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PapaJohn's Newsletter #58

Civil War Project - Making the Final Movie

Newsletter #42 (Feb 26) started a little video project about the Civil War. Rounding up source material included such things as scanning an old history book and map, taking screen shots from the NASA World Wind ConcludesSeriessoftware, making a photo story of an animated map route, and converting an MPEG-2 documentary video downloaded from the online Prelinger Archives. The issue ended with some source material, but no theme to focus on. The 4 year war seemed too large in scope.

Newsletter #46 (March 26) studied the material and narrowed the focus to Gettysburg. In it, we made some photo stories from the scanned map, World Wind images, and the old history book. We also brought in some visualization snippets from iTunes and WMP, and started to think about audio.

Newsletter #51 (April 30) started to integrate the collected material toward the final video. To add some special effects, camcorder footage of a Chicago fireworks display was captured... and run through VirtualDub. The newsletter issue ended with a 2 minute snippet of the battle scene, one of the source files for the final movie of this issue.

In this issue we'll finish this mini-series, bringing in a music piece and editing the inputs collected in the previous issues into a little movie.

The movie is finished and on neptune. It's 9:18 in duration, a 54 MB file with a total bitrate of 778 kbps... rendered with the Video for LAN (768 kbps) profile choice, one of the standard ones in MM2.

Civil War - Gettysburg

some notes... before going further


  • The first of the library training sessions was held Monday. The classroom had 13 computers, all with version 1 of Movie Maker; they decided to upgrade them to SP2 before the session began. There were no upgrade issues, and the overhead projection system worked great... for video. The system didn't have audio unless it came from a DVD player or VCR... but the main switch is wired to let video come from a computer, but not audio... the connection to the computer is a standard monitor cable. I knew that from the prep session and had a set of speakers with me, which worked well.

Only one of the three who had registered showed up, so it was a small class... but a good one. The regular monthly sessions are off and running.

  • I don't know if it was just coincidental after last week's issue about vlogging, blogging and podcasting... I was asked by Brian Alves, the Executive Producer of the to do a 10 to 15 minute interview Saturday for a podcast, and a short regular weekly segment beyond that (at least for a trial period).

..... on to the main topic

Prepping (Another Custom Profile Emerges)...

The distribution goal for this project is easy... it's an online video that assumes you have a broadband connection. One of the good things about focusing on a Movie Maker 2 audience is that I know you are running Windows XP... or you wouldn't be using MM2.

As mentioned last week, Google's new service isn't ready for video submittals, so my choices are uploading it to neptune or my website... I opted for neptune, where I've been putting my better material lately. Their server is for hosting images and video. My son's server where my website is located mostly does database activities.

DV-AVI or High Quality WMV for intermediate rendering steps? Let's try WMV for a change.

The original source video clips for this project were DV-AVI files... although the initial goal was for an online video, I still like to do the intermediate renderings using DV-AVI. If I do a dozen generations of renderings as I add PIP or other special effects, I only want the quality hit to be in the last one, where I can choose how much of a hit to take.

But having studied generational and other issues with DV-AVI files, I'd been wanting to experiment with making higher quality than usual WMV files, and using those in project steps in place of DV-AVI and it's generational losses and audio issues... this project was a good chance to do it.

I made a custom profile with comparable settings to a high quality MPEG-2 file for a DVD, using 8000 kbps as the video bitrate. With it I re-rendered the clips and stories already made as DV-AVI files for issues 42, 46, and 51... the starting point for this issue.

Here are the properties of one of the new files made with the profile, using MM2 to check. I've circled a few key figures.

Source File Properties

The bitrate is about 4 times the highest of the canned settings for Movie Maker.... the file sizes are large, about 1/4 of DV-AVI, and rendering times are significant, more so than to DV-AVI... press the button and walk away for a while. Those are costs associated with higher quality.

My laptop has been laboring lately with DV-AVI source files... mostly in the smoothness of preview playing... these WMV source files resolved most of it. And they looked great.

I made the profile to render 640x480 wmv files when computer-based viewing is the goal.

I published some info about the new profile and received a suggestion to use the video WMV8 codec with a setting of QVBR100 instead. It would render faster and be almost lossless... I made another profile and did some testing, comparing DV-AVI renderings to the WMV8 and WMV9 profiles. The rendering times and file sizes for the final project, using the 3 options, were:

  • DV-AVI - 24 minutes to a file size of 2.01 GB
  • WMV9 profile - 46 minutes to a file size of 482 MB
  • WMV8 QVBR100 profile - 17 minutes to a file size of 246 MB

The WMV8 profile easily won the speed and size round... and all 3 looked equally good with a quick check.

To look closer at visual quality differences, I went through 9 generations of re-renderings, took some snapshots in MM2, and compared them for visual differences.

After many re-renderings, all the files looked pretty good. The first difference to catch me eye was the blue lines evolving to black one with a blue highlighting under it in the WMV9 files. The DV-AVI held up well with the well known dropping of the 27th frame, causing the file size to shrink a tad with each generation. The WMV8 rendering help up just about as well, although it's file size went down by about 40% from generation 1 to generation 9 ... the file sizes for the WMV9 renderings stayed pretty constant... it was just those blue lines changing to black. 

The picture below shows three pairs of images, each pair from frames of the 1st and 9th generations of renderings. The frames were close in position but not exactly the same:

  • the left pair are segments of DV-AVI files... the 9th generation looks the same as the first.
  • the middle pair are from the files made with the WMV8 codec... the paper color seems to have changed a bit.
  • the pair at the right are from WMV9 encodings... not only has the paper color changed, but a very noticeable change has occurred to the blue lines - they tuned black with the blueness shifting to accent/highlight the line.

The starting point for all 3 pairs was the same project and source files. I took the snapshots with MM2 from the clips in the collection. The segments are cropped from the full frames but shown full-size.

In theory, DV-AVI is only re-rendered where something changes, so there shouldn't be any generational changes... but a WMV is re-rendered each time, so successive saves should result in some visual loss.

9 Generations

Give this round to DV-AVI, followed by the WMV8 codec.

You may or may not be surprised to see how well both the WMV8 and 9 codecs hold up through 9 generations of renderings. Don't let the thought of a few generations of renderings ahead of you in a project deter you from using a WMV profile as an alternative to DV-AVI.

I used the WMV9 profile for this project, which only had to go through 2 generations of renderings. One generation to make the set of source files to work better on my laptop, and the 2nd generation the final output which went to neptune.

The Project....

I had started the final assembly on my laptop, with the source files being DV-AVI on its hard drive... for my evening sessions at Barnes & Noble. But the lack of smooth previewing got me to moving the source files to my external USB2 drive... which I only use at home.

The new WMV files let me get back to the laptop drive for a while, until project complexity started slowing things down again. Again moving the new WMV files to the external drive helped a lot, but I was still limited to home-based work.

On my desk next to my laptop at home is a 3 GHz desktop... one that I move the external drive back and forth between the laptop and it.... I ended up plugging it into that computer as I got into the home-stretch doing the fine tuning.

This might sound like more effort than it was.... it was Monday morning when I re-rendered the source files to the higher quality WMV files, late Monday when I started editing the final project, and mid-day Wednesday when it was done and being uploaded to neptune. A part time effort over a day and a half.

Most of the time consuming prep work was done for the earlier newsletters. It was simply a matter of assembling the well built parts and doing the overall fine tuning. I didn't rebuild any of the pieces this week. It was time to take things that worked and use some creativity in putting them together. I did bring in a new music file.

Audio/music often sets the project bounds. The section of the William Tell Overture was just about the right duration (I mean the total of the 4 sub-clips I split the music into). Beyond opening the video, it added some continuity to a couple later book stories, and then again for the closing credits section... tying the ending to the opening.


Timeline Notes

Video track - 3 visualization clips, 10 PS3 stories, 5 video snippets, and a couple still pix.

Transitions - just a smattering of 19 fades by overlapping the video clips... nothing special except 5 or 6 of them were unusually long... as much as a 36 second overlap.

Audio steam of the video - some of the stories had no audio and some clips with audio were muted so the stronger audio of the Audio/Music track could be heard without excessive fading in or out. 

Audio/Music - the William Tell Overture was a late add-in to the project... I'd been listening to many of the player piano midi files over the past few weeks and selected one that would build suspense throughout...  for those who know the rest of the piece and have an association with it and an old TV show, I ended it at the point the Lone Ranger would be riding in.

I split it a few times and moved the pieces to align with the clips that had no audio.

The closer view of part of the timeline in the image below shows the use of one particular audio clip. The audio was on the video clip named G2 - Gettysburg - Aerial View. The fade transitions of the clip for visual effects resulted in the audio also fading in and out with the adjacent clips... I wanted the video to fade but not the audio. So I copied the video clip a second time, to the Audio/Music track. By doing that the audio segment played at full level throughout while the video faded.

Title Overlay - 4 clips... nothing special. I've sort of adopted the Verdana font and use it in my website, newsletters... and even videos. I'll use something else when there's good reason, otherwise Verdana is my overall font consistency for style purposes.


Conclusions and Closing

The project is finished... with my laptop off to the repair shop so long, it took a while to get around to finishing it, and I didn't expect it to work out as well as it did.

After viewing it a couple times, I put it on neptune Wednesday night and posted the link a few places on Thursday. One of the first to respond gave me some hugs, and she was from South Carolina, the state that started the war...

Comments have been extremely positive. One asked how I got the panning of a book page to change directions; when I told him, he said he'd have to give PS3 another try. What can look so subtle to many can be interesting or even exciting to others.

The project used one of the downloaded player piano midi files, my first use of one. If I use one a week, I'll get through them all in 50 years.... a really great resource.

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

Have a great holiday weekend...


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 regularly. Here's a list of what is available to the public. Some are free and others reasonably priced.

Do Amazing ThingsBooks 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 made for it is now  on my website as a file download.

Virtual DubPackt Publishing of Birmingham, U.K. issued the first book about VirtualDub. The last word I got on it was this Yahoo press release, along with a note that my copy was going in the mail.

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 - - the site's 3 goals are: an online companion to the Do Amazing Things book, a detailed tutorial for 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 W indows 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):

#59 - June 25 - Converting MPEG-2 files for use in Movie Maker - Part III. This will cover getting recorded TV into it, completing this 3 part series..... the only thing not working on my laptop after it's trip to the repair facility is the TV tuner, so this topic may change.

#60 - July 2 - open

#61 - July 9 - open

Older newsletters (more than 6 issues ago) are posted by Rob Morris to an Archive Site at his Windows Movie Makers website. Links from website pages to specific newsletters make it easier for the website viewer to see the content of both while browsing a topic.

Drop an email at any time to suggest a newsletter 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. Adorage

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 Gallery Neptune 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.


in conjunction with the Portage, Michigan library, I offer two free training sessions about Movie Maker, an intro session and a workshop. The upcoming scheduled sessions are:

Monday - July 18 - 6-7:30 - Workshop

Monday - August 15 - 6-7:30 - 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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