Movie Maker Basics
4 of the last 7 newsletters were about Photo Story... let’s turn to Movie Maker for couple
issues, this week stepping back and reflecting on the basics. A good understanding of them takes
you a long way. Next week I’ll cover the current state of a common issue ‘Help, I can’t save
a movie’; resolution starts with a good understanding of fundamentals.
Two pages of the website cover what I consider the basic building blocks. The Setup > MM2.0
page outlines them to the new user of Movie Maker 2. The Managing > Intro page covers them again
when facing such topics as organizing the files and backing up.
I’ll assume you have a good understanding of the basics; I’ll cover
them on a higher level.
Source Files -
come in all types, formats, sub-types... and new ones are rolling out regularly. At one
extreme are new high-definition camcorders. At the other extreme are phones with built-in camcorder
Closer to home, Photo Story 3 video-like files are another sub-type..
a wmv file rendered with the image v2
Collections - some days I work with an empty collection database, deleting clips in
it as quickly as I bring in new ones. It’s just a processing area that I clean up after a processing
session. Other days, I’ll treat the clips in it as more important than a project, fine tuning
the clips and backing up the database file after each session.
Clips - clips can be a Jeckel and Hyde thing... acting
one way in a collection and another way in a project. Of course they are both linked to the
same source files, but the filters and codecs that Movie Maker 2
uses to play them in the collection differ from those used when the same clip is on the timeline.
To the non-programmer, there are lots of mysterious things that happen when playing and using
clips. Filters and codecs are some of them.
Projects - many newbies have a hard time understanding
the nature of a project file... for good reason.
Some think the source files can be deleted once they are imported into the project file....
the word ‘import’ sets them up for that. And the Photo Story approach doesn’t help, as source
files imported into it actually get copied into the project file.
Others think the project (MSWMM) file can viewed by others, or imported into their DVD software,
not understanding the difference between a project file and a saved movie.
Saved Movies - the quest for the best quality at the smallest file size goes on. Playback/distribution
options continue to expand... today’s saved movies become tomorrow’s source files, if not for
you, then for someone else.
At one end of the quality scale, I’m using my Creative Zen Portable Media Center to show
movies during dinner instead of afterwards.
At the high end, my desk has a few less monitors than computers... some monitors are doing
double-duty. I’ve been looking at all the newer, bigger, more expensive high resolution widescreen
monitors... do I want it to play high definition 1080i? widescreen?
LCD or plasma? Many of the choices weren’t there the last time I
shopped for a monitor... so far the ones I like the most are those at the Apple stores.
... before getting deeper into the newsletter, here’s a few items
There’s a Microsoft FAQ website for Movie Maker 2.1 at:
... I found this item interesting and I’m doing some follow-up
“The video transitions and effects already in Windows Movie Maker are based on DirectShow.
However, Windows Movie Maker will quit unexpectedly if more than 100 DirectShow video transitions
or video effects are installed on your computer. If video programs that contain additional
DirectShow video transitions and video effects are installed on your computer, this may exceed
the allowable amount.
Programs that install additional DirectShow video transitions and video effects include Microsoft
Plus! Digital Media Edition, Windows Movie Maker 2 Winter Fun Pack 2003,
Pixelan SpiceFX Packs for Windows Movie
Maker, and InterVideo WinDVD Creator
2... To work around this issue, remove one or more of the programs”.
Maximum PC’s quarterly Winter Edition will hit the newsstands Tuesday, December 7th.
Look for the 6 page tutorial ‘Making a Killer Movie with Movie Maker 2’.
Everyone loves the Picture-in-Picture (PIP) effect, including me... here’s a video collage
for the main page of the wedding website - with 8 embedded videos:
I haven’t told anyone... if you look closely at it, you can see the big black border on the
right edge, and the little videos are closer to being square then they should be... something
was wrong with my pixel dimensioning.
To take another closer look at counting pixels, and with one of my goals being to show the
use of Photo Story 3 and Movie Maker 2 together, I started another sample, something I can use
as a new opening clip for my movies... working in 720x460 DV-AVI mode as I lay each layer on
top of the previous ones... here’s links for two different quality versions:
The file sizes are 11.7 MB and 23.6 MB... I’m thinking of another newsletter in a few weeks
about this PIP topic, using this example for the tutorial....
....on to the topic of the week
One trend in source files is their ever-growing complexity... more sources, companies, versions
of software and codecs, etc. No-one can maintain an in-depth knowledge
of them all, so don’t try. Learn more about your usual sources and how best to handle them.
They might work directly in Movie Maker or they may need conversion before use.
a big learning area for those new to digital video editing.
How do you tell someone that an AVI file might have been encoded with any one of dozens
of codecs, that you might not know which one, that you might not
be able to know which codecs are on your computer, or which ones
are used with which source file?
Even in our own area, Photo Story 3 gives us another sub-type of source file... a video-like
wmv file rendered with the image v2 codec... a codec revision that
is substantially different enough that it effects which software can play them.
Source files either work or don’t work in Movie Maker... the MPEG-2 and
Divx encoded AVI files work just enough to get your hopes up, but
if you get sucked into editing a project with them, you’ll usually run into hangs, freezes,
audio and video issues... all related to codec issues. You’ll wish you had converted them to
other files before you finish your project.
And if you have a lucky day and they work perfectly, some software change will come along
to effect the balance.
Marc Liron, one of the MVPs, just developed a new Sherlock -
Codec Checker utility to help you assess codecs on your system.
It’s a free download from
http://www.updatexp.com - add it to your other codec listing utilities such as
As I look around I see new source files and new challenges to get them into Movie Maker.
One of my sons has a new Game-Boy renderer/viewer and he’s starting
to collect Game-Boy video and audio files. He just started using Movie Maker with a custom profile
to help him make the Game-Boy format files... there are others at the receiving end who will
be trying to figure out next week how to get the Game-Boy videos into Movie Maker.
In addition to converting and prepping source files, there’s the forever need to organize
and save them. The image to the right shows how I organize my source files... I use a folder
that is accessable to any user on my computer, and ones that I can
reach across to on other computers in my network. I don’t need to copy them to another computer
to use in a new project. Reach accross a network and use a source
file on another computer. It’ll work.
On the days that I’m creating, organizing or clip-splitting in an important collection, I’ll
treat the database file as I do an important project file, backing it up when I’m finished a
How I treat it depends on how much effort I put into splitting, renaming and organizing the
The figure at the left shows a tree-view of my library of collection databases, started in
the days of MM1 and still ongoing....
I’ll primarily use Movie Maker 1 collections for the library of clips that I easily import
into my working project in MM2.
Movie Maker 2 is used mostly for project-specific collections.
Clips can be a Jeckel and Hyde thing... acting one way in a collection
and differently on the timeline.
Of course a clip in either place links to the same source file, but the filters (similar
to codecs) that Movie Maker 2 uses to play them in the collection
differs from when it previews the same clip on the timeline.
For non-programmers like myself, there are lots of mysterious things that go on when it comes
to playing and using clips, and codecs are part of the mystery.
To understand the complexities of previewing a timeline versus the simplicity of previewing
a clip, I’ll copy a couple figures and comments from Dean Rowe’s blog
entry of November 28th:
“If you drag one clip to the timeline within Windows Movie Maker and preview it you may think
that the process that goes on is very similar to when you preview the clip within the collection
view. Well, although there are a few similarities there are a lot of differences....”
Here’s Dean’s figure to show the filters that come into play when viewing the clip in the
collection, a fairly simple picture:
You don’t need to understand any of the filters. Simply looking at the
above and below pictures shows the increase in complexity between a collection clip preview
and a project preview.
When you go into the timeline, you are using lots of other filters,
all being managed by Dexter... if you haven’t met him, here’s an introduction:
Read Dean’s full blog if you’re interested in this topic further.
He leads the Movie Maker team at Microsoft, so his blog is essential
reading. He’s also a regular poster on the newsgroup.
If you want to say something directly to the Movie Maker team, post to the newsgroup and
Dean will read it, or respond to one of his
blog entries and introduce yourself... tell him I sent you.
Many newbies have a hard time understanding the nature of a project
file... and for good reason.
Some think the source files can be deleted once they are imported into the project file....
the word ‘import’ sets them up to think that way. And the Photo Story approach doesn’t help,
as source files imported into it actually get copied into the project file.
think the MSWMM file can be viewed by others, or imported into their DVD software, not understanding
the difference between saving a project and saving a movie.
The figure at the right shows a list of files in my working folder for my new sample PIP
To the viewer of the video sample, it’s a single wmv file, and
you might think it’s from a single project MSWMM file... but it’s actually a composite from
a number of smaller projects. I like to be modular enough to easily redo something important
or just one of the segments. Let me go through the purpose of each of the 4 project files.
The IntroClip starts with some text over blackness,
moves on to a photo story that zooms out of the jpg picture of my computer desktop... that I
made in Paint.
I can change it for reuse... to start each project with different text.
The ClosingClip is similar to the Intro clip. It uses
the still picture of my computer desktop, followed by another photo story, this time zooming
back into one of the WMP windows... with whatever text is appropriate to finish the video or
finish the introduction to the main video feature.
Again, easy to change for each new movie...
The Add-PIP-Overlay Video is the time consuming part... in rendering times...
a series of mid-process steps... I put a background picture or video on the timeline, add the
video (the smaller video to be embedded someplace), add the PIP transition with the tweaked
XML file that tells Movie Maker how to position and size the embedded video, and render it to
another DV-AVI file... to be then used as the source file background clip for the next embedded
video... over and over until all the little embedded videos are there. Each is saved to a new
file and I don’t delete any until I’m happy with the results of the new file.
The FinalMovie project puts the 3 clips together...
the intro clip, the final saved video with all the embedded PIP videos, and the closing clip....
this saved movie is then rendered as needed for distribution. I rendered it twice for the online
copies with the links above. The folder doesn’t show any of the final movies as I move them
over to other folders or onto wherever they are going.
The quest for the best quality at the smallest file size goes on. Playback/distribution options
continue to expand. I’m now using my Creative Zen Portable Media Center to show movies during
dinner instead of after dinner. I’m a few monitors short on my desk now and starting to shop
for a new one... do I want it to play high definition 1080i? widescreen?
LCD or plasma? I have viewing choices that weren’t there the last
time I shopped for a monitor.
picture at the right shows some of my profile choices in the pick list on my laptop. Most are
custom profiles that I’ve developed and tweaked over time.
Some are there to pick when capturing... such as the Dazzle 80. different
ones for capturing WMV files when I’m headed for computer distribution (640x480) on a WMV file
versus a DV-AVI for retention of the highest quality (720x480).
Most are there to pick when saving a movie... the one I choose depends on what the next step
is.... for the sample PIP video, each rendering until the last ones were saved to DV-AVI files.
The final renderings always depend on how I’ll be distributing the movie.... appropriately sized
for the viewer.
Once you have the basics down, the rest is easy... :)
The basics don’t change, or they change slowly over time.
How you use them changes with your skills, experience, project needs, mood, other software
tools you have, etc.
I look forward to comments and discussion about this and other newsletters on the forums
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
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 forum at
MaximumPC’s winter quarterly special - tutorial ‘Make a Killer
Flick with Movie Maker 2’. It’ll hit newsstands in the USA on Tuesday 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.
The latest branch of the menu is the bottom one ‘Living Projects’. It has a real wedding
website now, but I’ll be adding more as time goes by... and I’m moving the videos for the wedding
and future projects from my server to Neptune.
PhotoStory 2 -
www.photostory.papajohn.org - a full
tutorial about using it. It’s not a problem-solving site.
PhotoStory 3 -
www.papajohn.org - see the menu branch
close to the bottom. Similar to the Photo Story 2 site, it’s all about how to use it effectively,
especially as it relates to Movie Maker 2.
Online Support - Forums, Channels and Newsgroups
I’m a regular on many online forums and newsgroups, the main ones being:
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 microsoft.public.plus
Photo Story 3 newsgroup microsoft.public.windowsxp.photos
Movie Maker 2/PhotoStory newsletter. The annual subscription is
$20 and the link to subscribe is on the main page of my Movie Maker website at:
Tentative topics for upcoming newsletters (always subject to change):
#31 - ‘Help!! I Can’t Save a Movie’
#32 - Picture-in-Picture - using the new sample for the tutorial
Older newsletters (more than 6 issues ago) are archived by Rob Morris at:
Maker 2 (TM2) - a utility for the ultimate in making personal and custom transitions for
Movie Maker 2:
TM2 is a joint effort by Patrick Leabo, the programmer, and
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:
Adorage package for Movie Maker 2 is available at:
Other fee-based services:
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
PapaJohn@CharterMi.net 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
www.jill-mark.papajohn.org for a sample (it’s the same site as you see when you use the
main menu at
www.papajohn.org and go to the bottom ‘Living Projects’ branch.