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PapaJohn's Newsletter #51

Civil War Project - part III

We started a Civil War project in newsletter #42, rounding up some source files, making a project template of a marked trail for a PhotoStory... then in issue #46 we reviewed what we had and picked the theme of 'Gettysburg'. We had only started to think about what to pull together to flesh out the project.

This issue is the third part of the series, where we'll start to assemble some clips in earnest, as we work toward the theme. Here's a link to the 2+ minute clip made in the tutorial section...

Gettysburg - the Battle

We'll go through making it, a good exercise in using a few of our software tools... PhotoStory, VirtualDub, Movie Maker 1, and Movie Maker 2... each contributing things they are good at.

... before getting into it, a couple notes about current items...

Items of Note

Jason Dunn did it!!! I hadn't seen a professional use of PhotoStory 3 before his product review of HP's new optical dual-layer DVD writers - Not only was I interested in how he had used PhotosStory 3, the content was such that, as I passed them on a shelf in Circuit City the next day I thought '... those who buy them won't know there's a key piece of software missing...', unless they've seen Jason's review.

Re-capturing a digital camcorder file: In February, out of desperation and having nothing more to lose (the DV-AVI source file for a project was gone), someone recaptured the digital camcorder footage to try to replace it... and was surprised when it worked. I checked at the time to confirm what she found and it seemed to be effective. This week I went back to take a closer look. I'm glad I did.

When you open Movie Maker, it checks that the source files associated with clips in your collections are still there. It does the same when you open a project file, a quick check that the source files are in place and ready for use. The checking is a cursory one... if the drive, path and file name matches what is stored in the collection database or project file, then it considers it present and accounted for. If it doesn't find it, the thumbnail image gets replaced with a big red X.

What it doesn't do is open the source file to be sure its content hasn't changed. That, in itself, allows you to slip in a replacement DV-AVI file (in the same location and with the same name)... I wondered how close the replacement needs to be to the original when Movie Maker needs to open the file and use the content... how different can the files be? What if the starting frame of the replacement file is not the same as the original??

I found that Movie Maker will never know if the replacement is aligned with the original. The only time it'll open and check it is if the drive letter, path or file name is different... and you try to resolve the red-X by browsing to the replacement file. At that point it won't accept anything less than an exact replacement, which works fine when you copy or move a source file to another folder.

It can be as different as you want. If the original source file was a 10 minute 720x480 DV-AVI source file of a dog, and you replace it with a 10 second 320x240 WMV file of a cat, it'll assume it's OK and use it. Just put the replacement file in the same folder with the same name, including the file extension... if the original ended with AVI because it was captured from a digital camcorder, and you replace it with a WMV, it'll continue to use it if your renaming includes the AVI extension.

The editing in the project file will continue to work with the replacement file... if it runs out of frames because the replacement file is shorter, you'll have edited blackness complete with transitions, effects, titles, etc. Throughout the editing and rendering of a movie, you'll never get an error message. The thumbnails in the collection and projects won't change. They are embedded in the collection database and project .MSWMM files, not dynamically re-created from the source file each time.

This feature can come in handy, or set you up for serious problems...

.... on to the main topic

The Initial Approach to Gettysburg - the Battle

The downloaded video of the Civil War (newsletter issue #42) started with Lincoln going to Gettysburg for his famous address... and then flashed backwards in time to the battle itself. Its rendition of the battle was from ground level.

To be different, and because of the source material collected, I decided to create a clip of an aerial rendition of the battle... we can use the clips from both as the project takes shape.

We already had a scan of an old map, and some aerial images from the NASA World Wind software. Add to those some footage from last July's Chicago fireworks show... and make a clip that would be a good lead-in to the battle portion of the Gettysburg story.

Gather Some Fireworks Footage

I wondered if footage of a fireworks show could sufficiently simulate small arms and cannon fire. I used MM2 to trim a 103 second segment from and saved it as a DV-AVI file (type I).

The video showed trees and lampposts in the foreground, and the fireworks were shooting upwards as usual. To crop the treeline and change the angle of the shooting, we'll use VirtualDub. Movie Maker is limited to rotating in 90 degree increments and we need a lesser angle.

... VirtualDub can only use a type II DV-AVI files, so a quick side trip through MM1 rendered a type II DV-AVI from the type I.
VirtualDub - Cropping

You can use multiple filters in Virtual Dub in one pass, but for ease of understanding, let's do the cropping in one pass and the rotations in others.

Each pass will be rendered to a new DV-AVI file using the Panasonic DV Codec (the Microsoft DV codec doesn't appear in the list of choices).

Virtual Dub - First Filter Pass - Crop Out the Chicago Trees and Lampposts...

After opening the clip in VirtualDub, use Video > Filters > Add > resize > New width of 720 and new height of 480 (the same size we're starting with, but we'll be resizing the cropped segment, and the Panasonic DV codec won't work if it's not being rendered to a 720x480 file) > OK. That'll add the resize filter to the process.

With the resize filter highlighted, press the Cropping... button to the lower right of the Filters window... to open the working window you see at the above right.

The treeline of the Chicago shore was at the bottom of the video... moving the bottom border up (the Y2 offset control at the lower left) to crop 82 pixels off the image was enough to keep the trees and lampposts out of sight.

To keep the aspect ratio the same, take the same percentage of pixels off the width... my calculator said we need to take 122 pixels off the width. (480 original height - 82 = 398 pixels left, 17.08% of the height was taken off... so take 17.08% off the width (17.08% of 720 = 122, which leaves 598). Split the 122 pixels appropriately, pulling the left border (X1 offset) in by 82 pixels and the right border (X2 offset) in by 40 pixels. Once it passes the math test and eyeballing it confirm it looks OK, you're done.

The resize filter is now set to take the cropped 598x398 image and render it to a new file at 720x480.

... set the compression codec (the default is uncompressed, so don't forget to set the compression codec)...  Video > Compression > Panasonic DV Codec > OK.

... save the file using File > Save as AVI > file name and location > Save. The re-rendering took about 3 minutes (on a 2.4 GHz computer).

The figure above shows the before and after clips in Virtual Dub, at one of the bright spots in the clip, when you can see the trees being cropped off.
The figure above shows the before and after clips in Virtual Dub, at one of the bright spots in the clip, when you can see the trees being cropped off.

From the newly saved file, it's time to make another pass to rotate clip...

Virtual Dub - 2nd Filter Pass - Rotate the Video to Suit the New Use...

Open the new clip and use the > Video > filters > Add > rotate2 filter for fine rotation control.

Check a few different angles by looking at the preview. When you like what you see, use it. When going counter-clockwise by 70 degrees, use a negative angle like this one of -70.000 degrees. Rotate2

Rotated minus 70The setting has the fireworks being shot off at a 20 degree angle above the horizon, from the left (check it visually using the filter preview feature)... another 3 minutes to render the new video clip.

For the answering shots from the other side at Gettysburg, keep the file open and use the rotate2 filter again, setting it to another angle. Let's use a positive 30 degrees (later I thought it would be better if I had used something like positive 60, but I didn't go back to make a new one... not yet).

The second fireworks (now gunfire) clip will be shooting at an angle from the right side toward the left.

After another rendering we now have two 'shooting clips' at different angles.

Put the Gunfire Simulation Together in Movie Maker

First the Audio: We have left and right shooting clips for a 30 second visual... but the Chicago orchestra was playing in sync with the fireworks, and the best I could find with good fireworks noise, no orchestra notes, and no serious crowd noise was a 3 second segment.. it had lots of staccato type small firearms sounds, with some cannon type booms. But it was pretty short.

Mix the 3 second audio clip in Movie Maker, adding it to the audio/music track a few times... overlapping the clips a different amount each time, and raising or lowering the volume of each clip.... for variety. Similarly, use the 9 second audio clip to build into a 32 second audio to align with the visual clip duration. If you use a simple repeating 3 second clip, it'll be a bit like the routine sounds from a big clock with a steadily swinging pendulum or the rythmic lapping of waves coming ashore... a battle is more chaotic and the audio needs the variety that Movie Maker can add so easily.

Combine the Video and Audio: Overlap the two shooting clips to get some crossfire as the first clip fades into the second...

It help it not look too much like sideways fireworks, use the 'Threshold' effect on both clips... to make them seem more like explosions. Here's what the completed 32 second cross-fire project looks like.

Gunfire Simulation

Gettysburg - Aerial Story

Aerial Story

Whenever it's time to assemble still pictures that need panning or zooming, open PhotoStory 3.

The first picture is a section of the scanned antique map, with Gettysburg circled in red (in Paint). Set the motion duration to use 26 seconds.

Why 26 seconds? To sync the pace of the still pictures with the narration file from the old documentary video... use Movie Maker 2 to rip the audio track to a wma audio file, and have PhotoStory use it as the background music.

That lets you include the audio each time you preview one of the pictures in the story, and make the duration adjustments you need.

... the rest of the pictures go in with their durations set similarly.

A far shot of Gettysburg with the NASA World Wind app was next, for 17 seconds... the zooming/panning toward it continued.

5 closer up images from World Wind, the first one marked 'Little Round Top' picture for 5 seconds, 'Devil's Den' for 14 seconds, 2 images of 'Cemetery Ridge' for 10 seconds and 5 seconds, and the last one of 'Pickett and Mead' for 54 seconds. I did all the annotating in Paint.

the Clip Assembly

The final step in this issue is to assemble the two clips, the story and the gunfire simulation clip. It's a simple project for Movie Maker 2.

The simulated gunfire clip is 32 seconds. Insert it in place of that many seconds of the last picture in the story, which has a duration of 54 seconds.

Add the full copy of the WMA narration file that was ripped from the Civil War documentary earlier. Use it as the overall audio track for this project.

Split the story clip, insert the gunfire simulation, and trim the last clip to align. Use the audio wave patterns to do the alignment, and when done mute the audio of the two story clips.

Gettysburg - Assembly A

Leave both the audio of the gunfire simulation clip and the Civil War documentary to play together... adding more variety and interest to that segment of the audio. The documentary narration includes small real firearms and cannon fire during that segment, to mix with the snaps, crackles and pops of the fireworks.

The link to the final rendered video clip was in the introductory paragraph. Here it is again, if you missed seeing it then.

Gettysburg - the Battle

Conclusions and Closing

The goal in this project isn't to make a better Civil War video than the downloaded documentary we started with... it's to get you more familiar and comfortable with using your various software tools.

You should be able to decide in a split second to do something in Virtual Dub, and not be confused or intimidated by having to convert a type I DV-AVI to a type II. And, if a filter applied in VirtualDub doesn't work just right, don't hesitate to go back and try again. It's usually easier to do those kinds of things than it is to think about them... provided you have your basic understanding and skills down pat.

As you use your tools more often, things will get easier and easier...

Remember too that rendering videos is always a time consuming process, but it's never a real-time process. You're free to continue using your computer to do other tasks as the rendering happens... for the past two hours I've been finishing this newsletter on my laptop and rendering a one hour DVD from source files on an external drive to a DVD project on the C drive... the two tasks don't conflict.

I look forward to comments and discussion about this and other newsletters on the forums at:

Windows Movie


Have a great week...


Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story 3 -
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 (with its online companion on

Movie 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 file download.

Packt Publishing of Birmingham, U.K. is rolling out the first book about VirtualDub, expected in April (maybe May now??). Virtual Dub

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. We used VirtualDub again in this issue of the newsletter.


Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story 3 - - the site's 3 goals are: an online companion to the Do Amazing Things book, a detailed tutorial on PhotoStory 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 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 and Photo Story forums at Windows Movie Makers

Movie Maker 2 forum at

Newsgroups are wide open for all to view and post... moderation is collective by the participants.

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

Photo Story 2 newsgroup -

Photo Story 3 newsgroup -

Weekly Newsletters

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):

#52 - May 7 - Custom text clips

#53 - May 14 - Converting MPEG-2 files for use in Movie Maker - Part II. This will pickup where issue #50 left off.

#54 - May 21 - open

#55 - May 28 - Civil War Project - part IV - continue building clips into a more complete movie project. Pickup where issue #51 left off.

#56 - May 21 - Converting MPEG-2 files for use in Movie Maker - Part III. This will pickup where issue #53 leaves off, and hopefully finishes this series.

#57 - May 28 - 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....


Add-On Transitions and Effects

Transition 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.

I 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.

Personal Database

Managing your personal information is more of a challenge as hard drives get bigger and the internet more robust.

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.

Online GalleryNeptune Gallery

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

If 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

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 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
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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