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PapaJohn's Newsletter #89

Las Vegas - Photo Story

Let's do a story with a few self-imposed goals or constraints for fun and learning

  • widescreen 16:9 story of 852x480 pixels... Photo Story 3 by default provides for only standard 4:3 video sizes

  • a background that runs through the entire story... with the pictures pasted on... PS3 doesn't offer background styles

  • use multiple images for at least some of the pictures...

Finished StoryI made stories before with the custom widescreen profile, but not one with a full-window background image. I had to scratch my head a bit over the starting dimensions to use for the background. 

Start by viewing the finished story.. use this link or click the picture at the right >>>>

... before getting into it, here's a couple notes...


The Vista Corner...

My free trial period for the GoToMeeting software ends Feb 4. I had one taker of my offer to do a remote-control test drive, but we couldn't get our schedules to mesh.

Info about Vista is starting to bubble up and roll out. A newsgroup started this week at

I added a new page to the Vista section... about the new DVD Maker software.  

Thanks to Randon Myles, a local music artist, I added 4 CDs to my library of music I can freely use in stories and movies... this week's story project is the first with one of his pieces.

.... back to the main topic...

Tutorial... Making the Story

Part 1 - Plan it

With a goal and some constraints, it's time to plan the project... as simple as looking around for a topic that has some source files to work with.

Remember the condor story from newsletter #44? It used some great pictures my brother Jim took at the Grand Canyon... he recently sent a disc with other pictures and two mini-DV camcorder tapes from recent trips. I picked his package to be the source files, and dug in to see what was there.

The CD of pictures had a strange flaking off of the upper painted surface in one spot (a CompUSA disc), and wouldn't play on my laptop... the flaking was still happening so I didn't want to try it in other computers. I moved on to the video tapes.

Jim takes still pictures, and his wife Linda shoots video... the tapes included 32 minutes of footage from a stop in Las Vegas which looked interesting.

This was a first for me. I'd made movies from only still pictures, but not a story from only video clips... that was enough of a plan, a new challenge.

Part 2 - Create the Background Image

Background ImageFor a custom background with an embedded logo (URL), I turned to the combo of Rendersoft VRLM and Illusionae.

Make a 3D text image in Rendersoft, and then use it in Illusionae to emboss the texture.

We used Rendersoft in last week's tutorial to make some animated text... this week it's much simpler, making a 3D text image and saving it as a JPG... in brief, the steps are:

  • Open RenderSoft

  • Size the working window area so it's about 850x480 pixels... I do it by opening an image of that size and eye-balling it... it's not a critical step, so anything close is fine

  • Add text....  Edit > Insert Ascii Text... the text window pops up

  • Type the text... check the 'Extrude Text' option to make it 3D > select a font > Close the window

  • Move the text to the lower left corner of the working window... click the 'Pick Object' blue arrow icon and, holding the right mouse button down, move the text around and into position.

  • For a high quality render, select... View > Anti-Aliasing > 15 pass

  • File > Export > change the file type to JPG > Save it to your file name and folder location

Newsletter #39 was a tutorial about Illusionae... let's take the graphic from Rendersoft and use Illusionae to make the textured image you see above.

  • Open Illusionae

  • Change the Bump dropdown list setting to 'Texturizer'

  • Change the Texturizer Type to <Load File> and point it to the 3D text image we just made with RenderSoft... you won't see anything different until you render the first image with the loaded Bump file

  • Play with the larger texture box and the 12 smaller ones around it... until you see one you like in the large one. There are infinite possibilities... select something you think is appropriate for the project.

  • Don't forget to zoom in and out of the image using the magnifying glass icons... a texture that doesn't look good at one level of magnification might be terrific at another

  • To blend the selected texture and the text file, click the 'Merge Image' icon... the one to the left of the garbage can

  • Set the image size to the dimensions you want... for this story it's 852x484 pixels (I added a few extra pixels to the height to help avoid black bars in the story) > OK to do the merge

  • If you don't see the rendered image in the merge window, grab the right side of the window and open it up more by pulling it to the right until you see it

  • If you don't like it, select the garbage can to delete it, and do it over until you do

  • When you like it, save the merged image to a file... File > Save as > BMP type > name and folder location > Save

You only need one custom background image for a story... that's for some style. Now we're ready to move on to rounding up the pictures for the content.

Part 3 - Gather the Pictures

Getting still pictures from video footage is easy...

Capture/import the file with Movie Maker, browse the clips in the collection and press the 'Take Picture' icon under the monitor whenever something looks like it'll fit your vision of the story.

I made a 'Snapshot' subfolder for the newsletter project, and when finished snapping moved them all into it. When I stopped clicking, there were 211 snapshots from the 32 minutes of raw video footage. That should be more than enough for a story of a couple minutes.

Part 4 - Make Composite Images

The snapshots from a video file are fairly low quality... 640x480 pixels is about 1/3 of a megapixel...

Rather than pan and zoom with low quality images, and end up with even lower quality close-ups, make them into composite pictures over the background image, and minimize the use of pans and zooms. Use other things to add interest, such as composite images and an interesting audio track.Composite Image

Making composites is quick and easy. Using IrfanView in one window, open each image and crop/resize to taste.... and Paint.NET in another window to place each image on the background, and position/rotate to suit.

The Control-R keys are the shortcut to the resize feature of IrfanView... cropping is as easy as scrolling your mouse across a selected area with the left mouse button held down, followed by Control-Y to extract the selected area.

When ready in IrfanView, use Control-C keys to copy the image into the clipboard, and then paste it into the composite image in Paint.NET with the Control-V keys.

Tip: the reason for using Paint.NET versus Paint is its feature to easily rotate an imported image to any degree desired... hold the left mouse button down to move the newly added image, and the right mouse button to rotate it a bit or a lot. I did a lot of fine rotations for this story, some to straighten them up, and some to add interest.

Save the images from Paint.NET as BMP files... use BMP files to maintain image quality through the various processing steps.

Squeezed CompositeOnce started you'll easily get into the rhythm. Going through a couple hundred pictures this way is easy.

Part 5 - Squeeze the Composite Images...

If Photo Story 3 had a widescreen option, you'd be all set to go with the composites from Paint.NET... but it doesn't. You need to use a custom profile, and squeeze the pictures before importing so they'll look right when rendered to a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio.

IrfanView's batch processing feature with custom choices makes this the easiest step of all. Resizing a couple hundred images takes a minute.

Batch squeezing...

In IrfanView select File > Batch Conversion/Rename to get to the working window shown below. I've marked the items of interest.

I have all the composites made in Paint.NET in a folder named 'Prepped Images'... that's so I can select 'Add all' at this step. I have another folder named 'Squeezed Images' to accept the outputs from the batch process.

The button at the lower right 'Set Advanced Options' lets you set the resize options. Squeeze the images going into a widescreen story so they are 75% of their original width... and leave their height as is.

Squeezing the batch

From this point, you'll work with the squeezed images and pretend they are normal... as they will be in the rendered story.

Part 6 - the Final 47Draft the Visual Track

I didn't talk much about my selection of images, or the composites being made... I'm covering the technical steps of the process, and leaving it up to you to decide on your personal artistic content.

As I reviewed the pictures and composites at each step, I thought about how to sequence them, picking topical themes like fashion, food, and lights... Las Vegas with no gambling theme??? They might not let Linda take video in the casinos.

By naming each composite image to align with the themes (see the list of images at the right), it was easy to sort the final list alphabetically, and easy to drag and drop one group at a time into the story. The intro clips were first, the subject themes followed in the order I wanted, and the 3 credit images were last.

View the draft with the default settings, make adjustments, redraft, adjust, redraft... until ready to move on. At this point don't think about the audio track... it's OK to drop your intended music file into the story at this point if it helps you review the visual.... but don't fine tune the sync yet, as you'll be making the audio track later in Movie Maker.

TweakPSI want to give a big thanks to Mark Coffman for his TweakPS utility.

I can honestly say that I wouldn't have gone down the path I did with this project if I didn't know I had Mark's utility to globally change picture durations and remove the pan/zoom motion settings.

With full screen background images in each picture, and low rez images to start with, I wanted pans/zooms only for a few hand-picked places, not globally.

Changing the pace of the story to align with the music and other factors was also important... as I wanted the composite images to flow at an appropriate speed, whatever that was. I couldn't define it, but assumed I'd recognize it when I saw it...

I wouldn't have tweaked the settings of 50 pictures by 1/2 second or so each time I wanted to do another check... TweakPS makes such an adjustment easy.

The 5 second per picture pace was a bit too slow... so I went to 4 at first... and then later, after adding the audio track, pulled most of them all the way down to 2.5 seconds.

Part 7 - Create the Audio Track...

....with narration and music

Linda records more than the visual and ambient audio as she shoots... she narrates the clips frequently... the total opposite of me who says nothing under the guise of being able to add it later during editing, even though I rarely do.

Getting Audio Snippets

When working with Linda's raw footage, and not having her or Jim here to narrate it during the editing, it was great to have her built-in audio snippets to work with.

Audio ExtractsUsing Movie Maker, I split the video to make individual clips of the more interesting audio snippets, put them on the audio track of an empty project, as shown in the above figure... leaving some space between each.

I saved the movie as a WMA audio file, brought it back into Movie Maker, and then split it into the same segments... see the list of audio clips at the left. I suppose I could have worked with the segments of the video clips the same way, but being DV-AVI files, I thought it would be easier on the computer during the project editing phase to handle the audio as a batch of clips from a WMA file.

Import the draft story into Movie Maker, and work the audio snippets into place while seeing and hearing the interplay between the visual and narrative...

When the mix seems about right, render the movie and import it again, this time to add the background music.... and then once more to render just the audio track to a WMA file for the story.

I used lossless WMA audio to do these renderings, not caring what the video quality was as it would be left behind when taking the audio track to Photo Story.

Part 8 - Do the Final Adjustments and Render the Story in Photo Story 3...

Open the project and import the audio track that was made with Movie Maker... and make the final adjustments.

At this stage, the audio track is the yardstick, and adjustments are done by changing picture locations and durations to align the content of the two tracks. In my case, I found the need to shorten the visual track by removing some pictures and/or reducing the durations of others.

To render the story, I used the custom widescreen 852x480 profile that is downloadable from the Photo Story 3 > Saving page of the website.

Positive comments are often just courtesy acknowledgements, and don't help a lot... neutral to negative ones tell you more. I got one comment on a newsgroup saying "... I suspect that in an effort not to bore us, you have made most of the shots about two seconds too short!....". That hit the nail right on the head, exactly what I had done, partly not to bore, and partly to do the final aligning of the pictures with the audio.

I agreed with the poster and, if this wasn't just an exercise for a newsletter, I'd go back and adjust the audio track a bit more in Movie Maker... but it's just a newsletter, so I called it finished.

Conclusions and Closing

It may seem like a lot of work but, as usual, it's quicker to do these steps than it is to write about how to do them... I'm hoping that when reading it, you don't find it too intimidating to try. Maybe it's easier to do than to read...

If you're not familiar with one or two of the software apps used in this tutorial, there are links on the Setup Movie Maker > Other Software page to all but TweakPS.... they are either freeware or shareware. You can get TweakPS from Mark's website.

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 Windows 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):

#90 - February 11 - open

#91 - February 18 - open

#92 - February 25 - open

Newsletters issued more than 6 weeks ago are posted by Rob Morris to an Archive Site on 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 GalleryNeptune 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, we offer two free training sessions about Movie Maker and Photo Story, an intro session and a workshop. Scheduled sessions are:

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



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