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 #81

Holiday Videos

We're in another wave of holidays... taking pictures and video... and mostly tucking them away as we think "... I'll get to them later...".

We (9 of us) did one of our now routine one-day trips to Chicago on Saturday... the goal of the day was to have fun, and we succeeded. Collecting digital evidence of it wasn't nearly as important, but we ended up with 16-1/2 minutes of video footage, 125 pix on my daughter's new 7 megapixel camera  (most were blurry - she doesn't read manuals about how to use such things), and a couple dozen on Bernadette's 5 megapixel camera (most were sharp... but she lost lots of them when an accidental memory card re-formatting happened half way through the day, a first time event for the camera... in retrospect she said yes to something that she shouldn't have).

But instead of doing something later with the pictures and video, we did it while the memories were still fresh... Bernadette printed an 8x10 group picture for each to take home, and I put a 3-1/4 minute video online and emailed them (the visitors) a link before they had returned home.

  Allie (friend), Allie (grand) and Summer (friend)

Chicago GalsIn this issue I'll show you the movie project and take you through it's development. It's a typical holiday home video made so much better by adding special effects, transitions, a custom image overlay, and background music.... the kinds of things we can do so easily with Movie Maker.

Click the picture or this link to view the video

It wasn't snowing at the time... that's added by the Snowflakes effect in the Winter Fun Pack 2003...

The 3 girls were not standing in front of the railroad station line... they were added by a custom overlay, using one of the 5 megapixel still pix.

... and when you play the video you'll start hearing the approaching train, along with Christmas music... also added to what started simply as a video clip of a sign. The train sounds came later in the video, and the Christmas music was copied from a downloaded midi-music file. The project was simple enough to be done in one pass. 

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


The gallery in New York City is on 22nd Street and will be open by the time you read this... stop by if you get a chance, especially if you can make it when I'm there for the afternoons of Dec 17 and 18. 

I downloaded the latest v2.5 of Paint.NET, which doesn't have an expiration date. Between it's magic wand feature to remove colored pixels, and its option to save it as a PNG file with transparency preserved... you can go directly from Paint.NET to a custom overlay file for your project... no need to go via IrfanView to select the transparent color.

Using such an overlay is now a routine part of my videos, and I've expanded the Editing > Text > Custom Overlays page of the website to  fully cover how to do it. If you try it and have any questions or comments, please send a note. I'd be happy to tweak the page some more until it's easy and fun for anyone who wants to try them.

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

The Project

The storyboard/script...

There really isn't a script when for most home videos of vacations and family events like a day-trip to Chicago, and you can't force one. But you can add interest by selecting a focal point. I pick the point of interest only after viewing the source material. Actually I sit back and let the video footage tell me what to use, and then help it along with some fine tuning.

Of all our grands, Allie is the most social. She had invited her friend Allie, who had never been to Chicago, and another friend Summer. On the train ride home, their impromptu rehash of the visit to the  Hershey chocolate shop provided the spark to the theme, and I had some footage to go with it. The 3 girls became the focal point (the other 6 who went take secondary or minor roles), with the Hershey shop their main event. 

I browsed the clips in the collection and selected the better ones of the 3 girls... dragging them to the storyboard in the sequence taken. They can be rearranged later.

Regardless of size or total length, I try to have an opening portion, a mid-point break of some sort, the rest of the main segment, and an ending. Here's the final project with some of the points marked.  


The opening

Have you noticed how long some of the big screen movie openings are? Some of them seem almost half way finished before the opening is finished... I kind of like them that way. In this 3-1/4 minute movie, I didn't consider the intro done until almost a full minute into the movie.

Our standard day-trip to Chicago is an 85 mile drive to a train station, followed by a 1-1/2 hour train-ride to the last stop at the corner of Randolph Street and Michigan Ave, in the heart of downtown Chicago. The video starts with the train, and then moves into a few assorted Chicago scenes... with a few to let you know it's the Christmas season.

This part of the editing takes the most work, as it sets the overall pace and tone, fixes the text titling options (font, font color, animation style, etc.), and determines the background music to carry throughout.

Some editing notes:

  • There was some snow on the ground, and it was cold... but not snowing. The  Winter Fun Pack 2003 package provided the Snowflakes video effect for a number of clips, even one shot indoors (the carolers who seem to be outside a window, but were upstairs in a shopping mall).
  • Many of the special transitions and effects are from the third party Adorage package.
  • The custom image overlay of the 3 girls started with a still picture of them on Michigan Avenue , cropped and sized to 856x480 pixels... the background was removed by PhotoShop, and I saved it as Overlay1.png for the Overlay Starter Kit. I copied and pasted the overlay a half dozen times in the project to help provide some continuity of the main subject.
  • Two regular text overlays are in this opening section, almost totally overlapping the image overlays. If two overlapping text overlays are used, the clip at the right shows over the first one, but they go suddenly on or off without gradual fading.
  • The audio of the first clip... the railroad station sign... was poor and uninteresting... so I used the audio from another train clip that had picked up the 'horn', dragging the DV-AVI clip from the collection to the audio/music track and trimming it to fit.
  • The holiday music is another of the 2,500+ midi pieces from those old player piano rolls. I played the midi file in iTunes and captured it using the narration feature of Movie Maker.   


The middle

The middle makes a transition between the early and later parts... it can be as simple as the 1-1/2 second gap between the video clips shown here, a gap filled with the overlay image. The transition can be short or long... just something to ease the minds of the viewers as the video moves from one major part to another.

The scenes in the first part were somewhat disassociated. In the next part the scenes will be more in harmony with each other. The transition between the parts helps to break the mood, and set the stage for a new one.


The sub-story and ending

The second part has a sub-story, or at least what I could make of one. The girls were eager to recount their experience at the Hershey store. They practiced a few times and then did a final version... I used the clips of each, splitting them in various places, and mixing the train scenes with 'flash-backs' of store scenes.  


The ending was simply the final clip, some text... I didn't drag out the ending.

Conclusions and Closing

The video was a hit with those who took the trip, and others... I had sent out two drafts, the first with few of the special effects and transitions... the reactions were unanimous about how much better it was with the additions. It reminds me of the music video for the MaximumPC article... short videos of a few minutes that don't have a strong storyline can use the boost they get from a heavy sprinkling of special effects...

I'll be taking off for  New York at the end of next week. I plan to have the week's newsletter sent early, before taking off.  

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):

#82 - December 17 - open

#83 - December 24 - open

#84 - December 31 - 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 viewers 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 atNeptune  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. The upcoming scheduled sessions are:

Monday - December 12 - 7-8:30 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.