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PapaJohn's Newsletter #33

AutoMovie + VirtualDub 'Benchmark Testing'


My daughter called a few days ago... excited over a new song 'xxxxxx' (I guess it's new!). She thought it would be great to take a bunch of older pictures of her 3 children and put them into a movie with the song as the background. She said something like ' know, just make one of those great movies you always do....'. and could you also do another one for my friend Debbie or her kids?


That's one of the hazards of getting half-way good at something like making videos. People start asking you to do one for them. Can I say no to my daughter? No... Is she discerning enough when it comes to movie editing for me to make a super effort? No... Could I take a batch of pictures and put them into a slideshow using Photo Story 3? Yes,... but another option that might be easier and better is to dig out something I haven't used in a while - AutoMovie.


Another hazard when making movies is walking the minefield of copyright issues. I'll use that song for my daughter's private use, but for this newsletter I'll use something else. I don't even want to type the name of the song or artist.



My exploring AutoMovie wasn't as conclusive as I hoped it would be, but I did come across an interesting utility that comes with VirtualDub that I'll cover also.



... before getting into them, a few notes about things going on...





• There's a new link on the Problem Solving checklist to KB88522. It's about "After you update your computer to Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), the performance of your 1394a or 1394b FireWire devices may be greatly decreased. A digital camera that uses S400 speed is an example of such a device. This problem occurs if you connect a 1394a or 1394b FireWire device to a 1394b port. This problem occurs because Windows XP SP2 changes 1394b ports to S100 speed when you upgrade."


I've installed the KB patch on a couple computers... didn't see a difference so far, but it seems like installing it might help and can't hurt. The KB article was pointed out to me by a newsletter subscriber who experienced significant performance improvement after applying it.


• The new Neptune gallery 'PapaJohn Expert Zone'... that I mentioned last week might not be accessible to non-members. I see it when I go to the Neptune site on one computer, but not on another. Maybe it's because I'm automatically logged in. These are the kinds of things I'll be exploring as I put together the new web page after the holidays.


• Newsletter #16 (about VirtualDub) led to a publisher in the UK contracting me to write the introductory chapter of a book about Virtual Dub. It's actually about the world of Virtual Dub as it includes related VDubMod and Avisynth software.


It's an usual step for me to go beyond the narrow scope of Movie Maker and Photo Story, but Virtual Dub is one of the great software apps I've routinely advised users to have in their toolboxes. I included 1/2 page about it in the Do Amazing Things book.


Doing some background exploration of VirtualDub for the book led me to the next item, benchmark testing your hard drive to see how well it can handle video capture.



Virtual Dub - Hard Drive Benchmark Testing


As I write the chapter and learn more about Virtual Dub, I'll pass along some items, starting with this one...


The downloaded setup package for VirtualDub has two executable files in it... the one to run VirtualDub and another named auxsetup.exe... running it gets you the window shown at the left.


It's a menu with buttons to run Virtual Dub... and other items such as Benchmark testing your hard drives.


... I'll run it and show you what my laptop's performance looks like. You can compare it to yours.


Disk Test
Pressing the Benchmark button opens the window at the right... I changed the frame settings (size and frame rate) to align with DV-AVI (NTSC), and then ran the test of my internal C drive and an external drive.


C Drive Test
The test for my C drive 'passed' with no dropped frames, and a peak buffer usage of 25 during it.


The C drive is a 6400 rpm internal drive. The drive's fast speed (as far as laptops go) was one of my prime reasons for selecting the computer 1-1/2 years ago. 


Failed Test
I've also been using an external drive connected by a USB2 port... a 7200 rpm drive. I've been pleased with it's performance, but haven't run any tests to see how an external USB2 drive compares to the internal one.


It failed the first test with 1 dropped frame, with peak buffer usage of 44 (of 50).


I hadn't done anything special to get ready for the tests... no defrags, didn't close down any apps or disconnect from the internet, etc. The first test is interesting but not conclusive.



There's another test utility included... of peak disk performance


Here's my sustained read and write performance for both drives. Looks like the external one wins this round.


This was just a quick test to get some screen shots for this newsletter...

...I'll be using the utilities and testing my setup more as I work on the book.

....on to the tutorial





The Editing > AutoMovie page of my site includes a July 03 post by Microsoft about how AutoMovie works.



It uses only one song or audio file. You can either have one song in the folder (with a batch of video clips), or browse to one in your music folder using the 'select audio or background music' link on the page where you choose the movie style.


If there are no songs, the movie will be 3 minutes (a tad longer to add titles). If there aren't enough clips once automovie edits them down to reach the length of the song - the movie will be shorter than the song.


If you want to make an AutoMovie of multiple songs, you could do it by selecting a portion of the clips (say the first 3rd of them) and make an automovie using one song. Then select the next third of them, and choose another song, and make another automovie. Each time you do this the new automovie will be added to the end of the current timeline.

And you can put 2 or 3 music tracks on the timeline with no video, save the movie as a new WMA file, and then use that one for the AutoMovie. That'll get you the music you want with the video clips mixed throughout.

The info was from a Microsoft employee, posting to the newsgroup. Let's check it in the tutorial.


AutoMovie tutorial - Making One


Round Up Clips - Select a collection of images, video clips and music. I prefer putting them in a new collection.


I'll use the same source files used for the 'Dancin Queen' video for the wedding website, and for the MaximumPC magazine tutorial... they were done by me... I'll take the source files from the CD that's in the magazine


... and I'll try AutoMovie, using each of the five styles. Here's the Newsletter collection and the source files:


Selected Source Files


The main video source files are the 4+ minutes of footage taken by my analog camcorder, and the 5-1/2 minutes by my digital one. The GreenandWhiteFireworks and Red-to-RedAndBlack clips are from my library of recorded iTunes visualizations.


The short AudioForFireworks is on the magazine CD. I'm not sure AutoMovie will use it... and it didn't.



Test 1


With the source files in the collection, all I had to do to create the AutoMovie was select the collection in the collection tree and then use the main menu > Tools > AutoMovie... > select a style - Flip and Slide first > Done, edit movie.


I'll let AutoMovie decide which clips to use, and how to use them.


It starts by analyzing the music, then the video. After the analysis it lays all the clips on the timeline... it goes very quickly through them all. Let's see what it decided and compare results to what was expected... or hoped for.


First Pass


Audio - the collection has 2 audio files, a short 15 second one and a 5:23 WMA file, the soundtrack of the dance. AutoMovie uses only one audio file. I was hoping it would pick the longer one, and it did.


But the sound track was 5:23 and AutoMovie used only 5:07 of it, stopping short of the last 16 seconds... I guess 9-1/2 minutes of video footage wasn't enough for it.


The audio from the clips and the audio track conflicted with each other in the movie, so before going on to the next test I rendered two new source files with the audio muted. It's easier than having to mute each of the video clips on the timeline manually.


Video - Automovie created clips from the Digital Camcorder footage first, stringing them together on the timeline. Then it did the clips from the Analog Camcorder footage.


Did it use the Digital one first because it was listed first in the collection? I renamed the Analog one so it would be listed first, and got the exact same results.... so maybe it used the Digital one first because it was longer... through all the testing I was trying to understand Automovie's logic, and in the long run I wasn't successful.



Test 2  


With no audio in the video files and running it the same way, two things changed.


• the full 5:23 of the audio track was used... so now AutoMovie had enough video to complete the full audio track... but in most of the remaining tests it used less than the full audio track. Like other things with Movie Maker, doing something the first time doesn't mean it'll be consistently that way in the future.


• the analog clips were used first instead of second. They were still strung together, not mixing the digital and analog ones.


Before doing the next test, I'll split the 2 big clips in the collection bin and see if they will mingle together in the movie. I'm hoping to get Automovie to mix the clips.


I used Movie Maker to automatically create clips in the collection from the two big video files. The digital file was split into 27 clips, and the analog one also ended up at 27, purely coincidental.



Test 3


With 54 smaller clips instead of 2 big ones, and the clips sorted by name in the collection (analogs before digitals) the same AutoMovie choice resulted in using 5:07 of the audio file. The analog clips all came before the digital and the clips were used in sequence from 1 to 27 with some of them used more than once and some not used.


Let's run the other 4 styles and see if and how they differ:


• 'Highlights' style was about the same: 5:12 of audio and the same clip sequencing


• 'Music Video' - 4:48 of audio and same sequencing


• 'Old Movie' - 5:12 and no change in sequencing


• 'Sports Highlights' - 5:07 of audio and same sequencing, analog clips followed by digital


So... selecting a whole collection folder gets you about the same.... let's go on and see about selecting clips in the folder



Test 4


I went through the various ways you can sort the clips in the collection, to see what effect the sorting would have on the movie.


• Selecting all clips sorted by name (instead of selecting the collection) gives the same results - 5:07 audio


• Sorted by duration, shortest to longest - didn't use the audio file??? double-checked to confirm - 3:13 total project duration - still sequencing analog first, digital next.


• Sorted by duration from longest to shortest - used the audio at 5:07


• Sorted ascending by start time - 5:07; by ascending end time - 3:13 and the audio track wasn't used.


• Sorted ascending by dimensions - 3:13, no audio, very quickly done... so I assume it just used whatever it last thought about. Sorted descending by dimensions - it thought more fully, and did 5:07 with the same sequencing.


• Sorted ascending by date taken - 5:07 and same sequencing.


I'll feed it some more clips and see if I can jog it up to using the full music track of 5:23. I'll add a batch of 20 wedding pix.



Test 5  


With the added 20 pix, it used the full 5:23, and sequenced the clips with still pix first, analog clips next, then digital clips... still not mixing the types of clips together.... so the added still pix got the full audio track but didn't change the sequencing... the still pix and clips were sequenced per the clip names.


Tried renaming 5 still pix in the collection... which didn't change anything.... the sequencing seems to be based on the names of the source files, not the names of the clips in the collection.


Renamed 5 of the still pix source files and reimported them... maybe it's not based on source file names. Is MM2 smart enough to look inside the file for the info it wants? Changing file names didn't change the sequence they were applied to the Automovie.


Will setup a smaller set of test files and see if I can determine what causes the clip sequencing.



Test 6


Made a sub-folder/sub-collection with 5 sequentially shot still images from a digital camera (I named them Pix-1 thru Pix-5, and a 3 minute music file. The first attempt to do an AutoMovie gave an error message saying that at least 30 seconds of video was needed.  OK - added a 56 second video clip.


Got 56 second audio... and 1 of the still images was out of sequence.... they were arranged 1-3-2-4-5.. in each of the 5 types. I don't know why #3 was out of sequence.



Tests 7... 8....9...


A batch of 50 still pix > went in sequence by name.


Added a few video clips to the collection with the 50 still pix > the video clips were put on the timeline first, followed by the still pix. No mixing of file types.


Did one with 5 JPG still images (with simple file names of a, b, c, d, and e) and 6 video clips > the video was used first, pix next... and the pix were not in sequence, going d, c, a, b, e.


The durations of the still pix varied, but the transitions between still pix was always 1.25 seconds.


Enough testing. I wasn't getting any further with the added tests. I'll wrap it up for now.





What can we conclude about Automovies?


• They need lots more video or still pix than the length of the music, if you want it to use all the music.


• They are not close to achieving what you can do personally when making a movie... I wasn't even successful at getting it to mix still images, analog clips and digital clips.



However you celebrate, I wish you the best of everything as the year wraps up and the new one begins... Happy Holidays!!!


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 Photo Story, 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 forum at


MaximumPC's winter quarterly special - with a 7 page tutorial 'Make a Killer Flick with Movie Maker 2' - now on newsstands in the USA through March 7th.





Movie Maker 2 - - 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... like the Photo Story 2 site, it's more about how it works and how to use it, not about how to resolve problems.



Online Support - Forums, Channels and Newsgroups


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


Movie Maker and Photo Story forums at




Movie Maker 2 forum at


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


Photo Story 2 newsgroup


Photo Story 3 newsgroup



Weekly Newsletter:


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


Topics for upcoming newsletters (always subject to change):


#34 - open (I'll post to the forum as soon as I know)


Older newsletters (more than 6 issues ago) are archived by Rob Morris at:




Transition 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 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:


ProDAD's Adorage package for Movie Maker 2 is 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 - send an email to and I'll help you determine your needs, and work with you to plan and implement them.


Wedding combo website/video packages start at $2,500 + travel expenses. See or the bottom branch of my Movie Maker 2 website for a sample of what you can expect.


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



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