movies from source files is not a real-time process, something that you can use to great advantage to help you manage space.

I'll illustrate it by making a movie without using any hard drive space on the computer that is running MM2... not for the source files nor the rendered movie:

• I'll make a new movie project using my laptop, connected to my home computer network via a wireless connection.

• For video source files, I'll reach across the network and import them from one of the secondary hard drives on my main desktop computer, which is running Windows XP.

• I'll edit the project on the laptop without having the main source file on it.

• Then I'll save the movie to my computer, but instead of saving it on the laptop running MM2, I'll reach across the network again to a third computer, an older desktop that is running Windows 98, and render the movie to it's hard drive.

And, as the rendering is going on, I'll use the laptop to surf the net, read my email, work on my website, play a game of Spider Solitaire, etc. When the rendering is done, I'll check the new movie and verify that it plays back perfectly... it does.

Vista - I'd be careful doing this in Vista. Security, permissions, and user controls are all much tighter. I'm doing my testing on my Vista Home Basic laptop using MM6. I've turned off User Access Controls to avoid having to give myself a few permissions each time I want to do a little thing. Even with that, I get messages telling me a drive or file on another networked computer can't be imported or used, that I might not have sufficient permission.

Using external USB drives on the laptop itself works fine. 


You can move a source file from one drive to another, rename the file or folder, or move the file to another location on the drive. MM2 will let you re-establish the link between the file and the collection or project. I've been able to almost totally confuse it by doing all of these at the same time, but I was still able to recover.


  • I can move DV-AVI, JPG and WMA files from one drive to another, from one folder to another, rename a folder, and rename files (at this point you need to do a little work in the opening selection window to help MM6 know which file it is).
  • I can edit a file... for example flip a JPG picture upside down. The thumbnail in the collection and project were refreshed as Movie Maker and the project opened.
  • Revising the file name extension without converting the file was too much... a file named image1.jpg wouldn't work if I simply renamed it image1.bmp.

When you browse to a new file to fix a broken link (big red X), if you know you're in the right folder but you see 'No items match your search', use the drop-down at the lower right to see all the files with the extension or all files with all extensions. Then pick the file from the list.

Nudging the Opening

Movie Maker is very tolerant of changes to your video source files... to the point that you can get yourself in trouble if you're not careful.

Here's what my testing shows so far with DV-AVI source files:

• It allows (1) using MM1 to convert it to a type II DV-AVI file, even doing some editing in MM1 like clipping out a couple frames, (2) using Virtual Dub to apply a filter (I used the Emboss one) and make a new type II file, (3) using Virtual Dub to make an uncompressed file that is 9 times larger than the original one.

Vista - I flipped a DV-AVI file upside down with VirtualDub, and rendered it to another DV-AVI file with the Panasonic codec. I left the file name the same and MM6 accepted it in the collection and project files. The thumbnail in the collection didn't get refreshed, but the one in the project did.   

Testing on 2/16/05 and 4/25/05 show that MM2.1 collections and projects accept a recaptured DV-AVI source file from a digital camcorder, to replace a deleted original... provided the file name is the same and it's in the same drive/folder as the original.

Vista - I didn't test these but suspect it would work the same in MM6.

You need to be precise with the starting point but not the ending point of the tape, you can do either auto clip splitting or manual splitting in the collection after import, you can trim and do normal editing tasks in the project.... a fresh import from the camcorder tape will result in a replacement source file if you've deleted the original. You just need to be organized enough to know what drive/folder and file name the original file had... or look at the properties of the clip with a red X, which includes the path and file name.

When testing on 4/25/05 I mixed various things you can do when capturing. One used camcorder controls to play the tape, and the other MM2. One used auto clip generation and the other was manually split into clips in the collection. I totally rewound the tape before the 2nd capture and just approximately got the same footage - from the 7 minute mark of the tape to the 15th.... the recorded tape had a mix of standard and widescreen shots. One capture was to an external USB2 hard drive and the other to the internal C drive. When the replacement file on the C drive wasn't accepted by MM2, moving it to the original folder of the external drive resolved the broken links.

Further checks show that any DV-AVI (type I or II) or WMV file (movie or PS2 story - not PS3 story) will be accepted as a replacement for a DV-AVI source file if it has the same file name and extension, and is in the same folder as the original source file... even if the video content is totally different. Take care to ensure your footage appropriately aligns whenever a replacement file is used.

Vista - MM6 is a bit more tolerent, accepting WMV videos and stories (PS3) as replacements for DV-AVI files. They can be imported and will work well in collections and projects, but the thumbnails are not refreshed.

It handles WMV source files a bit differently.

• It allows (1) renaming the file, including the extension. Like picture files, it allows the use of common video file extensions. It accepted renaming the extension to mpg and asf without relinking. But it started to get a bit fussy when I changed the extension too much, not allowing me to return to the original wmv. It let me continue to use it with the asf extension. (2) changing attributes, setting markers and indexing with the Windows Media File Editor. It even lets me change the size/length of the file - you can significantly crop a file to reduce it's size and it'll still play in a collection or project... but you wouldn't want to cut out frames that are actually being used... it'll let you and you'll see blackness and hear nothing in the part of the movie that was eliminated, (3) substituting a story - either PS2 or PS3.

• It won't allow (1) substituting a DV-AVI file as a replacement (no error messages... the clips or project just doesn't preview).

Vista let me substitute a story wmv file for a video wmv... it was very tolerant of changing wmv files that had different file names or were in different folders. It seems that all it cares about is that it's a wmv file.

It wouldn't accept a wmv file that was simply renamed to .avi or .mpg.

Unlike MM2.1, it allowed substituting a DV-AVI file for a video.wmv that was used in a project... with the same file name and extension. But it wouldn't let me import the same file into a collection. Rendering a movie didn't have an issue with the source file that started as a wmv now being a renamed DV-AVI. Of course the part of the file that was longer than the original rendered as blackness, but the visual and audio of the part that was there worked fine. This is an interesting area, something that MM6 isn't as tight as MM2.1.

MM2 is very tolerant of changes to still pictures, but not tolerant of changed locations.

It uses the thumbnails and properties of the picture that are embedded in the collection database or project file, until something causes it to need to open the file and update the information. Two events that trigger the update are previewing the picture in the collection, or rendering a movie.

You can edit a picture that has been used as a source file. Change it's dimension, edit it with PictureIt or Photoshop, even change the file type (but keeping the same name and extension).

If you copy or move a project to another computer that has the source files in different folders/sub-folders, and try to relink them, you might not be successful... setup the file structure to align with that of the original computer. The properties of the clips in the project gives you all the information needed.

Vista - lets you completely swap a picture with a different one, refreshes the thumbnail in the collection automatically, and doesn't refresh the thumbnail in the project.

It accepts a totally different BMP renamed to a JPG, without updating the thumbnail in either the collection or project. Previewing the picture in the collection or in a project doesn't result in a refreshed thumbnail. The properties of the image remain the same as the original file.

MM6 continues the tradition of being very tolerant of changes to still pictures. It's like it only checks that the image is there in the folder it last saw it. It doesn't check any deeper than that. You can still play tricks on a fiend by slipping in a different picture to surprise him/her when they see the video.

Music Files can be renamed after being imported. The collection database and project is automatically updated. But you can't substitute one file type for another, such as using a WMA file for an MP3.

I store many of my source files on CDs to free up space on my hard drives, and have the source files available for different computers. I'll copy it back when it's needed for a project, and let the big red X's sit on the thumbnails until then. Backing up is a matter of making another CD. This includes smaller DV-AVI files.

Backing up large video source files in full DV-AVI format is a challenge because of their large file sizes. Exporting them to a camcorder isn't really backing up a source file, as the re-captured file may be slightly different from the original source files.

Check the Intro page of this Managing section... there's a utility you can use to determine which source files you've used for a project.

Vista - renamed WMA files were not automatically resolve, but MM6 had no problem relinking to them.

A WAV file renamed to WMA won't import into a collection, nor will it preview in the collection, but it'll preview fine in a project and be included in a rendered movie without issue.

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

Overall, MM6 acts pretty much the same way that MM2.1 does when it comes to source files. Any looseness or tolerance is a good thing because you can get out of an occasional jam you find yourself in, without having to redo a project from scratch.

I'll be updating the website page with these observations.

Have a great week!!


I look forward to comments and discussion about this and other newsletters on the forums at: 00cf01c8185d$d09fd520$0132a8c0@Hummer

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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.

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