Windows Movie Maker tips, tutorials, forums and more...

Visit the Windows Movie Maker forums

Community Forums

Getting Started
Learn Movie Maker 2
Capture Video
Improve Video Capture
Saving Projects

Editing Video
Video Editing
Video Trimming
Video Effects
Using Transitions

Adding Sounds
Adding Music
Adding Narration
Multiple Audio Tracks
Controlling Volume

Taking Pictures
Making Slideshows
Advanced Titles
Photo Story 3

Exporting Movies
Saving Movies
CD-Rom Backup
Create a DVD

More Articles
All Articles
Movie Maker 2 Review
Movie Maker Tutorials
What are Codecs?
Streaming Video
Create a Movie CD
Using Photo Story 2

MM2 Newsletter Archive

Download Windows Media Player 11

Digital Media BooksView Books about Digital Media

PapaJohn's Newsletter # 23

Anatomy of a Photo Story Project File


You can often learn a lot about the way software works by studying the various files it has and uses. A Photo Story project file is an interesting one, so different from the project files of Movie Maker.


I think the story of Photo Story project files is still evolving. Version 1 didn't have a way to save a project. It was a one-time process to produce a story. Version 2 introduced the project file so you could go back and re-edit the project.


Photo Story project files are large. In this week's newsletter I'll show you why they are so big. We'll look inside one to see what it's made of, and then in the mini-tutorial we'll explore some aspects of a project, and the effect of a large project file on software or computer constraints.


Here's a sample project to dissect. It is a simple one, using the 9 sample pictures that came with my laptop, a narration added to each, and one of the sample music files for background.


Photo Story - Sample Project




Before getting into it more, a few notes about some things going on...





• Last week's notice about my changing from a free subscription based newsletter to a paid one was pretty quietly received. I'll carry this notice for a few weeks.


Issue #26 will be the last issue for free subscriptions. See the main page of my website to continue beyond that.


The subscription will be for 52 issues, not necessarily a calendar year... those subscribing between now and issue #27 will receive 26 issues beyond #26.


• Dean Rowe of Microsoft made an entry in his Blog about Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 including a version 2.1 of Movie Maker with built-in support for burning DVDs. I've asked him for more information about it, and I'll pass it along when I get it. It might not be immediate for most of us, but it breaks the ice toward Movie Maker burning DVDs some day. 


• Until then, distribute your movies to phones. At the Windows® XP Experience More event on Tuesday, Microsoft, Audiovox Communications, and AT&T Wireless introduced the smallest Microsoft® Windows Mobile™-based Smartphone in North America — the Audiovox SMT5600. The Audiovox SMT5600 includes the Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition software for Smartphones and is the first Windows-Mobile-based Smartphone featuring Windows Media® Player 10 Mobile, providing a rich new media experience that enables the seamless transfer of media from a PC running Windows XP. AT&T Wireless is offering the Audiovox SMT5600 starting today for $199.99 (U.S.) after rebates with a two-year voice and data service contract.

The Audiovox SMT5600 features the CMOS VGA digital camera with low-light capabilities, 4x digital zoom and camcorder functionality.... and it includes Windows Media Player 10 Mobile software.


....on to the topic of the week



Anatomy of a Photo Story Project File


What's in the sample project file?


I started with 9 sample pictures in the sample project for this newsletter, all jpg files that totaled 2.22 MB. I added some narration to each of them, added a title page using one of the same sample images (Blue hills.jpg - 28.5 KB), then the Beethoven background music (wma file of 618 KB).


The saved WMV video from the project is 3.1 MB, but the project file is 13.7 MB.... over 4 times the size of the combined files that I included in the story, and the WMV video file rendered from it. Here's the list of files in Total Commander, my file management utility.


Sample Photo Story - Files


Files in Story


When I was last at Microsoft, I mentioned that a Photo Story was a package of compressed files, and asked what file type it was made of. The answer was DAT, which my file utility can look into, but can't fully manage.


If I rename the PSC file to DAT (it actually works if I rename it to most anything other than PSC), Windows Explorer doesn't let me go inside it, but Total Commander treats it as a folder and goes to the next level. Here's what's in the PSC file.


Files in PhotoStorySample Project 


Inside Project File 


Copies of the 9 pictures are int it, renamed simply as numbers 1 thru 9.


The Beethoven music piece is there, now named backgroundAudio.


I had narrated each of the 9 pictures. You can see the 9 narration files... looks like they account for most of the file size. So a 75 second video has narration files that total 12.7 MB... narrations in WAV file types seem pretty costly in terms of the impact on the Photo Story file size.


What's in the XML file?


Let's take a look. Here's the lead-in code in the file, some opening script followed by a section for the the title page, then individual sections for each of the 9 pictures.


XML File in a Photo Story Project File - Part 1




After the sections about the 9 pictures, there's a final section about the background music file.


XML File - Part 2 - Bottom of File




The XML file seems more like a Movie Maker project file, with info about the pictures used and the settings for each.


The Photo Story PSC project file is a complete package. You can discard the source files if you want to, as full copies of them are in the project file.


Can you revise the pieces in the Photo Story project file and put them back in the package, instead of having to open and edit it with Photo Story?


Reasons to do it would include: substituting another narration or music background file, revising the text on the title page, editing a picture, etc.


With my file management utility, Total Commander, I can look into the project file, and copy any of the files from it. But I'm not able to delete a file in the package or copy a replacement file back into it. I guess I need another file management utility that can do that.... let me know if you have one that works.



Mini-Tutorial: Further Analysis of the Photo Story Project File


Let's look at the properties of the Photo Story narration files, and then at the constraints encountered when making and using large projects. First the narrations.


Narration Files


I copied the narration files from inside the project file and checked their properties. They each had the same properties as seen here:


Narration Properties



Project File Size - Potential Issues


Large files can tax the software and/or computer. We know that Photo Story is limited to having a maximum of 151 pictures (150 regular ones plus one for the background of the title page). Let's explore how well Photo Story and my Toshiba laptop handle a story made with larger picture files.


I'll use a 5 Megapixel picture of Echo the owl, and some 6 Megapixel files I downloaded from the California Coast project.


Using the Same Picture Multiple Times


I added the same owl picture to a project, adding it 10 times so I could pan and zoom around the same picture in different directions.


Here's what the contents of the saved project file looked like.


 Project File with 10 Copies of the Same Picture


Ten Owls


A project file for a story with a single 4 MB JPG image used 10 times is 40 MB in size, as Photo Story treats each instance of the picture as a different file.


The Effect of Large Project File Sizes on Your Computer's Memory Resources


Of course it'll depend on how much memory your computer has. My Toshiba laptop has 512 MB of RAM, reported in the Task Manager as physical memory of 523,616K. That was more than enough to handle all of what I gave it for this newsletter.


Does the whole file need to go into memory when opened? To check that, I added some more pictures: 20 more owls for a total of 30. That got the project file size up to 121 MB. Then another 10 different 17 MB pictures (BMP and TIFF) and the project file was up to 252 MB.


All was working well, so I bumped it up another big notch by adding another 30 of the 6 MB pictures... the project was now up to 30 owls and 40 large pictures, still less than half of the 150 picture limit.


.... I was watching my Task Manager to see what effect there was on memory resources as the video was being rendered... it went well and the 9 MB video file had all 70 pictures and played smoothly at the higher 640x480 resolution.


.... but what happened while the project file was being saved really perked me up. I was using Total Commander to watch the file grow in size as Photo Story added the pictures to it one at a time. Look at what I saw.


After growing to exactly 300,000,000 bytes, a curiously even number, and stopping there a while....


Project File Reaches 300 MB


Maximum Project Size


... CPU usage increased as Photo Story thought about what to do, and then did something I didn't expect. It zeroed out the project file and started over with an empty one.


I watched it grow to the 300MB size again in the second pass, and the same thing happened, starting over a 3rd time. In the third pass, there were only 3 more pictures to add. The final PSC file was only 44 MB. When I looked into it, here's what I saw. 


 Project File After 3rd Pass by 300 MB


Partial Project File


It had zeroed the file out each time it reached 300 MB and continued on. No error message, just giving me whatever was there in the final pass. :)


When I tried to open this part of the project file, I got this error message.


Corrupt Project File Message


I wasn't surprised at the error message, but it had missed telling me about the really big constaint:


A Photo Story project file has a maximum size limit of 300 MB


If I hadn't been sitting here watching the story unfold, I wouldn't have guessed.



I guess that's enough for this newsletter. Some closing remarks




As we get digital cameras with more megapixels, the 300 MB project file constraint is more easily reached... My newest camera is 5 megapixel, so that would be about 60 pictures, a lot less than the 150 picture constraint.


If you know the limit you can work with it.... use the total size of your input pictures as a guide... add them up and make sure you're comfortably below 300 MB. You don't want to invest a lot of time into a story and then find you can't save the project file... worse yet, after an apparently successful save, go back another day and get a file-corrupt message and no way to recover the original project file.


I'll be writing to Microsoft and adding some info to my Photo Story website.


I look forward to comments and discussion about this and other newsletters on the forums at:


Have a great week...




Movie Maker 2 -
Photo Story 2 -



Products and Services


I'm involved in many things that support users of Movie Maker and PhotoStory, and adding more daily. Here's a list of what is available to the public. Some are free and others are reasonably priced.



Books and Magazine:


Movie Maker 2 - Do Amazing Things (with its online companion on


Movie Maker 2 - Zero to Hero (with support on the Friends of Ed forum at






Movie Maker 2 - - two goals: to help you solve problems, and to be the online companion to the Do Amazing Things book... and currently thinking of another goal of movie making and editing styles.


PhotoStory 2 - - a full tutorial about using it. It's not a problem-solving site. 



Online Support - Forums, Channels and Newsgroups


I'm a regular on many online forums and newsgroups, the main ones being:



Movie Maker 2 and PhotoStory 2 forums at





Movie Maker 2 forum at


Windows XP Movie Maker newsgroup at microsoft.public.windowsxp.moviemaker


PhotoStory items are covered at



Weekly Newsletter:


Movie Maker 2/PhotoStory 2 newsletter. The annual subscription fee is $20 and the link to subscribe is on the main page of my Movie Maker website at:


Tentative topics for upcoming newsletters (subject to change):


#24 - MyDVD using version 4.5, the version on my laptop


#25 - A Special Edition about PhotoStory


#26 - Open - the last free subscription issue


#27 - Open - the first issue that will be sent only to regular paid subscribers


Older newsletters are archived by Rob Morris at:





Transition Maker 2 (TM2) - a utility to make the ultimate in personal and custom transitions for Movie Maker 2:


TM2 is a joint effort by Patrick Leabo, the programmer, and myself.




I routinely beta test the Pixelan packages and think very highly of their people and products: Their SpiceFX packages of additional transitions and effects for Movie Maker 2 are available at:



Other fee-based services:


If you can't save a movie because your project has become too complex, e-mail it to me and I'll divide it into manageable sub-projects for you, and provide detailed instructions to render the parts and assemble them into your final movie. $49.95 - for details, see the sidebar on the Problem Solving > Can't Save a Movie page of


Movie Maker 2/Photo Story 2 training and support services start at $50 per hour - email me at and I'll help you determine your needs, and work with you to plan and implement them.


Wedding website/video packages start at $2,500 + travel expenses. See for a sample.


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



Download more Movie Maker Effects!

Microsoft is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.