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PapaJohn's Newsletter #73

Custom Effects, Transitions and Title Overlays for Movie Maker 2

You know (or maybe don't) that you write website pages in HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) code. While HTML is a geeky not widely understood term, 'web sites' or 'web pages' are common friendly ones. You don't need to understand the slightest bit of HTML to use the internet and web sites... nor do you need to know much about it to develop a great site. I've never learned it, but do all my website work using HTML files in Notepad.

Similarly, XML (Extensible Markup Language) is the code used for custom effects, transitions and title overlays in Movie Maker 2. Very few learn how to write the code, but many like myself use xml files from others and Notepad to tweak it.

The Movie Maker Team at Microsoft is impressed with how far the user community has gone with custom files... and there's no end in sight as possibilities are infinite.

In this newsletter I'll focus on 3 aspects of the custom effects, transitions and title overlays.

First - the fairly new Persian Page of my site. It's being developed to help anyone from the newest of newbies to the experienced Movie Maker user.  It's the only one of hundreds of website pages on my site that is being developed by someone else, the Persian Poet Gal.

Second - Community sharing of custom files or the code in them. Many who are developing new things are offering them to others for use. I'll cover the current status of efforts to make a central open library of such items.

Third - Anything that has infinite possibilities can become an overwhelming mess if you don't keep things somewhat organized. I won't tell you how to organize or manage your custom files, but I'll share with you how I'm handling mine.

I won't go heavily into the xml code itself and how to write or tweak it... the Persian Page is for that.

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


The Microsoft MVP Summit was great... as an NDA (non-disclosure) event, I can't say much about ongoing developments, but I can say I was re-invigorated by what I saw and heard. For me personally it was the best of the 3 Summits I've attended. To top it off, I just received my 4th annual MVP award. As you know by now, I'm into Movie Maker and Photo Story for the long haul.

I can talk more about our side trip to California on the way back. Over time you'll be seeing clips from the 4-1/2 hours of video I took on the trip... an hour of Summit footage and the rest vacationing... shot mostly in widescreen.

My new notebook computer was on my doorstep when I got back home... I named it 'Hummer' as it resembles one in bulk and width. It's an HP Pavilion zd8000 with: 17" widescreen running at 1680x1050 pixels, 3.4 Ghz Pentium 4, 2 GB RAM, 5400 rpm 100 GB hard drive, combo CD/DVD burner with LightScribe capability, TV Tuner, bluetooth and wireless, 4 USB2 ports, firewire port, Windows Media Center 2005 edition (with an option to burn a DVD from Movie Maker). I haven't had any issues with it, not a single Movie Maker crash, hang or other issue.

.... on to the main topic...

The Persian Poet Page

Persian's and my goals for this page are:

  • Excite and Inspire with examples... something started by Persian's first video on the page ' So What Can XML Do'. If you haven't seen it, click the link.
  • Educate everyone from newbies to advanced users... I first thought the advanced users wouldn't need the page, but I was corrected by one of them.
  • Provide links to websites that provide custom code and information about it.

The goals do not include a complete library of code developed by the community of Movie Maker users... nor are we offering services to develop new custom code.

When scrolling through the Persian Page, you might find yourself looking at techie looking stuff pretty quickly, and if your computer skills are not sufficient, you may be interested but not ready to jump in over your head.

I'd like to go over the basic computer setup and personal skills you should have before starting into the shallow end of the xml pool, things beyond being able to use a mouse.

I teach Movie Maker at my local library, and they have been running a course for years about how to use a mouse. They are only now finding signups for it tapering off. We may have passed that stage of skill development for the general population (in our town). It's the only course listed as a pre-req for my Movie Maker class and the average attendee is easily overwhelmed.

Assuming you'll want to use custom XML and associated PNG image files, here's what you need to know. If you're weak in any of these, it's best to learn or brush up.

  • Have your computer settings so you can see hidden folders (right click My Computer > Explore > Tools > Folder Options > View tab > Advanced settings checklist > Hidden files and folders > select 'Show hidden files and folders'... if you don't do this, you'll get a warning when you first drill down into the Program Files folder as you look for the Movie Maker sub-folder... if you get the warning, don't be afraid to go where you want. This is a one-time setup step for each computer you use.
  • Hidden ExtensionsWhile you're at that Advanced settings window, uncheck the next option Unhidden extensionsin the list 'Hide extensions for known file types'. When you're renaming files from .txt to .xml, you want to see the change without assuming the right extension is there. If you can't see the extension, you could easily end up with a file name like Puzzle.xml.txt. Each time you try to make it an .xml extension, the unseen .txt extension keeps the file as a text one which won't work in Movie Maker.
  • Use Notepad (Start > All Programs > Accessories > Notepad) to edit plain text documents, which xml files are. Using Word Pad or Word adds extra formatting characters that will result in an xml file not working... use Notepad and save your files as plain text, the default. You'll be copying xml code from a website and pasting it into Notepad.
  • Renaming files... you'll need to take a saved puzzle.txt file and rename it to puzzle.xml. A right click on the file in Windows Explore and opt for Rename. As mentioned above, seeing the extension as part of the name goes a long way toward helping you rename it.
  • Copy and paste.... there's so much xml code already available, sitting there in posts on forums. You'll want to highlight the code you want (drag your mouse over the code), copy it to your computer's clipboard (Control-C keys), and then paste it into Notepad (Control-V keys).
  • Use Paint to color part of an image a single pure color like black or green or blue, and save it as a BMP file. This gets it ready for setting that color to transparent. If you don't know how to use Paint, you're not alone. I got an email today from a Microsoft employee asking how you use Paint to draw a circle on an existing image. If it's not one of your regular tools, you would need to do some learning.
  • I use IrfanView to open .BMP files saved by Paint and save them as .PNG files. Choosing PNG when saving an image will result in this window popping up, asking you if you want to save a transparent color... make sure it's checked and then, when saving the image, you'll be presented a copy of the image to select the color in it...  click the black, green, or blue (or whatever color) anywhere on the image and it'll be transparent in a text overlay. It'll still look black, green or blue if opened in IrfanView or other software, but won't appear when used as an overlay.

IrfanView isn't as sophisticated as some other image software, but it's the only one I've used so far in making my PNG files... and they've worked fine.

If I've missed a basic skill or two, let me know.

The bulk of the Persian Page covers details of adding the AddOnTFX subfolder if it's not there under the Movie Maker folder, shows you some basics about the structure of xml code that's important to check if your custom item isn't working as you expect, and gets you into the details of xml code used for:


Logos and Frames
Picture in Picture/PIP Plus (also includes PIP method for frames)
Compositing/Chroma Keying (bluescreen techniques)
Image Transparency (translucent/semi-transparent transitions)

Persian notes that Titles, Unique Effects, Wipe Transitions, and Split Screening will be added to the page soon.

The links at the bottom of the Persian Page take you to sites where Movie Maker community developments in custom xml are taking place.

The ideas and draft code for custom files are on the Forums at windowsmoviemakers, the place to submit your code for comment or sharing, to comment on others, or to ask for help on something you'd like to achieve. It's a great place to copy xml code from... just be careful that it's the code that works and not a draft with a problem... the way to tell is to read the posts after it. When others applaud the code presented, that's the one to copy.

The MSDN Library and Rehan's site are authoritative places to check if you want to dig deeply into the underpinnings of the xml files. Exploring these two sites can overwhelm even the experienced Movie Maker user... unless you have a background in programming, are a good hacker, or have a heavy interest in seeing or learning about such things.

The Windows Movie Maker Archive was the initial community effort at an online comprehensive library for the custom xml code. After an initial phase of collecting about 100 items, it's user interface didn't develop enough and submittals slowed to a crawl.

Lacking the common site to submit to, Daniel's and the Background FX for Movie Maker 2 are recent sites rolled out by a couple enthusiasts who didn't want to wait for the community library site. They are both great and illustrate what a community library site could and should look like.

Community Developments

The forums at windowsmoviemakers have thousands of posts about custom xml files, and the very generous support of anyone looking to do something different than what's been done before. Requests range from the now routine green screen and blue screen effects to making the special effects needed for a King Kong movie. The responses and examples provided are truly amazing, reflecting a community attitude of being willing and able to take on most anything, and get it done in entry level video editing software.

If there's something specific you want, search the site first, and if you don't find it, ask. A search for blue screen got 159 posts yesterday. Green screen got 111 and King Kong 3.

The structure of a forum is great for day to day comments and threads of discussion. But with 1005 posts of the almost 30,000 posts on the forums containing the word xml, the lack of topical structure makes it hard to do the research, and this is especially true for the most commonly sought topics. Research King Kong today and you can easily browse the results. But research blue screen, of much more common interest, and try to go through the 3+ pages with 50 partial posts on each... much easier to make a new post.

A structured central library of custom xml info is there because of the limitations inherent in researching forum posts.

The first attempt at such a library was Pegson's website early this year... it got up to about 100 items but stopped being updated, and nothing has come along to replace it.

Two of the more prolific xml developers recently started their own websites... Daniel's and Background FX for Movie Maker 2, with links at the bottom of the Persian Page.

A centralized site might not be practical... we'll be keeping the links going to whatever sites spring up.

What is online is there for the use of any Movie Maker user... you can get copies of xml and png files, or you can easily copy and paste the code into your own xml files.

I've only dabbled a bit in custom code and I'm looking forward to learning from the Persian Page.

When my Toshiba laptop reached 'lemon' status I had about 700 special effects and transitions in my MM2 collections. That was before adding lots of custom files. The subject of storing them, finding what you want, knowing what you used in a project... those kinds of things... becomes important. The disciplines of organization and management, much less fun than creating movies. 

Just before leaving for the MVP Summit, I decided how I'm going to manage them, and started with the custom puzzle overlay which is a more complex one in terms of the number of files needed. I'll be loading my new Hummer (hp laptop) with xml files, keeping track of them with my new method.

I'm using my personal database, the same one I give to regular newsletter subscribers and sell to others for $10. How to organize and manage information and files is a very personal decision, and I don't suggest that others do it with my database. What I do suggest is having a way to do it. I'm presenting my way to help you think about yours. 

how I manage the custom Puzzle Overlay

For the last newsletter, I made a custom puzzle overlay and illustrated it over a 13 second segment from a Persian Poet Gal video. I changed that and it's now over some fish I videoed at the Monterey Aquarium...  Puzzle Overlay - Over Fish. It can be placed over anything on the video track. The Persian clip was standard 4:3 and the fish is widescreen 16:9... the puzzle overlay adapts without adjustment. The downloadable  zipped package  has all the files needed. You don't need to make any images or tweak the xml files to use it.

The Managing > Personal Database page of my site has the info about the database and how to use it. No need to cover it here. I'll jump right into the 3 records I added for the puzzle overlay: one for general info about the puzzle, another to install the files when needed, and the third to remove them when finished.

(1) In the main record I noted when and what I made, along with where I stored the master files. I treat the working copies in the Movie Maker folder to be just that... working copies made from the masters when needed, ones that can be deleted at any time.

the main record for the puzzle overlay

Main Record

The main record summarizes the files: 10 image png files, an xml file, a Movie Maker project file (MSWMM), and two batch files. If you don't know what batch files are... I'll get to them in a minute.

The website link is the location of the zipped package that I rolled out for newsletter #72, something not needed for my personal use of the files.

Note the unusual location of the puzzle overlay files... the PapaJohn folder of my thumb drive. As my Toshiba laptop was taking regular trips to the repair shop. I was using my old Dell more often then not. When I packed for the trip to the MVP Summit I wasn't sure what computer I'd have with me, so I put my working files on a 512 MB USB2 thumbdrive. The PapaJohn folder on it holds my database and the files for the puzzle overlay, the first such files I'm managing with the database.

(2) The second record for the puzzle overlay is the one that installs copies of the files in the appropriate Movie Maker subfolders on the computer the thumbdrive is currently attached to.

Here's where you learn a little about batch files. Press the open folder icon of the database and it'll open or run the batch file, in this case one named InstallPuzzle.bat.

the installation record

Install Record

A batch file (a file with a .bat extension) is about the simplest little program you can tell your computer to run... you write or tweak it in Notepad and save it with an extension of ..bat. Here's the one I wrote to automatically install the files for the puzzle overlay.

the installation batch file

Batch File - Install

Note that a line in a batch file that starts with 'rem' tells the computer it's a remark, so it skips that line when performing the other lines. 5 of the 8 lines are remarks, so there are only 3 lines of commands to be run when the database button is pressed.

In a split second, the files needed for the puzzle overlay are copied to the Movie Maker folder(s). The 10 png image files go to the Shared folder, the xml file to the AddOnTFX folder, and the project MSWMM file also goes to the AddOnTFX folder. The project file can go to any folder and work fine.

After installing the files, I open the Puzzle.MSWMM project file. It has the 10 overlay images already on the title overlay track, ready for video clips to be added. I added and tweaked the locations of each overlay for this puzzle project, and don't need to do it again for any further uses... unless I want to.

Opened Puzzle project ready for use

Opened Starting Project

The background at this point is black, as there are no video clips in the project... add them and you'll be ready to preview the movie with the puzzle overlay.

Remove the Puzzle Overlay Files

(3) The third record in the database is to remove the working files used for the puzzle overlay from the Movie Maker folders. Pressing the open icon in the database runs the  RemovePuzzle.bat file and the files are deleted in a split second... it's a surgical removal process done from the sidelines of my thumb drive, with no risk of accidentally deleting other files that are still important to Movie Maker or other projects.

Database Removal Record

Batch File to Remove the Puzzle Files          

Batch File to Remove

It deletes (that's what del means in a batch file) the 10 image files, the xml file, and the Movie Maker project file. If I use the puzzle project to start a new project, I'll save the new project with a different more appropriate name.

By storing the master of the custom overlay files in the folder of the thumb drive, I can plug the drive into any computer and have the puzzle overlay in Movie Maker in a few seconds.

Puzzle Overlay - Development

This newsletter isn't about making custom xml files so I didn't include the details of how I made it... but, seeing as I used it as the example, I thought I'd at least summarize it.

Starting Puzzle Image1 - The puzzle is a series of 10 overlay images in .png format, with a selected color in each designated as transparent. I started with the puzzle image at the right - in BMP format. I used IrfanView to save it as a Puzzle1.png file.

When you save a PNG file in IrfanView, it asks if you want to designate one of the colors in it as transparent... say no if you don't and yes if you do, then select the color on the next window in its wizard. I didn't select a color for this first image and, in the movie project, none of the video shows behind it.

Opening the BMP image in Paint, I used the paint bucket to color some of the pieces pure black for the 2nd image of the series... saving it as a new BMP file. I opened that BMP in IrfanView and saved it as  Puzzle2.png, selecting the painted black color as transparent.

The same BMP went back into Paint and I colored some more pieces black... to IrfanView to get the next PNG image for the series... over and over until I had 10 overlay images, the last one with all of the pieces painted black so all you're seeing is the outlines of the puzzle pieces with the video showing through.  

2 - The xml file was next... Movie Maker gets the info about what to do with the 10 images from it.

When I first studied Rehan's logo overlay xml code, I decided to use it to overlay anything that goes on a page... from a little logo in a corner to a full screen puzzle like this example. Rather than figuring out where to position an overlying item, and tweaking the xml code for it, I tweak the overlay images in Paint, leaving the code the same. I use full sized images all the time, so I don't need to tweak the location settings.

You don't have to understand xml code, just know how to copy and paste it in a notepad document... and tweak it a little. Here's the beginning and ending of the xml file for the puzzle overlay. Once developed for the first image of the series, I copied and pasted that section (the part in the blue rectangle) another 9 times, so there's one section of code for each of the 10 images. The only things different in each section are those circled in red

The names like 'PapaJohn Puzzle Overlay 1' are what shows up in the title animation picklist in MM2. The rest of the code for that first image tells Movie Maker to use the Puzzle1.png image...

XML Code

3 - I used each of the 10 custom title overlays and applied them to a new project, checking their functioning with some video clips on the video track. When done, I stripped the video clip from the project and saved it as a template with just the puzzle overlays in it.

By using the project template (Puzzle.MSWMM), all the overlays are there when you open it. Just add video clips and go on with the project.

4 - I copied the files to my database folder and made the two batch files which do the automatic installation and removal of the files needed.

Beyond that, I packaged the custom files into a zip file and put them on the website for anyone who wants to use it.

Conclusions and Closing

This puzzle overlay is a more complex situations. Many custom xml files have only the xml file itself and no associated image files or starter project file. But I'll manage all of them the same way.

From here, jump in and swim around in custom xml stuff as much as you want. Be careful as it can be addicting. You can find yourself having so much fun making custom effects, transitions, and text overlays that you forgot the subject of the movie you sat down to edit.

If you do start down the path of customized xml, I hope you think about how you'll manage the files... the hidden danger I see with these custom files is:

  • they won't show up in the storyboard view of a project.
  • they'll be seen in the timeline view but without the ability to right-click them to check file properties... what xml and image files were used to make that overlay won't be visible.
  • if the custom files are gone and you open the project, the overlay clips will appear as usual on the Title Overlay track, but previewing the project or rendering it to a movie will result in blackness where the puzzle pieces used to be.

Persian's page is pretty well along. I'll be working with her to fine tune it and be sure it supports our goals of inspiration and education. Read it when you get a change, check the links to the community pages, get involved today or whenever you want to.

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 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 'bi-weekly' show with a segment 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.

The current November edition of Maximum PC as a reworked reprint of the same article, right after the Happy 20th Birthday article for Windows.

Learning VirtualDub - published by Virtual DubPackt Publishing, is 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):

#74 - October 22 - open

#75 - October 29 - open

#76 - October 29 - 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 my 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... I can use more requests rather than fewer.


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 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:

Saturday - October 15 - 2-3 pm - an hour devoted to Movie Maker at a special one day technology fair.

Monday - November 14 - 6-7:30 - Intro to Movie Maker

Monday - December 12 - 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 (no cost if it's not the right solution or doesn't work) - 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. Check 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.