Tags in DVD Files
Movie files can be of most any video size, as measured in pixels. There
are some standard sizes, and then there's the ability to make and use a custom profile for others.
A DVD needs to be made of standard formatted and sized movies. MPEG-2
is the format, and one of the standard sizes for NTSC TV systems is 720x480 pixels. For this newsletter
I made 4 discs, 2 in the new Vista Windows DVD Maker and 2 in MyDVD8 on my Windows XP laptop. Each
disc has 9 movies.
All 36 of the movies are of the standard size of 720x480 pixels....
... but 12 of them were made from files of lower visual quality than
standard DVDs. Another 12 are from files on a par with DVD quality. And the remaining 12 were made
from the High Definition movie options in Vista's Movie Maker.
... and somehow each with 720x480 pixels can look different when played...
why? It has to do with some tags in the files that tell the players how to display the movie, and
how the players interpret those tags.
The tags are things that I'm still trying to understand. You don't add
them directly, and you don't know what they say, and there isn't a utility that will let you read
This issue won't have a definitive conclusion. All I hope to share
is an awareness of the tags and how important they are to what you see when watching your DVDs.
an example of tags in action. One DV-AVI file saved from a widescreen Movie Maker project, and another
DV-AVI file from a standard aspect ratio project.
Looking at the properties of each in WMP10, see what the player is getting
from the tags. It's saying the widescreen movie has an actual aspect ratio of 4:3 but it'll display
it at a widescreen 16:9.
And the standard one has an aspect ratio of 4:3.
720x480 isn't 4:3 or 16:9... it's someplace in the middle. if you check
the math, it takes 640x480 to be 4:3 and 852x480 to be 16:9. The tags are telling the player to
squeeze the pixels in a bit to show the standard file at 4:3, and stretch them out as needed to
show the widescreen one appropriately. If the player does it right, the movies will look as you
... before getting into it further, here's
a couple notes...
The Vista Corner... I've been busy this week with Vista's
Movie Maker and Windows DVD Maker. In addition to this newsletter, the Setup Movie Maker > Vista
Preview > DVD Maker page of my website is pretty well fleshed out with new screen shots and more
I added 1/2 GB of RAM to my Vista system, doubling the RAM to 1 GB...
the max for the system. It runs peppier, as expected.
A project file in Vista has the same .MSWMM extension that we're familiar
with... but if you try to open it in MM2, you'll get
... but all the movies and discs made in Vista work in XP... that's
.... back to the main topic...
Making and Viewing DVDs
I imported some standard and widescreen camcorder footage into my Vista
system, and made two sets of 1 minute test movies... one set at the standard 4:3 aspect ratio, and
another at widescreen 16:9.
set has 9 files, the same project file rendered to each of Movie Maker's built-in publishing choices.
The standard set was used as the input files for a standard DVD, and
the widescreen set for a widescreen disc.
That gave me some files to play with... to compare file sizes, quality,
playback in various players, etc. What were the tags saying and how were the players interpreting
The 9 publishing choices in Vista's Movie Maker are a good mix... with
standard DVD quality right in the middle.
3 less than DVD quality (Portable Device, Low Bandwidth, and VHS
3 standard or aligned with DVD quality (DV-AVI, DVD Quality, and
3 higher than standard DVD quality (HD 720p, HD 1080, and HD 1080
Positive Side Note: as low-end a system that I'm using for Vista, and
as much as it's pre-beta, the captures never drop frames, and I've yet to make a coaster instead
of a DVD that plays well.
All of the MPEG-2 files on the discs have video sizes of 720x480, but
they play differently. Rather than using words to explain the similarities and differences, I did
a lot of picture-taking so you could see for yourself.
Here are 1/4 size snapshots of the DVDs playing on my Windows XP laptop
in InterVideo's WinDVD, which has a neat frame snapshot feature. The pictures at the left are from
the standard disc, and those on the right from the widescreen.
9 have black borders at the top/bottom, left/right, or all around...
and 9 don't. Some are appropriately shaped to align with 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratios, and some are
Here are typical frames from each movie, and some comments. The pixel
dimensions that I note are the movies as saved by Movie Maker and used as inputs to Windows DVD
Maker... not the transcoded MPEG-2 files on the discs, which are all the same size.
Standard << DV-AVI >> Widescreen
The only one of the 9 choices that looks right in both standard or widescreen
mode... they display in the appropriate aspect ratio and have no black borders.
On a TV, one would have black borders... InterVideo WinDV on my computer
has more than enough room on the screen to play the movies in a changeable window size.
Snapshots of them on a TV would be different.
Pixel dimensions of 720x480.
Standard << DVD Quality >>
The aspect ratios are correct... but the widescreen mode uses a 4:3 overall
size with a letter-boxed widescreen video within it.
Pixel dimensions of 720x480.
Standard << DVD-Widescreen >> Widescreen
A DVD widescreen movie doesn't belong in a standard aspect ratio DVD...
where it displays as 1:1. And it's just a bit better in a widescreen DVD, showing as 4:3.
In neither case is it showing the desired widescreen 16:9.
Pixel dimensions of 720x480.
Standard << HD 1080 VC-1 >> Widescreen
Displays the same as DVD-Widescreen... 1:1 within a 4:4 overall window,
with black borders... and 4:3 aspect ratio in a widescreen DVD.
Pixel dimensions of 1440x1080, a 4:3 ratio.
Standard << HD 1080 >> Widescreen
Displays the same as HD 1080 VC-1... and both files have the same pixel
dimensions of 1440x1080.
Standard << HD 720p >> Widescreen
This one stands out in the crowd... appropriately shaped at 16:9 when in
a standard DVD, but with black borders all around. And wider than widescreen when viewed
in a widescreen DVD.... measuring 21+:9 instead of 16:9...
Pixel dimensions of 1280x720, a ratio of 16:9.
Standard << Low Bandwidth >> Widescreen
Normal looking at both regular aspect ratio and widescreen, but letterboxed
320x240 pixel dimensions, a ratio of 4:3.
Standard << Portable Device >> Widescreen
Appropriate for portable players that have a standard 4:3 aspect ratio screen,
with the widescreen mode letterboxed to be viewed right.
640x480 pixel dimensions, a ratio of 4:3.
Standard << VHS Quality >> Widescreen
The 3rd of 3 lower quality options also views in appropriate aspect ratios,
using the letterbox approach for the widescreen DVD option.
640x480 pixel dimensions, a ratio of 4:3.
Let's finish this section with a look at the set of thumbnails for the widescreen
DVD. They look the same as the regular aspect ratio set... at 4:3
Viewing the DVDs with Windows Media Player 10 in Windows XP shows
the same results... so it's not the viewer, but the tags in the disc files that account for the
MyDVD Premier 8
For a cross-check... I used the same movie sets of input files to make
DVDs with MyDVD Premier 8, running on Windows XP... a standard DVD and a widescreen one.
Here's the results, using the same InterVideo WinDVD app to view the
discs and take frame snapshots. The snapshots of the standard disc are at the left, and the widescreen
one at the right.
Most noticeable are how much better the High Definition widescreen files
are displayed than those on the disc made by Vista's DVD Maker.
Conclusions and Closing
Widescreen and standard mode video starts with your camcorder, flows
through the editing phase, then into the saved movies, the transcoding for discs, and then the display
by the players. Most of the alignment needed is handled by the software behind the scenes. You'll
accept things that look right and perk up when it doesn't, and then wonder why not.
This newsletter is about an increased awareness about the role of the
tags in the files, and about how various files can play back differently than you expect.
For me, the standard versus widescreen footage sometimes starts with
the camcorder... my Sony TRV-80 mini-DV uses a letterbox approach when recording in widescreen.
It's the camcorder I used for the footage in this newsletter. That sets the stage for how the video
stream is processed during editing.
My older Hi8 model TRV-615 gives me the option of letterboxing when
recording as widescreen, or of using the full recording area of the chip.
DVD making options vary with the software
Vista's DVD Maker gives you a choice of 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio
for the DVD... its help file says to pick it based on what you or your audience will be watching
MyDVD 6.1 doesn't provide an option of making a widescreen versus
MyDVD 8 has a project setting option of either 4:3 or 16:9 for the
menu aspect ratio. Its help file says like Vista's... make it shaped like the TV screen.
There's more to learn about tags and the effects they have... it's best
to test your process with a little pilot file and learn how your systems work... burn a test disc
and look at it before doing your big projects... adapt as needed.
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 -
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
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
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
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 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 -
Photo Story 2 newsgroup -
Photo Story 3 newsgroup -
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
#98 - April 8 - open
#99 - April 15 - open
#100 - April 22 - open
Newsletters issued more than 6 weeks ago are posted by Rob Morris to
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
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.
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.
your personal information is more of a challenge as hard drives get bigger and the internet more
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.
An online gallery that fully aligns with the main priority of the website
is the 'PapaJohn
Expert Zone' at neptune.
Check it at
N eptune 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 - April 10 - 7-8:30 pm - Workshop
Monday - May 8 - 7-8:30 pm - Intro to Movie Maker and
Other fee-based services
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 www.papajohn.org
Movie Maker 2/Photo Story training and support services
start at $75 per hour - send an email -
PapaJohn @CharterMi.net 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
© 2006 - PapaJohn
Microsoft is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation in
the United States and/or other countries.
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
second one. You can find his advice in the
Windows XP Movie Maker newsgroup and in the
Windows Movie Makers Forums.
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