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...
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
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:
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... www.papajohn.org... 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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
Open the project and import the audio track that was made with Movie Maker... and make the final
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
I look forward to comments and discussion about this and other newsletters
on the forums at:
Windows Movie Makers.net
Have a great week...
Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story 3 - www.papajohn.org
Photo Story 2 - www.photostory.papajohn.org
Products and Services
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Add-On Transitions and Effects
Transition Maker 2
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beta tested some of the Pixelan packages
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ProDAD's Adorage package for Movie Maker 2 provides an additional source of
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your personal information is more of a challenge as hard drives get bigger and the internet more
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About John 'PapaJohn' Buechler from Microsoft.com
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
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