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PapaJohn's Newsletter #174

Focus on the Subject

At any type of ball game... football, baseball, soccer... after some overall shots to set the stage for the action, when it's action time, you have two main choices to focus on. The wrong thing to do is to flit quickly back and forth between the two, and get nothing but blurry uninteresting footage.

I won't count the choice of keeping the view from afar, like a wide-angle shot that takes in everything. Those are good for openings, closings or intermezzos. But the tighter shots are better to capture the action.

  • Zoom into the ball and follow it wherever it goes, hoping it'll sometimes be at the players you're interested in. If they never get the ball, try again next game... or next year.
  • Zoom into a player and go wherever he or she does, hoping to capture the shots when the player gets a chance to encounter the ball. Even if they never get into the ball action, chances are you'll get some interesting personal footage.

I miss lots of great shots by shooting the ball when some players are busy doing something else, or taking lots of footage of a player doing nothing but waiting for his or her turn. The zooms of today's camcorders are great to capture facial expressions and other interesting movements.

Digital video footage is cheap so you can afford to shoot an hour to get a few minutes of randomly captured good clips. There's no need to tell anyone about all the great shots you totally missed. Play up the ones you did get.

Subtle but effective enhancements are what I'm looking to do in the editing phase. I'll illustrate it with a clip from my grandson Nick's game last weekend. He's #75.

I'm using Pixelan's PanZoom Maker to go from full screen at the start of a clip to a tight focus on Nick at the last frame. The utility is great for that custom pan/zoom. That combined with slow-mo, a little spot-lighting, and audio are enough to enhance the clip.

Click this image to see it... the before and after are included, and the whole thing runs less than a minute. Nick accidentally trips and falls, but just at the right time and point to pull down the pass receiver.

Pan-Zoom Ending

There are a few things to consider when doing the enhancements. I'll get into them below.

Before doing it, here are...

a couple notes...


My latest four-pack of BrightHub software reviews are finished and it's on to other things. BrightHub is getting close to being fully online.

Something interesting happened today. A new poster on the Movie Maker forum made a post, and before I could read it, he popped up on SupportSpace asking for a session. We ended up having a good 30 minute discussion about interlaced files and how Movie Maker handles them... BFF or TFF (that's Bottom Field First versus Top Field First). My party line of 'Movie Maker preserves whatever interlacing there is' was from my XP info. He was using Vista, feeding TFF MPEG-2 files into the process and ending up with BFF DV-AVI files coming out. Hmmm!!! I haven't tested Vista with this item.

Seems that DV-AVI files might all be BFF, but Tivo files are MPEG-2 and TFF. What do you get if you mix TFF and BFF clips in a project and save the movie as DV-AVI? Do you get BFF? Is that the standard for DV-AVI while MPEG-2 lets you pick either? Some online info indicates that TFF might be the more normal for MPEG-2, but I don't know. Good topic for a newsletter.

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

Focus on the Center of Attention

Without getting into the storyboard, let's take a look at a single clip from a football game and see how easy it is to enhance the focus of attention, and add some pizazz.

Here are the steps I took...

Step 1. Put the clip on the timeline and view it. As I followed prudent rules of thumb during the filming, I hadn't zoomed while shooting the clip, so it's all at a certain distance. I was at the top of the bleacher boxes in the press room, using the 10x optical zoom of my mini-DV camcorder.

You can see in the original clip that it was a scene during which I was following Nick wherever he went, having no idea where the ball was and what was going on in the game. It ended up being a lucky clip because if I had been following the ball during the same scene I'd probably have missed Nick's action. 

Starting Clip

Step 2. I split the clip at a point I wanted to start a pan/zoom effect to slowly zoom closer to Nick after the cut point.

Movie Project


When to start a pan/zoom depends on the clip and your preference. For this one, I wanted to go from the unzoomed clip and start the zooming after the offensive player was down. The exact frame of the spit wasn't important.

Last Frame

Here are two frame grabs by Movie Maker. The first is the final frame of the original clip before the pan/zoom was applied. The second is the final frame with it applied (with the spotlight added also).

I used Pixelan's PanZoom Maker to make the custom pan/zoom effect. The picture in the opening paragraph shows the area of interest I selected, and this picture shows the result.

Last Frame - Enhanced

The heavy pixilization comes from zooming into a video file which is low quality (720x480 pixels) to start with. It's not like Photo Story 3 that can preserve pixel quality from high quality pictures.

Step 3 - To see the action a bit easier and better, I applied the standard Slow Down, Half effect to both parts of the split clip.

Step 4 - In addition to the pan/zoom effect, I added a round soft spotlight effect from a Pixelan lighting effects package to both parts of the split clip.

The zooming into Nick, combined with the soft spotlighting, was enough to make it clear who my focus of interest was on.

Step 5 - Audio is always somewhere between important and vital.

My preference leans to real audio clips taken at the event rather than bringing in stock files from my library.

You can see in the Movie Maker project file that I used 4 audio clips on the Audio/Music track. They were DV-AVI video clips dragged from the collection directly onto the Audio/Music track, where Movie Maker treats them as audio files. No need to rip the audio from the camcorder clips first.  

The slow motion effect slows the audio also, so those clips are muted and the added audio clips carry all the sounds.

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

A movie is made of a story, but one clip at a time. Make each clip great and, with a good story, you'll have a much appreciated movie.

This newsletter focuses on enhancing just one scene, but the way of doing it can be applied to many.

Have a great week!!


I look forward to comments and discussion about this and other newsletters on the forums at: 00f501c81dd9$11da3140$0132a8c0@Hummer

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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
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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