the Highest Quality on New Home Widescreen HD TV’s
Last week's issue about pixels struck a chord with Carol Brennan,
a regular reader. She sent an email almost as long as my newsletters, and I'm sure her situation
is shared by many.
With her permission I'm using her comments as the basis for this week's
newsletter. Here are her unedited comments.
This newsletter helped explain a lot to me. Last weekend I took all
39 PapaJohn newsletters & your “Do Amazing Things” book & spread them out in the living room trying
to figure out the best way to make my DVDs. My goal is to make the clearest DVD for viewing on my
widescreen HD TV. Sounds simple, but it gets very confusing once you start combining
1. digital video (shot in widescreen by my Sony video camera)
2. Analog video shot in 4:3 with my old video camera
3. Digital pictures shot by my Canon powershot A80
4. old scanned photographs
then try to put them all together using
4. Sonic MyDVD6
5. Roxio’s Videowave movie creator (it came with my Dell computer in
Working full time & managing a household, I don’t have time to experiment
with all the codecs, etc. I just follow your advice at the conclusion of the newsletters, but sometimes
it is confusing. My problems are
1. the best way to size pictures in both Photostory2 and PS3 to use
as stand-alone stories in my DVD Project.
2. the best way to size pictures in both Photostory2 and PS3 to use as source
files in MM2 projects.
(sometimes my friends say that they look fat in my DVDs! I’ve
been saving the pictures in the custom widescreen formats you made, but maybe that is incorrect
for DVD use) Maybe it makes a difference whether I use the stories as source files or not.
Things I noticed while making home movies for the past year:
1. The best quality slide shows are made by My DVD6 by directly importing
the pictures into MY DVD. However I cannot pan & zoom the pictures if I use this method.
2. Picture shows made with Photo Story 2 seem to be much clearer than picture
shows with PS3 once they are burned to a DVD.
3. Verbatim DVD+R DVDs produce the best quality DVD’s for me.
4. I know that MyDVD suggests saving MM2 movies as AVI’s so that they are
In any case, it is very confusing for the novice. My guess is that
most people making home movies want to play them as DVDs
with the highest quality on their new home Widescreen HD TV’s that have become so popular. With that in mind, can you just summarize
and tell us
1. use this pixel size pictures for PS2…..
2. use this pixel size pictures for PS3….
3. Save PS2 using this custom codec (codec
means profile in this context)
4. Save PS3 using this custom codec (profile)
5. Save MM2 using this custom codec. (profile)
And so forth…..
Sometimes when I start reading all the background for your decisions,
I get very confused. I just want you to tell me “use this method to get the best results”
(I really don’t need to know the engineering behind everything)
Sorry for the long note, but it just shows how confused I am. I have
learned so much from you for the past year and I really appreciate everything you try to teach us!
... before responding,
a number of notes...
Patrick Leabo, the programmer of Transition Maker 2, is also
its most avid user. He's been tweaking it for many months now, since he released version 1. Today
he rolled out version 2, the one you'll get if you download it now.
It's easier than ever to select any starting image, any ending image
(a couple condor pix my brother just sent), develop a custom transition, preview the results, use
it in Movie Maker, and WOW your audience (for this one, my brother).
I'll be updating the online tutorial, but Patrick has a full one already
packaged with the app. The new version goes into its own folder so both versions can co-exist.
The new version is free to registered users.
I had the kick-off class for a handful of staff members at my local
library (Portage, Michigan) on Monday. It went well. but plugging my laptop into their high
quality projection system and watching Movie Maker doing its thing on the big screen... showed that
previewing clips in collections and the project timeline were fine, but you couldn't see the saved
movie playing back in WMP... you could see it on my laptop but not on the projection system.
I checked with others and found that turning my hardware acceleration
down to the 3rd notch is what's needed... seems the graphics card outputting to the external monitor
doesn't handle the video overlay.
Sonic released a DVD plug-in
for Photo Story 3 on Thursday, to support the direct burning of a DVD as one of the options
when using the saving wizard. The timing fit right into this week's topic... so I purchased it yesterday
and gave it a test... it's not yet my recommendation. Here's why:
It did a good job doing what it did... PS3 saved a story using a 720x480
profile from Sonic, and then the plug-in transcoded the WMV file to MPEG-2 files for the disc, and
burned the DVD.
Personally I wouldn't have purchased it if I had known:
1 - you can only burn one story on a disc.. to add more to the disc
you need to use your regular DVD software
2 - my regular DVD software is Sonic's MyDVD 4.5... and that version
can't open and modify the DVD... it's not new enough... so I can't add to the disc, fix the spelling
mistake I made in the title, change the Sonic graphic on the disc to one of my own, etc. Carol can
probably do it with her version 6.
3 - my personal custom DVD profile for the rendered story results
in a better quality story than that produced by the plug-in. I compared the results of both and
they fully align except my video bitrate is higher.
If I have to purchase a new DVD software app to add to or modify the
disc, I'd have been better off applying the $20 that I paid for the plug-in toward the purchase
of the new software.
The plug-in might still be the right tool if the MPEG-2 files made
by it are of better quality than those made by other software (such as the newer versions of Sonic
DVD software)... but I'd been told not to expect better quality from the plug-in. I'd expect the
rendering codec to be the same one Sonic uses in its other software, and the quality would be the
I received my first request week from someone who purchased one of the
new Sony camcorders that shoots in true high definition. He was asking how to get
the footage into Movie Maker. I checked the camcorder specs and see it records in an MPEG-2 format...
he'll be sending a short sample clip so I can do some testing.
I also got an email offering condolences about my crashed up Corvette...
he saw a video in the PapaJohn Gallery at nepture and assumed it was me and my Vette. The
gallery has my name, but anyone can submit a video for inclusion in it... neptune does the screening
and selection. It's a reasonable assumption that they are my videos, but it's not the case.
I had just looked at that video last night, so at least I wasn't confused
by the condolence message.
Start with the Goal
DVDs with the highest quality
for new home Widescreen HD TV’s
I'm going to keep the early sections as short as I can, and get into
Carol's questions. But I have to reflect on her goal a little and work backwards a couple steps.
The High Definition-TV
I wondered how big her widescreen TV is. To help. The latest issue
of 'The Perfect Vision', Home Theater News and Reviews, has info about pixels on almost every
page. Here's a sampling:
... new Sony KDE-42XS955 plasma... resolution of 1024x1024...
its interlaced 720p images might be first down-converted to 512 rather than upconverted to 1024...
all plasma panels overdisplay, cutting off around 5% of the image, so vertically 1024 of the of
the 1080-line input signal will be shown line for line. Horizontally the plasma scales 1824 (95%
of 1920) to 1024. For 1280x720p signals and standard definition content, the panel scales to 1024x1024
- the panel's native resolution...
Ads and reviews show a 60" LCD with a native resolution of 1280x720,
1920x1080p on new 50+ inch Toshiba SED (Surface-conduction Electron-emitter Display) screens,
and a 40" LCD with 16:9 that uses 1366x768 resolution.
A table of recommended products showed pixel counts ranging from
1024x768 to 1920x1080.
Reviewers talked about seeing high-definition video and also about
watching DVDs. They mean the professionally produced discs, not our home-burned DVDs.
One factor is our self-calibration... as we step up to newer higher
quality levels, there's the initial WOW effect. But as that wears off and the higher quality becomes
the normal, then the previous high quality (read this as commercial DVDs) just isn't good enough
I don't try to keep up with the leading edges of hardware and software
rollouts... we have friends with up to 14 megapixel cameras, but our latest 5 megapixel one makes
our previous 3 megapixel a loaner, and relegates the 1 megapixel to the closet with other unused
items. My wife works mostly with still images in PhotoShop, and today anything less than a 5 megapixel
picture isn't sufficient.. her calibration has changed significantly over a few years.
Maybe today's commercial DVDs are still good enough in quality for
Carol's new TV, but the home made DVDs are not as high in quality as commercial ones. Paying tens
of thousands of dollars or more for an MPEG-2 encoder results in discs that outshine any that we
can make with low-end video and DVD software and hardware.
The quest then isn't to match the newer high definition videos in
quality, but to make discs as good as we can.
If those HighMAT DVD players that played higher quality WMV files
had emerged over the past couple years, we might have a different bottom line... ones matching at
least the 1280x720 videos, if not the upper end 1920x1080 ones.
But they didn't make it, so a high quality standard disc (DVD) is
today's practical goal... unless Carol can plug her computer into her system and bypass the discs
entirely, playing the higher quality material on her computer and watching it on the big TV. See
newsletter #1 for discussion about high definition videos, and the website > Saving Movies > Custom
WMV Profiles page for a downloadable high definition widescreen 1280x720 profile.
The practical bottle-neck in quality is the DVD process... DVD files
must meet the MPEG-2 standard of... 720x480 pixels (720x576 PAL) for both normal 4:3
aspect ratio and 16:9 widescreen. When viewing at the normal 4:3 aspect ratio, the pixels are squeezed
in, and stretched sideways when viewing as widescreen.
Using Movie Maker to take a snapshot of a frame of a DVD quality video
gets a JPG of about 1/3 of a megapixel, a fixed number that seems lower and lower as time goes by.
the Bottom-line Summary
Now to summarize answers to her 5 points, all assuming the goal is
to save as a 720x480 DV-AVI file for a DVD. I'll be brief here and follow it with other comments:
1 - Use these pixel dimensions
for Photo Story 2
Standard 4:3 aspect ratio stories - minimum size of 1066x800 pixels
Widescreen 16:9 stories - minimum size of 1706x960 pixels.
2 - Use these pixel dimensions
for Photo Story 3 - this is the hardest one to answer
the panning and zooming you can do in PS3... use as many pixels as you need so the tightly zoomed
into area has 640x480 pixels, but don't use more than you need. The dynamics are such that the right
answer differs for each picture.
See the motion setting for this picture in a story. The scanned image
is 527x2515... the starting position for the PS3 motion is a full window with black borders, making
the first image in Photo Story 3353x2515 pixels (about 8 megapixels)... the ending position is a
zoomed in area of 520x390 pixels, a bit below my desired 640x480, but not enough beneath it for
me to go back and rescan it at a higher resolution (I don't have Carol's TV... maybe I'd rescan
if I did). Note that if I didn't zoom at all, the imported image would be overkill as the 2515 pixel
height is more than 5 times as many as I'd need for a DVD.
Standard 4:3 aspect ratio stories - for most pictures with moderate
panning and zooming, those from a 4 or 5 megapixel camera should work fine without cropping or resizing.
Widescreen 16:9 stories - Resize your source pictures before importing...
multiply their width in pixels by 0.75117 and leave the height as is. They have to look skinny during
the project work because the rendering will fatten them back up so they look just right.
3 - Save PS2 stories
For standard 4:3 aspect ratio stories - the 800x600 custom profile
For widescreen stories - the custom 852x480 profile from the Learn
More > Advanced Topics page of my website.
4 - Save PS3 stories
For standard 4:3 - my custom DVD Profile from the 'Heading Toward
a Disc' page of the PS3 section of the website.
For widescreen stories - the custom 852x480 profile from the same
page of the site.
5 - Save MM2 movies
The DV-AVI profile for either 4:3 or widescreen movies and let MyDVD
convert them to MPEG-2.
If you ever get the time to test the sideroad through TMPGEnc, render
the same movie twice... once going directly through MyDVD and the other rendering the MPEG-2 file
using TMPGEnc. Compare the two on the same disc and see if the direct route or the sideroad is right
Some Additional Notes:
These numbers correspond to the above.
1 - PS2 pictures -
there's a table of minimum pixel sizes on the Gather Pictures > Intro page of my PS2 website. Use
them to avoid black borders when panning and zooming.
2 - PS3 pictures -
PS3 can zoom into a picture so far that you need to consider the size of the zoomed area as the
most important... the motion wizard shows the number of pixels being used for the starting and ending
positions in the picture. Size the source picture so the tightest zoom aligns with the size of a
DVD - 640x480 on computer monitors. I elaborated on this point above, but I'll add some info about
a real example.
Pike's Arithmetic is my latest PS3 story, made from some scanned pictures... it's a story
intended for DVD quality playback, and I used it to test the new Sonic DVD plug-in.
I scan at high pixel sizes and then reduce the images appropriately
for the stories or movies...
Here are the sizes of the pictures I used in this story; as you can
see I resized each to align with its use in the story... panned and zoomed pix get more pixels than
those that just sit in one spot.
Two cover pictures - 800x638 (no zooming) - the odd numbers don't
mean anything... I resize with IrfanView, choosing critical dimension and maintaining the aspect
Spine - zoomed tightly into the book's name - 527x2515 (this picture
is well covered above)
Title page (the one shown in PS3 at the right)... panned from top
to bottom and then zoomed in... 2 copies of the picture, both at 1561x2545
Table of Contents page 1 - some panning/zooming - 800x649 (I wondered
why this picture is fuzzier than the others in the playing... now I see why... I should have used
more pixels - I guess I hadn't planned to zoom but changed my mind as I put the story together).
Page 2 of the Table of Contents - and intro paragraph - zooming/panning
Double page - zooming/panning the section about Reduction of Coins
Double page - zooming into the section about the Rule of Three - 3255x2553
Double page - zooming into the section about Tare and Tret - 3286x2643
A widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio story can be done using a custom profile
when saving it. Resize your source pictures before importing... multiply their width in pixels by
.75117. Leave the height as is. They'll look kind of squeezed as you work on them in PS3, because
you can only work in the standard 4:3 view... but the saved story will look fine.
3 - PS2 render - With
the success of the custom profiles for PS3 when heading toward DVDs, I may revisit the custom profiles
for PS2. Until then the best profiles for computer viewing should be used when making DVDs.
4 - PS3 render - I've
received nothing but very positive comments from those who have compared results with those of other
options. And my comparing it to the profile used by the new Sonic plug-in leaves it still the best
5 - MM2 render - DV-AVI
with either the Standard 4:3 or Widescreen 16:9 option selected.
Thanks Carol for the interesting challenge... I hope it's more than
just another issue to add to your growing living room collection.
As we move from DVD quality to high definition, the right answers
will change as new software and hardware rolls out.
Movie Maker isn't limited to DVD quality video, but the profiles it
uses are limited to 2 channel stereo audio. And working with higher quality requires a computer
with higher horsepower and more disk space.
I look forward to comments and discussion about this and other newsletters
on the forums at:
Windows Movie Makers.net
Have a great week...
Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story
3 - www.papajohn.org
Photo Story 2 -
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 reasonably priced.
Books and Magazines
Movie Maker 2 - Do Amazing Things
its online companion on www.papajohn.org)
Movie Maker 2 - Zero to Hero - with support on the
Friends of Ed forum
MaximumPC's winter quarterly special - with a 7 page tutorial 'Make
a Killer Home Movie with Maker 2' - currently on newsstands in the USA through March 7th.
Packt Publishing of Birmingham, U.K. is publishing the first book
about VirtualDub. I wrote the introductory chapter.
Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story 3 -
3 goals: the online companion to the Do Amazing Things book, a detailed tutorial for Photo Story
3, and helping you solve Movie Maker 2 problems.
PhotoStory 2 -
- a detailed tutorial about using it. It's not a problem-solving site.
Online Support - Forums
I'm a regular on many online forums and newsgroups, the main ones
Forums are open to all for
viewing, but require registration of those who want to post. Moderators actively participate to
ensure the forum discussions move forward and stay on track.
Movie Maker and Photo Story forums at Windows
Movie Maker 2 forum at
Newsgroups are wide open
for all to view and post... moderation is collective by those participating.
Windows XP Movie Maker newsgroup -
Photo Story 2 newsgroup -
Photo Story 3 newsgroup -
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):
#42 - open (I'll post to the forum as soon as I know)
Older newsletters (more than 6 issues ago) are posted to an
Site at Windows Movie Makers.
Software - Add-On Transitions and Effects
Maker 2 (TM2) is a utility for the ultimate in making
your own personal and custom transitions for Movie Maker 2. It's a joint product from Patrick Leabo,
the programmer, and myself.
routinely beta test the
packages and think very highly of their people and products.
ProDAD's Adorage package for Movie Maker 2
provides an additional source of professionally developed transitions and effects.
A new partnership that fully aligns with the main priority of the
website is the
'PapaJohn Expert Zone' gallery
Check it at
and the Distributing > Neptune page of the website, where I have a developing tutorial about how
to use the service.
The Portage, Michigan library is adding a new training session
to their regularly scheduled ones: introduction to Movie Maker and Photo Story.
The first sessions will be in the spring or summer of 2005.
Other fee-based services
you can't save a movie because your project has become too complex, e-mail a copy and I'll
divide it into manageable sub-projects, 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 training and support services start
at $50 per hour - send an email -
and I'll help you determine your needs, and work with you to plan and implement them.
Wedding combo website/video packages
- starting at $2,500 + travel expenses. See
or the bottom branch of the Movie Maker 2 website for a sample of what you can expect for the online
portion of the package.
About John 'PapaJohn' Buechler from Microsoft.com
||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.
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