Photo Story 3 - The First Month
When it comes to computers I don't try to be first in anything.
I only started to learn about them when the last of my kids went off to college leaving me to
fend for myself. I'm not an alpha-tester... but I do beta testing. I prefer waiting to see how
new hardware or software pans out in the real world before purchasing or trying it. I don't
subscribe to all the RSS feeds to be among the first to be aware of something new.
I observe, study, reflect on the information provided with the
software, see what the world says as marketing info blends with feedback from early wave adopters.
I play with the new item, test its limits, decide how it fits into my toolbox for the long run...
and share my info with the community of users. This newsletter has become the main way that
I publish my latest info.
Photo Story 3 is a keeper. It's not without it's shortcomings
or wish-list of additional features. But it provides some unique things that I can't do with
other software.... and it doesn't crash.
This first month of Photo Story 3 has been interesting. I'll cover
what I know and include a mini-tutorial about making widescreen stories.
before getting into it, a few notes about some things going on...
• This is a new record on publishing this newsletter early...
Thursday is Thanksgiving Day here and it's a long 4 day holiday weekend.
• I ended up biting the bullet on my Toshiba laptop over the weekend,
reformatting the hard drive and starting over at T=0 (May 2003) installing all the software
and updates since then. As usual, it's easier to do than to think about doing. What I didn't
want to live with forever was the way the hard drive was partitioned
when it came back from the repair shop with its new hard drive... an 8GB C drive and the other
52GB not in a partition. I was constantly squeezed by too little free space on the C drive.
I redid it such that the 60GB drive is all in C.
• I have 6 computers on my desk, but only 4 monitors. Some computers
have to share one. Two of the monitors are now dying, to the point
that I'm shopping for my first flat panel one... my only criteria is that the 1080 high definition
WMV movies look good on it.... of course price is also a factor.
....on to the
topic of the week
I learned about Photo Story 3 in no particular order
Photo Story 3 renders stories using v2 of the Windows Media 9
series image codec. Photo Story 2 uses the original image codec. The differences in codec versions
make for some significant things when it comes to playing and distributing stories.
• It's a wonderful tool for making slide shows and clips
for movies... we knew that going into the release, and the first month's use validates it. You
can see that I've totally adopted it into my Movie Maker website and intend to include it in
future books, magazines, newsletters, etc.... Now that it's here, it can only move on and get
• It's rock solid... no crashing or hanging.
• It's more limited when distributing and viewing
stories... the special WMV viewer for Macs has the codecs hard-coded
into it and it doesn't include the newer v2 codec that PS3 uses...
...the direct VCD burning feature of PS2 wasn't carried forward
into Photo Story 3. You'll have to think more about your viewers and take extra steps to get
your story to them.
I have version 4.5 of Sonic MyDVD,
which can use stories rendered with Photo Story 2. With those from Photo Story 3, I get an error
message and Sonic says to run the story through Movie Maker and use a DV-AVI file. The newer
versions of MyDVD support the v2 codec and the new stories.
When something plays a PS2 story and not a PS3 one, it'll probably
be the codec version.
• Stories on websites start playing almost instantly
when the link is selected.... versus the time delay needed for a movie to start.
• Playing a story smoothly seems more difficult
on the computer than playing a comparably sized movie... something that needs some more studying...
I have some thoughts about why that's the case but I have some more exploring to do.
If you know the limits of software, you can get much more use
from it and know when to use a different software tool... here's
some info about the limits of Photo Story 3, a list I had fun putting together:
• Source pictures imported into a story are limited to
a minimum of 1 pixel (1 pixel high by 1 pixel wide).
... and they are limited to a maximum
of 7200 pixels wide and 7200 pixels high (52 mega pixels).
• The maximum size of a Photo Story 2 project file
is 300 MB, and it's been raised in PS3. There's still a limit but its way up there. I don't
know the exact number yet, but we should be OK.
When PS2 reached that limit it treated it like an odometer rolling
over with no feedback, just starting again from zero with no notice if you're not watching.
PS3 won't roll past the limit without giving you a message (something I haven't seen yet).
• When saving a story, there are 13 built-in profile choices...
and you can add more custom profiles. When making a custom profile:
The minimum size is 16 pixels
high or wide. 16x16 is the smallest story you can render.
The maximum size is 2000 pixels high or wide. 2000x2000
is the biggest rendered story.
All stories require audio and video channels. You can't uncheck
the audio option in a custom profile and go with just video, but you can opt for CBR with a
zero bitrate setting... close enough to nothing.
• A good use of a custom profile
is to make widescreen stories at the traditional 16:9 aspect ratio... I'll take you through
the details in the tutorial.
• You can make any size and shape story as long as it's
rectangular and the width and height are between 16 and 2000 pixels, and you use even numbers...
• On playback, a pleasant surprise was that Windows Media
Player 10 plays a story at the actual pixel dimensions.
When you make a movie with Movie Maker, there's a tag in the file
that tells the player which aspect ratio you had selected in the options window - standard 4:3
or widescreen 16:9. The player reads the tag and forces the video into that aspect ratio regardless
of the files actual pixel dimensions. I use embedded browser players to show non-standard movies
at their actual size.
When I copy a non-standard aspect ratio story to my Creative Zen
Portable Media Center, the Zen plays it that way too, based on the actual pixel dimensions.
The viewing is consistent...
Story File Sizes
Something I always say is that audio
is at least half of the viewing experience of a movie. Photo Story 3 is doing its best to
illustrate that. I just started to explore this area and find it fascinating.
The total size of a saved story might be more to carry its audio
content than the video. I'm not finished testing so I'm not ready to make the statement any
stronger... here's what I see with my first test... rendering a 5 second story 60 times using
60 different custom profiles. I used various pixel size and audio bitrate
options from one extreme to the other. The two extremes show.
The maximum 2000x2000 pixel story with the minimum zero
bitrate audio is 255KB in file size.... a file that's pretty much
all video and no audio.
The minimum 16x16 pixel story with the highest quality audio option
of 48kHz stereo VBR with a quality setting of 98, using background
music and narration, is 281KB in size.... a file that's mostly audio with minimal video. It's
10% larger than with all video and no audio. Removing the narration reduces the file to 259KB,
still slightly bigger than the video only option.
Amazing but true!! Your story file may be carrying more bits and
bytes for audio than it is for video... and the video looks so great.
Mini-Tutorial - Making a Widescreen Story
- Prepping Your Pictures
Making widescreen stories is easy. All you need to do is tweak
your source pictures by a specific amount... and use a custom widescreen profile when saving.
You do the tweaking and I'll give you a few profiles to use.
I'll illustrate it with this picture. At the left in
IrfanView you see it at its original resolution of 4072 x 2712 pixels.
That's a healthy 11 megapixels, a nice size for a story.
Open your Calculator and multiply the width of the image in pixels
by .75117... use that percentage on any and all pictures you
want in your story.
The width of this one starts at 4072 pixels... so resizing changes
it to 3059 pixels (4072 pixels times .75117).
The resizing will squeeze the picture in from both sides.
all the prepping you need to do. It's ready to import to your story.
If you have lots of pictures to prep, use the batch process feature
of IrfanView and use 75% instead of 75.117%... it won't take a decimal.....
that'll be close enough for most pictures.
B - Create Your Story
Don't pay attention to how squeezed the pictures look in Photo
All of the cropping, motion settings and previewing in Photo Story
will be shown at standard 4:3 aspect ratio...
When you see your story in the Windows Media Player, it'll be
widescreen and look good... provided you render it with a custom widescreen 16:9 profile.
I put the original picture on the filmstrip in Photo Story, and
then the resized one... so we can see them both at each stage of the process. Here's what they
are looking like while editing.
C - Select the Custom Profile
I developed 3 widescreen profiles to get started: 420x240 for
easier playing on computers that are less capable of playing the larger ones, 825x480 pixels
for normal DVD sized videos, and 1704x960 pixels for stories at the size of high definition.
The links to download the profiles are:
You can study the profiles in the Profile Editor and create others
for custom widescreen sizes you want.
I saved this sample using each of the profiles. Here are the links:
Yes, the original picture now looks too wide and the resized squeezed
one looks normal.
If all the pictures in a story were resized, the whole thing would
look great... all looking normal but with the video at 16:9 widescreen.
D - Use the Story or Add it to Other Clips in Movie Maker
If it's a stand-alone story, you're done. If it's a clip to be
used in a movie... let's look a bit further.
First I'll change the Movie Maker setting to widescreen 16:9 and
import a few source files.
Here's a short sample project: first the 852x480 story clip, then
a short 428x240 widescreen clip from my Grand Canyon movie, and then the 1704x960 story clip....
No special settings or custom profiles are needed when using the
widescreen story in Movie Maker... use it as you do any widescreen source file.
Here's what it looks like when rendered with a widescreen 428x240
I'm enjoying Photo Story 3... look
for that section of the website to expand as the info in this newsletter trickles into various
For those celebrating Thanksgiving, have
a wonderful weekend... take pictures and video... make stories and movies next week.
I can use some more requests for newsletter topics.... send an
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 -
Photo Story 3 - a branch of -
Products and Services
I'm involved in many things that support the 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 Magazines:
Movie Maker 2 - Do Amazing Things (with
its online companion on
Movie Maker 2 - Zero to Hero (with support on the Friends of Ed
winter quarterly special - tutorial 'Make a Killer Flick with Movie Maker 2'. It'll hit newsstands
in the USA on December 7th and be there for 3 months.
Movie Maker 2 -
www.papajohn.org - 3 goals: to help you solve problems, be the online companion to
the Do Amazing Things book, and provide a detailed tutorial for Photo Story 3.
PhotoStory 2 -
- a full tutorial about using it. It's not a problem-solving site.
PhotoStory 3 -
- see the menu branch close to the bottom.
Online Support -
Forums, Channels and Newsgroups
I'm a regular on many online forums and newsgroups, the main ones
Maker 2 and PhotoStory 2 forums at
Movie Maker 2 forum at SimplyDV.com
Windows XP Movie Maker newsgroup at microsoft.public.windowsxp.moviemaker
Photo Story 2 newsgroup
Photo Story 3 newsgroup
Movie Maker 2/PhotoStory newsletter.
The annual subscription is $20 and the link to subscribe is on the main page of my Movie Maker
Tentative topics for
upcoming newsletters (always subject to change):
#30 - open
#31 - open
#31 - open
Older newsletters (more than 6 issues ago) are archived by Rob
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TM2 is a joint effort by Patrick Leabo,
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I routinely beta test the Pixelan
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packages of additional transitions and effects for Movie Maker 2 are available at:
Adorage package for Movie Maker 2 is available at:
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
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the Problem Solving > Can't Save a Movie page of
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Wedding website/video packages
start at $2,500 + travel expenses. See
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