Use Movie Maker to Start a Photo Story Project
My Toshiba laptop returned this morning... the problem was somewhere in the power system... the
converter/chord, power adapter module, and battery were replaced. Just in time to finish this issue
and get back to my routine.
One of our ongoing topics is the Civil War project. The old piano roll music noted in last week’s
issue adds more source material to our library that’s well suited for it... it goes hand in hand
with the kind of panning and zooming we can do so well with Photo Story 3.
Although Photo Story is great at handling the pixels of still pictures, Movie Maker is better
when it comes to mixing an audio track... I’m going to use this issue to take you through an exercise
I’ve been doing to prep for the next part of the Civil War Project... mixing an audio track in Movie
Maker, and then building a Photo Story around it.
Here’s the audio
track for a one minute story... using 3 of the midi files from the old piano rolls.
Listen to it and think about the theme... the Civil War. Imagine some pictures you would use
In the tutorial, we’ll build the audio track in Movie Maker 2 and then use it to make a short
Photo Story. The key is to make the audio track first, and then enhance it with pictures, the reverse
of the usual process of making a movie.
... before getting into it, a couple notes about current items...
Current Items of Note
I wrote to Terry Shaw, whose website has the midi files from the old player piano rolls. The
site says the downloaded files are free for non-commercial use, so I wanted to see where he draws
the line... as my newsletter is a commercial venture.
His response was that the rolls were beyond their copyright periods, what he’s providing in the
scanned info from the rolls isn’t copyrighted, and we’re free to use them as we want. That’s kind
Some of you know
He’s a top notch programmer and hacker (in the best sense of the word). Besides helping many in
his posts on newsgroups and forums, he’s been the leader in the development of custom transitions,
effects.... and text clips. I’m planning on newsletter #52 being an introduction to the custom text
For all of his work and support, Rehan was recently given a Microsoft MVP award.
I signed for one of those free Google-based blog accounts today and added it to the website...
now visitors can leave a public comment about the site if they prefer doing that instead of sending
a personal email. Maybe in doing that, they’ll seek and get support from other viewers. The links
to get to the blog are on the main page and the ‘What’s New’ page...
.... on to the main topic
Use Movie Maker to Make the Audio Track
Our goal here is the audio track for a story. But a secondary goal is to note the durations and
overlapping times of the audio transitions... the timescale to use when putting the visual together
in Photo Story. We’ll want to align the pictures with the audio... not necessarily exactly, just
appropriate and well done. Photo Story doesn’t show the kind of linear timeline to use as a yardstick,
as Movie Maker does. We’ll jot some notes.
For an audio track, I looked for Civil War vintage in the old piano roll music collection. The
spreadsheet index of the tunes helped me find ‘Three O’clock in the Morning’ to open the audio with
some clock chimes, followed by a bit of ‘Marching Through Georgia’ (obviously from Sherman’s famous
march), then the second part of ‘Aloha Oe’, and finish with the closing segment of ‘Three O’clock
in the Morning’.
Note a few things about the style of the choices, and the mixing. Nothing here is just pot-luck
or flipping a coin:
- the short music story I’m trying for is waking up at 3 am, going on a march, slowing the
tempo after the march, and then finishing with the end of the opening tune for some sort of
closure... all in one minute.
- the opening audio clip is short, the march a bit longer, and the quieter segment the longest
of all. The closing is swift and conclusive. I used a total of 61 seconds from 3 songs that
totaled a bit over 8 minutes in duration.
- I raised the volume of the longer quieter clip to have it continue the buildup, and left
the other clips alone in volume. I tried raising the volume of the final one too but it caused
some audio issue, so I turned it back to its original level.
- each of the audio clips fades in and out... and there are two overlapping mixing transitions,
something you can’t do in Photo Story.
Here’s what the timeline looked like in Movie Maker when I finished trimming the audio clips,
overlapping them to mix, fading them in and out, and raising the volume of the third clip. I previewed
the project over and over, tweaking the audio each time I heard something I wanted changed.... the
pictures are just visual place-holders, not used when rendering the audio-only movie.
Time to make notes about the durations of the clips and the transitions in the story:
- 1st clip - 12:47 second duration, with a 0.10 second transition between it and the next
- 2nd - 16:53 with a 1.13 second transition between it and the 3rd
- 3rd - 28:00 with a 1:93 second transition between it and the last
- 4th - 8:20 second duration
When the audio sounds right, it’s time to strip the place-holders off the video track and save
the movie as a high quality audio-only WMA file.
The link to this audio track was in the opening paragraphs above.
Gather Pictures for the Story
We have the audio track... time to look for some images to use with it. As I check through them,
I listen to the audio dozens of times.
I browsed scanned pages of text from old books, and maps. And went through the Civil War video
with MM2, taking snapshots as I went.
Then a little research (Google) to find the famous march was from Atlanta to Savannah... open
Paint to highlight some text and the map...
Make the Story
There were 15 pictures to go through in 61 seconds...about 4 seconds each. No time to dwell on
anything.... here’s the initial sequence in Photo Story 3.
Open with a soldier sleeping outside, to be woken by the chimes at 3 am... some text about Sherman’s
march, a field, some train pix, and closing with a map of the area from Atlanta to Savannah.
quickly added the pictures and the audio track to get the story started, letting PS3 add it’s default
and calculated durations. I noticed right off that PS3 and I didn’t align on being able to use the
61 second audio track over all the pictures. It showed it playing through the first 3. I had some
work to do with the picture durations.
I had known that... the default motions are slow pans and zooms, and I’d need to speed them up.
I previewed the story to take a closer look. The first draft story had a total duration of 3 minutes,
7 seconds per the PS3 preview. But the music stopped before it was half way done and there was over
2-1/2 minutes of silence.
I rendered it to a video to check how a saved story aligns with the preview in duration and music
ending... perfectly aligned.... the music stopped at 25 seconds, dropping 35 seconds of it... the
full story was the same as the preview at 3:07.
I’d read a number of posts about music stopping too soon, and I was seeing it.
Why Does the Music Stop Too Soon?
Time for a side trip to explore why the audio was stopping short. I looked into the saved story
The full audio WMA file was in the package. I didn’t see anything in the XML file that told it
to stop early... so I went back into another round of editing.
For this round of editing, I thought I’d simply cut all the images down in duration... to 1/3
of what PS3 was doing... that would pull the overall story down to my audio track timeframe. We’ll
see if that gets the whole audio playing. In doing this, that’s all I did. I simply changed the
duration of each picture, letting PS3 automatically take care of the motion and the duration of
the transitions while I fixed the picture durations.
Now the preview had the full audio, and the overall video was 61 seconds, aligned with the length
of the audio. You can see in this image that the audio track now spans all the pictures.
Why did it stop so early during the first draft? The first picture was given a duration by PS3
of 5 seconds, followed by 2 pix at 10 seconds each. The 25 seconds was the duration of the music
played when PS3 showed the audio playing over the first 3 pictures. They aligned.
What I noticed was the 4th picture had an initial duration of 45 seconds. If the music continued
into that picture it would have stopped 10 seconds before the end of the picture... so PS3 did me
a favor and stopped it at the end of the 3rd picture, assuming I’d rather have silence through the
whole 4th picture than the music playing through 35 of the 45 seconds. I’d prefer the music but
PS3 was working to its internal rules.
Did the help file tell me about this and I forgot? I checked it and Mark Koffman’s tutorial and
didn’t find it. I’ve already expanded the page on my website about adding background music... there’s
a new section named ‘Be Sure Your Background Music Doesn’t Stop Too Soon’. The key thing is shown
in these two little screen shots from the website...
I made a 3 picture story and imported a music file 1:45.34 in duration. The screen shot at the
left shows PS3 stopping the music at the end of the 2nd picture when there’s still over ½ minute
of music to go.
The duration of the 3rd picture was initially set to 30.4 seconds, ending at 0.06 seconds after
I expected the music to end. That split second was enough for PS3 to stop it at the end of the 2nd
All it took to get the audio and pictures fully aligned was to take 0.1 second off the duration
of the 3rd picture... see the alignment in the screen shot at the right... the expected end of the
music is now 0.04 seconds after the 3rd picture finishes. PS3 now keeps the music playing through
Back to the Story Project
It’s shaping up now, and it’s nice to understand the audio issue and what to do about it. Back
to the project for a 3rd round of editing. This is the first time into the motion and transition
settings.. I noticed when viewing the second round that the first picture didn’t show up as its
duration was less than the default transition time into the story from blackness. Also, one of the
text pictures was being panned from right to left, not easy reading.
I won’t go into all the details of what changed in the 3rd round... I rearranged some of the
pictures, dropped one of the too many train shots, moved some of the duration time from longer ones
to shorter (while maintaining the overall story duration), changed many of the motion pan/zoom position
I wasn’t too critical about what picture was being viewed as the various phases of the music
changed... if I liked where it was, I left it.
On the 4th editing round I added a couple title pictures... 2 more of the opening one, but with
the date and time added in IrfanView. Sherman’s March to the Sea started Nov 12, 1864... and I wanted
the time to be 3 am to align with the opening music from ‘3 O’clock in the Morning’.
The picture count was up to 16, averaging about 4 seconds in duration. 5 were over that and 11
under. I tightened up the starting and ending points of the panning of the book text... having highlighted
the key words in Paint, I wanted to move through them quickly and leave it up to the viewers to
fill in or finish any missing thoughts. With 5 such pictures or scrolling text, there wasn’t much
time to dwell on any of them... like Sherman, it was time to move on swiftly.
The 5th round was to focus on transitions and effects... with few exceptions to now, the defaults
of Photo Story were accepted.
I tend to go light on special transitions and effects. After thinking about them, I at first
didn’t have any, but then added a few.
I’m calling it finished and ‘newsletter ready’. Here’s the link to the 66 second snippet, with
5 seconds of quiet before the audio begins:
to the Sea
Remember when viewing it... the pictures were put together to try to add something extra to the
audio, not the other way around.
Conclusions and Closing
I’ve stopped being amazed at running into something unexpected when focusing on something small
for a newsletter... those small but important things make it interesting for me as I write them,
and I hope helpful to you when working on story and movie projects.
This week’s point of course was when the music stops too soon, not when we want or expect it
to, but accurate per the internal rules of Photo Story 3... just one more of those things you really
have to experience and roll with.
Photo Story 3 has been a major role in about ½ of my newsletters since it was released in late
October. It’s been a major tool for me, working hand in hand with Movie Maker. I expect it to continue.
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 - www.photostory.papajohn.org
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
Books and Magazines
Movie Maker 2 - Do Amazing Things
its online companion on www.papajohn.org)
Maker 2 - Zero to Hero - with support on the
Friends of Ed forum
MaximumPC’s winter 2005 quarterly special... had a 7 page tutorial ‘Make a Killer Home Movie
with Maker 2’. The special edition of the video that was made for it is now
on my website as a
Publishing of Birmingham, U.K. is rolling out the first book about VirtualDub, expected in April.
My contribution was the introductory chapter... I’m glad to be part of any effort that helps
join the worlds of Movie Maker and open source software.
Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story 3 - www.papajohn.org - the
site’s 3 goals are: an online companion to the Do Amazing Things book, a detailed tutorial on Photo
Story 3, and helping you solve Movie Maker 2 problems.
PhotoStory 2 - www.photostory.papajohn.org -
a detailed tutorial about using it. It’s not a problem-solving site.
Online Support - Forums and Newsgroups
I’m a regular on many online forums and newsgroups, the key ones being:
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 2 forum at SimplyDV.com
Newsgroups are wide open for all to view and post... moderation is collective by the participants.
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):
#50 - April 23 - Converting MPEG-2 files... there are new utilities and revisions to older ones...
the issue will look at the current state of converting files to make ones that work in Movie Maker.
#51 - April 30 - Civil War Project - part III - finishing the parts and moving toward the integrated
movie project. I probably won’t use the snippet of this week’s newsletter... as I’ll keep the focus
on Gettysburg. You can expect to hear more of the old time player piano music.
#52 - May 7 - Custom text clips
#53 - May 14 - Capturing video clips from DVDs... another topic where new utilities, and changes
to existing ones, are becoming available or evolving.
#54 - May 21 - open
Older newsletters (more than 6 issues ago) are posted by Rob Morris to an
Archive Site at his Windows
Movie Makers website.
Drop an email at any time to suggest a topic of interest to you....
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. Version
2 was released a week ago and I’m still working on updating the online tutorial.
routinely beta test the Pixelan 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.
Managing your personal information is more of a challenge as hard drives get bigger and the internet
My personal database has been an ongoing project over many years, and is now available to others.
Info is on the Managing > Personal Database page of my site, and in the database package itself.
It’s available free to regular newsletter subscribers... send an email request.
To others it’s $10. To order, use the button on the top of the Managing > Personal Database page.
An online gallery that fully aligns with the main priority of the website is the
‘PapaJohn Expert Zone’ at neptune.
Check it at Neptune and the Distributing > Neptune
page of the website, where there’s a developing tutorial about how to use the service.
The Portage, Michigan library added two new training sessions: Introduction to Movie Maker, and
an Advanced Movie Maker Workshop. The initial sessions will be:
Monday - June 13 - 6-7:30 Introduction to Movie Maker 2
Monday - July 18 - 6-7:30 Movie Maker 2 Workshop
Monday - August 15 - 6-7:30 Movie Maker 2 Workshop
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 about how 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 www.papajohn.org
Movie Maker 2/Photo Story training and support services start at $50 per hour - send an email
- PapaJohn@CharterMi.net 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
Jill-MarkWedding 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