Windows Movie Maker tips, tutorials, forums and more...

Visit the Windows Movie Maker forums

Community Forums

Getting Started
Learn Movie Maker 2
Capture Video
Improve Video Capture
Saving Projects

Editing Video
Video Editing
Video Trimming
Video Effects
Using Transitions

Adding Sounds
Adding Music
Adding Narration
Multiple Audio Tracks
Controlling Volume

Taking Pictures
Making Slideshows
Advanced Titles
Photo Story 3

Exporting Movies
Saving Movies
CD-Rom Backup
Create a DVD

More Articles
All Articles
Movie Maker 2 Review
Movie Maker Tutorials
What are Codecs?
Streaming Video
Create a Movie CD
Using Photo Story 2

MM2 Newsletter Archive

Download Windows Media Player 11

Digital Media BooksView Books about Digital Media

PapaJohn's Newsletter #78

Prepping Still Pix for Import

Still pictures play the entire role in Photo Story 3 stories and often a major role in Movie Maker projects.

The sources of still pictures are more varied than video clips. They can be from your digital camera, a snapshot of a frame from a video file, a scanned item, a computer generated one, a screen snapshot, a downloaded file, an animated GIF, etc. 

There are lots of formats, some of which need conversion before using in Photo Story or Movie Maker. The sizes can range from a single pixel to 52 megapixels.

Let's look at some of the reasons and ways to prep still pictures before importing... it's more important to do it first when making a story, as the project file for the story includes a copy of the imported picture, not easily changed or replaced in a finely tuned story. On the other hand, a movie project links to the source file and doesn't copy it into the project file, so you can prep or change a picture at any time, and the changes will automatically be included in the next project preview or rendered movie.

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

Windows GalleryNotes...

This weekend is the  Windows Brand Gallery in San Francisco... with my scheduled presentations at 1, 3 and 5 pm on the Saturday and Sunday, and informal chats between. Stop by if you're in the area.

Here's a link to a brief Photo Story that shows the Gallery... at 1830 Polk Street, the corner of Polk and Jackson.

Last week I mentioned differences in how Movie Maker and the Windows Media Player display standard and widescreen movies and stories versus how Sonic's MyDVD handles them. MM2 and WMP take their cue from a tag in the file, but MyDVD uses the pixel dimensions. It's not a bug... just a difference in how they work.

This week I have another note about MyDVD, a positive one. Having run into major problems with MyDVD in May, I had lost confidence in it and stopped recommending it to others.

MyDVDMy new HP laptop came with the DVD plug-in for Movie Maker 2, a Sonic plug-in. And it came with MyDVD Plus v6.1.0, starter DVD software that doesn't have such features as the 'Fit-to-DVD' option, or the ability to edit an existing Read-Write (R-W) disc.

I put them through some testing and didn't run into any issues, so I gathered the courage to try the MyDVD Studio Deluxe 6.1 package again. I was very cautious as I didn't want the issues I had with it on the Toshiba laptop.

The upgrade process gives you 6 times to grit your teeth and decide to continue biting the bullet... it first notices you have another version of the Sonic Audio Module and offers to delete it.. OK... then the Sonic Data Module... OK..., the Copy Module, the full MyDVD Plus software, the Update Manager, and finally the Express Labeler. There's no option to install in another folder and have both versions.

The installation went without issue, and I've exercised it enough to say it works and works well.

I'll be writing to Sonic about the standard/widescreen item, just to learn a bit more about it... most importantly for me,  confidence in my DVD software is back and I have something to recommend. Was it the Toshiba, the software, or a combo of both? I'll probably never know.

A couple users of my custom profiles had problems and resolved them by unchecking the option to 'allow non-square pixel output'... something I had checked for the profiles used when heading toward a disc. I revised them all to uncheck the option. 

The first of the annual newsletter renewal notices went out to those whose subscriptions end with this issue. With the renewal extensions, I've received a number of very positive notes... thank you!!

I won't be sending more notices beyond the one. If you don't renew, I'll assume you moved on to other software or other interests.  

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

Prepping for Photo Story 3 and Movie Maker

Let's go through some of the reasons to prep still pictures for stories and movies.

Enhance quality and add special effects...

Photo Story and Movie Maker include a number of enhancers and special effects... and many more are available in other software. I won't go into them here. Use the software you're skilled and comfortable with. We saw some of the features of Paint.NET in issue #77, which has many enhancement options. Most of the time, the enhancement features of Photo Story and Movie Maker are good enough, but sometimes the additional features of other software is needed.

As the project sizes of PS3 and MM2 are limited by system memory, any enhancements or special effects you add before importing a still picture reduces the memory demands of the project, and makes project previewing and rendering easier for the system.

Save a copy of your original pictures so you can change your mind later.

Pixel dimensions...

Pixels per Inch (PPI) and dots per inch (dpi) are often referred to as picture resolution by those who work with images that go to a printer. For stories and movies, the terms have minimal meaning. For us it's about the overall size of the picture as measured in pixels - width and height. The MPEG-2 files for high quality NTSC DVDs are 720x480 pixels, not large...

Photo Story can handle pictures as small as 1 pixel and as big as 52 megapixels (7200x7200 pixels), making the most of all the pixels a high resolution picture offers. 

Movie Maker can handle pictures as small as a pixel... and higher, but the upper limit isn't important. It resamples big ones to 800x600 before using them in the project... consider 800x600 the effective practical limit for the source files for your movies. More than that usually doesn't enhance the visual quality.

Tip 1: My testing doesn't show a significant difference in memory needs when using large pictures versus small ones... use what you have without resizing unless you run into a situation that warrants the change. It's easier to let Movie Maker resize the images for the project than to do it elsewhere. You can resize the source files without opening the project file, and the new sizes will automatically be used as long as you keep the location and file names.

Adding text before import...

Reasons to add text within Movie Maker and Photo Story include the animation choices of Movie Maker, having transparent/translucent text over video clips, spanning a number of images/video clips with a text clip, and easily making changes right up to the end.

But there are times when adding text to a still picture before importing has its advantages:

  • fancier text such as 3D or text with drop shadows...
  • positioning the text more exactly
  • using a mix of fonts, text sizes, colors, etc.
  • using a combo of text added to the source picture before importing and the text added by PS3 or MM2
  • having sharp text when doing a significant zoom into a still picture... when the text is important to the presentation.

Text on Small versus Large Picture

The PhotoStory I made last week of the Windows Media Gallery in San Francisco is a good example of the last point... having sharp enough text to support the motion settings.

For the first draft of the story, I used the picture as I received it in an email... adding 8 point text on the 480x321 pixel picture. I used the font size that made it fit well on the screen in the picture.

I was zooming into the words on the screen and wasn't concerned as much about other parts of the picture getting all pixilated, like the light standing to the left.

The pixilated text looked bad, ugly enough to redo the story after making it better in the source picture.

To improve the text, I resampled the picture to a much larger image size, to 1680x1124 pixels. Doing so doesn't make the picture any better in quality, but it allows the added text to improve as you see.

The extra pixels in the image supports a larger font size which, when zoomed into, remains sharper.

Heading for a widescreen story?...

Prep for Widescreen StoryPhoto Story 3 is made for standard 4:3 aspect ratio stories, and doesn't have a built-in option of 16:9 widescreen stories.

But with a custom profile, you can make a widescreen story. To do it, you need to squeeze the picture sideways so it's 75% the width of the original image.

In IrfanView, go to Image > Resize/Resample... uncheck the 'Preserve aspect ratio' option, check the 'Set new size as a percentage of original', and change the width percentage to 75.

The dialog window at the right shows me squeezing a 6 megapixel picture to 75% of its original width... from 3072 pixels wide to 2,304. Don't change the height.

From the squeezed image, I made a Photo Story and saved it with the custom widescreen profile, zooming into and panning small areas of the picture.

The figure below shows the widescreen story playing in WMP10... nestled in the big picture to show that, although it was squeezed to 77% width to make the story, the shape of the rendered story aligns with the original picture.

Widescreen Story from Picture

If you add text to an image before squeezing it to the 75%, it'll look normal in the rendered widescreen story. If you add it after squeezing it'll look wider/fatter than usual. Text added in Photo Story 3 will also look wider.

Some fonts will look OK wider and some won't. Choose a narrow font that looks OK and you'll be fine.

About cropping pictures...

Movie Maker doesn't have the cropping features that Photo Story has, so you should remove unwanted black borders before importing.

To avoid the borders in movies, resize pictures so the pixel dimensions align with the 4:3 ratio for standard aspect ratio movies, and 16:9 for widescreen.

The original 6 megapixel picture of a canal shown above is 3072x2048 pixels, not aligning with 4:3 or 16:9. Avoiding black borders in Photo Story is easily done by selecting the area to start and finish with in the motion settings. Photo Story 3 offers to crop as needed to remove black borders... I usually don't accept as I'd rather use the custom motion settings to show selected parts of the picture.

Image OverlayImage overlays in Movie Maker...

Images used as overlays in Movie Maker, such as this one of the Golden Gate fact sign with its background made transparent to see the underlying Photo Story, always need prepping.

And the prepping is with other image manipulation software such as Paint.NET and IrfanView used for this one...

You can't apply any Movie Maker video effects to an image used as an overlay.

Newsletter #73 covered making and using png images with a selected transparent color, and the xml file needed to have it function as an overlay. 

Conclusions and Closing

This newsletter is on the early side, as I'm off to San Francisco tomorrow...

To those not renewing their subscription, thanks for your interest and support during the year. Movie Maker is entry-level software and many with the need for added features will move on to other software... and some have moved on to other interests. I wish you the best of everything.

The subject of prepping still pictures is becoming more important as newer cameras give you bigger pictures, and snapshots from phones and webcams  smaller ones... there's a place in a story or movie for them all...

Making and using custom image overlays is fun, easy and extremely helpful in giving a movie a personal and amazing touch... the opening clip of my Golden Gate walk video is one that I won't use in any other movie... such an overlay is a one time disposable one. I recently put a package on the site for downloading, an xml file with 10 starter overlay images... you can use the package without touching the xml code, and substitute your images for the starter ones. The download is on the Editing > Text > Custom Overlays page.

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 was 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 November 2005 edition of Maximum PC had a well done reworked 6 page reprint of the same article, starting on page 42 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):

#79 - November 26 - open

#80 - December 3 - open

#81 - December 10 - open

Newsletters that were distributed 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've beta tested some of 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. A tutorial about using it is on the Managing > Personal Database page of my site, and more info is in the database package itself.

It's free for the asking to regular newsletter subscribers... send an email request and I'll return it with the zipped file, which is less than 1 MB.

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 and Photo Story, an intro session and a workshop. UThe upcoming scheduled sessions are:

Monday - December 12 - 6-7:30 pm - Workshop

Monday - January 30 - 7-8:30 pm - Intro to Movie Maker and Photo Story

Monday - February 13 - 7-8:30 pm - Workshop

Monday - March 13 - 7-8:30 pm - Intro to Movie Maker and Photo Story

Monday - April 10 - 7-8:30 pm - Workshop

Monday - May 8 - 7-8:30 pm - Intro to Movie Maker and Photo Story

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 - 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



Download more Movie Maker Effects!

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