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PapaJohn's Newsletter #63

Introduction to Audacity

Audacity is another of those great open source utilities, one that is all about audio. It's a free download from SourceForge . The latest version 1.2.3 is what I'm using for this newsletter.

SampleInputI'll focus on how Audacity relates to the audio of Movie Maker and Photo Story, using WAV format files (uncompressed audio) to bridge the applications.... Sample OutputAudacity can't open DV-AVI, WMV or WMA files.

My multimedia sample this week is a music file, one of those player piano midi files.

Click the note at the left to hear a one minute segment as it sounded when heading from Movie Maker to TMPGEnc to Audacity... then click the note at the right to listen to the 'enhanced' version after it was back in Movie Maker. I used Audacity to make the sound fuller... 

... before getting into it, here are a few notes...


I received my copy of the new book Learning VirtualDub from Packt Publishing; it's been a while, but worth waiting for. Having written the introductory chapter, I'm now able to read the rest of the story. It's the first book published about VirtualDub, VDubMod and AVISynth and I hadn't seen drafts of the other chapters as the book developed. 

... also in the book corner, Jan Ozer sent a copy of his book about Premiere Elements to help me with my assessment of the trial version. I'm all set for a few nights of reading on the beach.

We (a few Microsoft MVPs) concluded a successful disaster recovery effort this week, with the poster of the problem doing a yeoman's job of manning the controls... he was motivated. He was capturing live video to an external USB2 hard drive via his digital camcorder, firewire connection, and Movie Maker 2... 19 GB into the file, the USB cable was accidentally disconnected, so the file was never completed to the extent that the header info was included... the file couldn't be played.

Recovery happened by doing microscopic surgery to graft the header info from a good file onto the beginning of the incomplete one, using a hex editor... to me it strongly demonstrated the value of newsgroups and forums combined with a team effort on the part of a number of MVPs.  The more complete story is now at the bottom of my Problem Solving > Video Issues page.

.... on to the main topic


Here's the main working window of Audacity. Let's start with Help on the main menu... it opens a quick reference and says there's a complete reference manual online. The help info is good.

This figure shows an audio file that was just opened... the two tracks are the left and right channels of the stereo file. I had just recorded it into the Audacity project by using the Stereo Mix option as it played in the MM2 collection... more about that later.


Open FileOpen File

If the working window is empty, you open a file to start a project.... if it already has audio tracks in it, you can add more by importing another (Project > Import from the main menu). You're not limited to having just one audio file in a project, nor are you limited to having one open window or project.

Similar to Movie Maker and Photo Story, you can work on an Audacity project and save the project file (extension of .aup).

The audio file types that Audacity can import or export are:

  • WAV - an industry standard uncompressed file type... that Audacity can read and write... we'll use this format to bridge the Movie Maker and Photo Story files
  • AIFF - Apple's default uncompressed files
  • AU - Sun and NeXT computer format... slightly compressed
  • MP3 (MPEG-1, Layer 3) - compressed audio files... about 10 to 1 compression... this option requires an extra plug-in for Audacity
  • Ogg Vorbis - a compressed type with settings you can adjust... designed as a free alternative to MP3... the Ogg Vorbis files can't be imported into Movie Maker

You can save your Audacity project with an .aup extension.... and re-open it later for continued work.

First Challenge - Getting the Audio from Movie Maker or PhotoStory to Audacity

Audacity needs a WAV file, and can't open or import the audio track of a DV-AVI or WMV video file, nor can it use a WMA file. Our first task is to record it directly into an Audacity project or convert the file to a WAV file that can be imported. Here's a few ways:

  • TMPGEnc is my preferred option. Drag and drop a DV-AVI, WMV or WMA file onto its main working window (cancel the wizard if it opens first) and use the main menu - File > Output to File > WAVE File, and you have a file that works great in Audacity. The audio track of a Photo Story 3 story works just as well as a saved movie from Movie Maker.
  • VirtualDub (and VDubMod) can't extract the audio from a type I DV-AVI file, but can from a type II. Use File > Save WAV from the VirtualDub main menu.
  • The picture of the Audacity working window shown above was taken using the recording feature to capture a DV-AVI file that was being previewed in an MM2 collection, using the Stereo Mix option in Audacity. This is similar to capturing a playing file with the narration feature of Movie Maker... preview/play it with Movie Maker or the Windows Media Player as you record it with Audacity.

The audio patterns of the WAV files made by TMPGEnc and Virtual Dub looked identical and complete. The file made by the stereo mix recording had two split-second breaks... probably the result of the hard drive skipping a beat in the process. The test file was a 2 minute, 12 second DV-AVI file captured from my digital camcorder.

Besides being more complete, the files from TMPGEnc and Virtual Dub showed better wave patterns... their peaks fit more neatly into the audio tracks. I credit that to the software automatically deciding how high a volume setting to use for the conversions.

Working the File in Audacity

When you have an audio file in Audacity... what can you do with it? Having come from a Movie Maker project, we'll focus on things such as fixing the audio by removing noise, selectively raising and lowering volume through the track, and making changes to add audio interest similar to adding interest to a clip by using special effects.

.. the 'reverse' effect looked for by many in Movie Maker isn't there, but it's in Audacity... so you can have your video playing forward and the audio backwards... :)... I don't know why!!!

Label Track

You can use labels (menu > Project > Add Label... ) to annotate segments of the audio track to correlate it with the segments of your movie project. The label track position is linked to the audio track.

Select the portion of the track to work on... the standard Control-A keys select the whole file... so does clicking on the 'label' area to the left of the track you want to select. Dragging your mouse cursor across a segment selects that portion. Use Edit > Select to opt for 'Start to Cursor' or 'Cursor to End'.


Once a portion of the file is selected, the list of effects becomes active. Those that are not self-explanatory, or warrant a comment, are:

Compressor - loud parts become softer without effecting the other parts

Echo - select the time delay and a decay factor... I thought it worked pretty neat in fleshing out the sound from one of the player piano roll midi files, using a delay of 0.15 seconds with the default decay factor of 0.5.

Equalization - pick from a dozen preset curves or draw you own... the presets include such things as RCA Victor 1947, Columbia LP and RIAA 

Fade In and Fade Out - fades the entire selection linearly

Invert - flips the waveform vertically, reversing its phase

Noise Removal - select a small segment that should be 'silent' and then tell it to remove all the noise similar to it. It works best when the good audio is much louder than the noise being removed

Normalize - if you're going to mix some audio together, it's good to normalize each part first

Nyquist Prompt - gives you a blank entry field for you to type in... for advanced users only... if you don't know what it does, than you probably don't want to use it

Phaser - combines phase-shifted signals with the original

Reverse - yes, plays it backwards

Wahwah - kind of sounds like the word reads

.... the 9 additional effects below the line are added plug-ins, and you can add more. The help file cautions that a poorly written plug-in can crash the app, and suggests saving your work first.

Envelope Tool

Control Toolbar - Editing Tools

I'll point out two of the 6 editing tools, the ones that change the volume of selected parts of the audio file.

Use the Envelope Tool (the currently selected tool icon in the image at the right.... to change the volume of selected sections...

The draw tool (the icon that looks like a pencil) to the right of it is used to change the volume of a specific sample... you have to zoom into the audio track a lot before you see individual sample points. The app will tell you to zoom in more if you haven't drilled down enough.

Generate silence or selected noise

To mute a segment, bleep a phrase with a tone, or generate white noise that sounds a bit like a waterfall... use the Generate option from the pull down menu.


Select a segment of the track first and then generate the noise to fill it... experiment and preview it with any settings.

Export - render an audio file from the project

WAV, MP3 and Ogg Vorbis are the choices of file types. We'll go with WAV, the one that works best in Movie Maker and Photo Story.

In addition to some MM2 users having problems with MP3 files, that option in Audacity needs an add-on LAME MP3 encoder. 

Ogg Vorbis files are not accepted as source files by Movie Maker or Photo Story.

Conclusions and Closing

Audacity works and works well... I didn't run into any issues as I exercised it to prepare this newsletter.

To recap a little... from the Movie Maker environment, you make a WAV file with whatever tools you have, edit it in Audacity, and export a new WAV file to take back to Movie Maker. Use the same process when working with the audio/music for a Photo Story 3 project.

Audacity has other features that have no relationship to Movie Maker, such as:

  • an optional plug-in to export files to .MP3
  • a neat looking keyboard display to help the music student study a midi file, with no functionality in terms of using it. it can't play the file or convert it to other formats.
    Jingle Bells - midi

Here's part of Jingle Bells, with the display rotated 90 degrees from how it appears in Audacity.

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

Windows Movie

Have a great weekend...


Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story 3 -
Photo Story 2 -

Products and Services

I'm involved in many things that support users of Movie Maker and Photo Story, and adding more regularly. Some are free and others reasonably priced.

Radio and Podcasting

theDVShowTheDVShow is the only weekly Podcast having more useful information about desktop video editing and production than anywhere else on the Web. Digital video editing, nonlinear editing, streaming media, software releases, tutorials, business tips, technical help, download of the day and news on the latest products to make everything easier. It's where professional and consumer desktop video users go to stay on the cutting edge. 

Call the phone mail machine to get your technical question answered on the air... call (206)-203-3516

The radio broadcast is from Boston, and the website has downloadable podcast files. The June 19th 2005 podcast included the first of 'bi-weekly' segments about Movie Maker 2.

Do Amazing ThingsBooks and Magazines

Movie Maker 2 - Do Amazing Things (with its online companion on, published by Microsoft Press

Movie Maker 2 - Zero to Hero - with support on the publisher's forum -  Friends of Ed

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.

Learning VirtualDub - published by Virtual DubPackt Publishing, the first book about VirtualDub software. I wrote the first chapter about downloading and setting up the software, VirtualDub, VDubMod and AVISynth.


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):

#64 - July 30 - Working with Clips on the Timeline - Trimming, Nudging, Replacing without Messing up the Alignment with Audio and Title Clips, etc.

#65 - August 6 - Titles and Text Clips in Photo Story 3

#66 - August 13 - 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 to suggest a newsletter topic...


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 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 N eptune  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 - August 15 - 6-7:30 - Workshop

Monday - September 19 - 6-7:30 - Intro to Movie Maker

Monday - October 10 - 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.

Microsoft is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.

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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Microsoft is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.