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PapaJohn's Newsletter #98

Visually Seamless

If you haven't wrestled with the fine-tuning of a video to achieve smooth visual flow over a number of clips, you may not appreciate this week's subject... with tips to achieve it.

Sample VideoStart by viewing this 2+ minute sample that I put together to illustrate some points. Click on the link or the picture.

When viewing it, I'm hoping you won't notice anything special beyond the morphing clips... sometimes the absence of jerkiness, audio glitches, and other artifacts isn't noticed, but their presence is.

This sample uses 21 separate clips... try counting how many you see as you watch it before getting into the tutorial below.

the Quest for a Seamless Video

When I started editing home movies, a transition was made by cutting the film with a razor, and splicing the selected clips back together with glue or tape... there were no video effects except ones you could add when shooting the footage.

Movie Maker 1 let me do the same straight cuts a lot easier using the computer. Beyond that it supported overlapping clips with an automatically applied fade or dissolve transition. Anything more creative than that needed to be done with other software. Even so, it was a big step forward.

Today we have hundreds of built-in and add on transitions to pick from, and an infinite assortment of custom made ones using XML code...

Transitions other than straight cuts are often trying to achieve some kind of smooth change from one scene to another. Morphing fits into that category, even though the change happens from the beginning of a clip to the end...

A forum poster the other day referenced a utility from I downloaded it and two others: Squirtz Lite, Squirtz Morph, and Squirtz Water Reflections. Playing with the Morph app led me to the topic for this week.

The morphing app got me into thinking about the smooth visual flow of a video from one end to the other, not just of the morphed clip... let's go through a sample project that uses video clips, still pictures, Photo Stories, and morphed clips.... and strings them together in a smoothly flowing project.

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


Last week's newsletter resulted in positive and more than usual feedback... thanks.

The Vista Corner... since last week I've

  • setup and used the Media Center software for the first time on my Vista system
  • recorded an hour+ of a golf special on TV
  • used Movie Maker to make a movie from 2 source files, a VOB file on a DVD in the disc drive and the recorded TV show
  • synched my Creative Zen portable media player with the Vista system and copied my multimedia library to it, including the recorded TV....

... all went flawlessly... no bugs to report this week.

Transitions and effects are always in the limelight

  • Start with those included in MM2
  • Get extra packages from Microsoft and 3rd parties that are easy to install and use
  • Transition Maker 2 and PIP+ are utilities to help you customize your own
  • Custom XML coding opens things up to infinite possibilities... for those with sufficient computer skills

I just finished restructuring the XML - Persian Section of the site, folding my Custom Overlays page into it. As part of my review, I copied and pasted all the XML info in that section into a new set of XML files and checked them in Movie Maker... to once again verify they work as noted... and yes, they do.

Some of the menu pages and branches have moved... as I continue to morph the site from its original focus on 'problem-solving' to one of 'doing amazing things'.  

On the subject of 3rd party packages... there's something new on the near horizon that I'll be announcing as soon as it's ready, hopefully by next week.

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

The Sample Project

Let's look at the project by viewing the storyboard. As a topic, I was trying to integrate the idea of morphing with Darwinian evolution, and achieve a fairly seamless visual flow. I looked through my stock of clips, picked some, and jumped right into the editing.

General notes

  • My experience is that the smoothest flow happens from one clip to the next when the source files align in pixel dimensions. With my goal being a 640x480 online video for the newsletter, I made each of the movie source files 640x480. Source files for the stories used as clips were larger, but the stories were saved to 640x480 sizes.
  • Transitioning from one to the next, when a video clip is involved, can be seamless if you take a screen shot of the clip at the exact point you cut or trim it, or start or end it. Taking snapshots in the timeline gets you 320x240 jpg images, so to keep the snapshots aligned with the goal of 640x480, take them in the collection... with a source video of 640x480 the snapshot will be that size.
  • To edit clips at 640x480 through multiple renderings, I use a custom profile with an extra high bitrate as an alternate to using DV-AVI clips.

Let's go through each clip on the storyboard... focusing on things done to maintain a seamless visual flow.

In the first row...

1 - PhotoStory... we'll start with a Hubble telescope image (ssc2005-11a2.jpg) of 3,000 by 1,681 pixels (5 megapixels). 3 copies of the same picture to be able to change the motion direction a couple times. No transitions between each, and with the start of each picture being at the same point as the end of the previous one. Photo Story is a great tool, if for nothing more than making such a seamless clip. I saved the 20 second story with the 640x480 size option.

2 - After importing the story into MM2, I took a snapshot of its last frame... to pause in the whiteness of the galaxy. Rather than lingering at that point in the story, the snapshot of the last frame lets you linger as long as you want in the movie, changing the duration of the still picture as needed. Using a frame snapshot instead of a white image makes the whiteness the same shade.

3 - The lightning/thunder clip is the only part of the video that has some dynamic action, to juxtapose the calm smooth flowing of the rest. The still picture of the galaxy whiteness fading into it is one of 3 points in the movie that uses a standard transition, a fade of a second long. The scene is from my camcorder in the Big Sur area of California, cropped in VirtualDub to remove the road and part of a car at the lower right... with fake lightning/thunder added by a custom XML title overlay and a stock sound effect.

4 - Another snapshot, the last frame of the stormy clip, used to ease the transition from the video clip with dynamic motion to another video clip with motion but less dynamic.

5 - The fish are swimming at 1/2 speed compared to the original camcorder footage.

6 - A still shot of the last frame... to stop the motion on the big fish used as the first picture for the morphing of the fish to the turtle.

Project - Storyboard
Click image for larger view

On the second row

7 - The first of a number of morph clips... the snapshot of the fish was 640x480... the image of the turtle was a scan from a book of copyright free images, cropped and sized to be a 640x480 BMP image... and I flipped the turtle image horizontally so it was facing the same direction as the fish before it, and the live turtle that follows.

8 - The same image used for the morphing clip ahead of it... using this almost 3 second image lets the flow of the video pause a bit before going into the next movement.

9 - The next movement is another morph, 5 seconds to go from the turtle illustration to the first frame of the live turtle clip.

10 - The snapshot of the first frame of the live turtle clip has a duration of 1-1/2 seconds. The still picture is again used to briefly pause the motion. 

11 - The video of the turtle runs for almost 8 seconds. The original footage was taken by someone testing his new High Definition Sony camcorder. It was sent to me as a 1080i video clip... I re-rendered it to a 640x480 wmv source file for this project.

12 - Another pausing snapshot, this one of the last frame of the real turtle clip. The alignment stayed good, but you can see an abrupt change in sharpness when the video changes into this still picture. I didn't see that when using the snapshot taken from the first frame... rather than stop to explore it, I kept going.

Moving on to the 3rd line of clips

13 - A 5 second morph from the live turtle to a monkey illustration...

14 - The monkey illustration is another scan from the same book of copyright free images... cropped and resized to 640x480.

15 - The first monkey image morphs into a larger monkey face, another scanned illustration sized at 640x480.

16 - The monkey face sits there for 1-1/2 seconds, another pause in movement using a frame snapshot from Movie Maker.

17 - The monkey face morphs over 5 seconds to a girl's face.

18 - The girl is a Movie Maker snapshot from the first frame of a Photo Story saved at 640x480.

The last line of the composite storyboard

19 - Similar to the first Photo Story in the project, the girl's face is a high rez 8-1/2 megapixel image, this one from a magazine disc. 3 copies are used in the PS3 project, with motion settings going from the full image to as closely as possible into the eye.

20 - To get all the way into the iris of the eye... a Movie Maker snapshot of the final frame of the first story is used as the only source picture for a second story of the girl's face... to continue the motion into the blackness.

21 - Once all the way into the eye, a standard clip is used for brief closing credits.

The music is 'Halfway Home' by Randon Myles

Now that you've seen the use of some morph clips, let's go into the making of them, using Sqirlz Morph.

Sqirlz Morph - mini-tutorial

The morph app is pretty easy to use...

  • Drag and drop a couple still images into it from your file browser (or open the pictures from the menu). If the two open windows sit on top of each other, make the overall working window larger and move the two image windows.
  • Add a point to either image by first selecting the plus sign and then clicking on a spot on either image. The app will guess where you want that point on the other image.
  • If the guessed point needs correction, select the arrow icon and then move the point.
  • When the mouse is over any of the already added points on either image, lingering over it will cause the corresponding point on the other image to have a circle around it to kind of say "here I am".
  • Do enough points... more is better.
  • Do a File > Project > Save As if you want to re-open the same project later, as we do in Movie Maker and Photo Story. A good idea.
  • Animation PeriodSet the Animation Period using the main menu > Morph > Period. The period is the total number of frames you want in the saved video clip. I did all mine for 5 seconds at 30 frames per second, so I entered 150.
  • When you have enough points and have adjusted them as you want, and you're ready to create the morph video clip, press the avi icon... you'll step through a few little option windows about


    • scaling... if you want less than the full size of the images
    • save as... for your folder and file name
    • AVI frame rate... I picked 30 to align with my usual NTSC video project
    • video compression... defaults to full frames-uncompressed... I picked 'Microsoft Windows Media Video 9, pressed the configure button... pumped up the performance meter so it was on better quality instead of faster rendering... and changed the quality level from the default of 80 to 95.
    • pressing OK after that starts the rendering process, which is pretty quick on a fast computer that is making a clip with only 150 frames

You've now got an AVI file rendered with the WMV9 compressor, which works fine in Movie Maker. You may have noticed other options for saving the animation... a flash SWF file, or an animated GIF. They work too.

Sqirlz Morph
Click image for larger view

That's enough to help you start using it. There are other features you can explore, such as using more than 2 images at the same time for a more complex morph.

Conclusions and Closing

I think the visual smoothness you can achieve when bouncing around from story to still pix, to video clip, to a morphed clip... to whatever, is as good as you can want or expect it to be!!!

The Squirtz Water Reflection app works as well as the morphing one, and can handle adding water to video files, not just still pictures. I haven't tried doing anything yet with Squirtz Lite.

I talked with Randon the other night about what to say if someone is interested in using his music, as his website isn't setup yet to do it... the bottom line is I'm free to act as his agent and sell his music for non-commercial or small-scale commercial use like mine. I have 4 of his albums (62 tracks total) and most of what I'm making lately uses pieces from them. If you hear anything you'd like to use, ask for a price or make an offer for a track or album. For larger commercial uses, you should contact Randon Myles via his 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):

#99 - April 15 - open

#100 - April 22 - open (I'll call this one the 2nd anniversary issue... 100 makes a good point for a digital newsletter... versus 52 weeks in an analog year)

#101 - April 29 - 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 is additional source of very 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, I 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 Photo Story

Monday - June 5 - 7-8:30 pm - Workshop

Monday - July 10 - 7-8:30 pm - Intro to Movie Maker and Photo Story

Monday - August 7 - 7-8:30 pm - Workshop

The classroom has a large screen overhead projection system... and individual laptops for each attendee to use. You learn by doing, with a little guidance from me.

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 $75 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.

© 2006 - PapaJohn

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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