Which ones work in MM2?
What formats are needed for discs, tapes, etc?
This newsletter topic was requested by one of the subscribers. I figured that was almost too
easy for a full newsletter... until I sat down to write it. It's enough.
I thought I knew what a file format was, but when I did some homework in MM2's Help file, I find
it hard to distinguish a file format from a file type from
a file extension.
Searching MM2's Help for 'format' shows that the word is used to distinguish
PAL digital video from NTSC. But it also uses the word in the context of 'Windows Media Format'
video files (WMV) versus other formats such as MPEG. It says that you can capture source material
into Windows Media format or import other common file formats. It refers to video WMV and audio
WMA files in the context of them being part of the underlying technology of Windows Media Format
(so maybe one format and two file types?).
The 'Getting Started' page of the Help file says that the page about supported file types lists
the formats that you can use, and then proceeds to tell you what file types are supported by
giving a list of file name extensions. And this kind of relates to the pick
list of file types/extensions you see when you go to import one.
I'll chew on such things in this newsletter, but won't get hung up in a semantics debate where
there are individual preferences but no standards.... I'm interpreting the request to mean the
various file types and extensions, not the formats (I hope anyway).
A couple things before continuing with the weekly topic:
4 of the newsletters sent out last week bounced, 3 of them to hotmail accounts.
Free email space for hotmail accounts is limited, and your folder of sent emails counts toward
the total. With HTML formatting and embedded pictures in the newsletters, I can understand
them being too big for your hotmail account. I'll just note it.... and leave it up to you
to manage your mail. I've had some change from their hotmail account to another. I won't
be sending follow-up notes to let you know your newsletter bounced.
The topic of the first newsletter was High Definition and I've continued to explore it. I've
studied the properties of many of the new dual disc DVD/WMV-HD packs, and
added a new branch to the website - WMV-HD. I think High Definition is here to stay and at
least some Movie Maker users are interested in it. I developed custom profiles which emulate
the 720p and 1080p video files and put them on the website for your downloading.
Some Basics about Source File Types
The 3 kinds of file types you can import are shown in the 3 lines
of the import pick list: audio/music, pictures, and video. Movie Maker 2 handles each of these
differently.... the only hybrid type is an animated gif file that MM2 handles a like a still
picture when first importing, and then like a video clip once its in.
File extensions are sometimes unique for a file type... sometimes
not. You are free to rename a file extension to anything you want. Changing a file extension
doesn't change the real nature of a file.... it's the same file type. You might swear that you
have an AVI file, but it might just be an MOV file that's been renamed.
I just played a DV-AVI file, then renamed it to change the extension to MOV. Double-clicking
it in my file browser still results in the file opening and playing fine in my default player.
But, if I try to play it in the Quick Time player, here's the error message I get.
A real MOV file would open in the Quick Time player.
There are thousands of different file extensions out there. Here's one reference
Windows checks the file extension to determine what software should be used to open a file,
but the software checks the internal information in the file and knows what to do. The file
extension is a great clue about the nature of the file, but it's not an absolute.
Sometimes I see posts about someone saying they changed a file by renaming the
extension.... and it worked for what they were doing, reinforcing their belief that you can convert
a file simply by renaming it. You can't, but the issue can be cause for confusion, especially
when it works.
Exercise - What Happens if you Change the Extension Name?
Let's take a test clip, a WMV file with both video and audio in
it. With the extension of WMV, Movie Maker will import and use it as a video clip with audio.
Rename the file to WMA before importing and Movie Maker will treat
it mostly as an audio file. It won't create a new collection for it, and it'll use the generic
music note thumbnail. The only exception will be that, when previewing it, you'll not only hear
the audio stream, but you'll see the video as if it were a video clip.
But try dragging the clip to the project timeline and you won't
be able to use it on the video track. You called it a WMA file so MM2 will consider it an audio/music
clip. The basic nature of the file comes across when you preview it in the collection, but the
file extension stops it from being used as a video clip in a project.
Rename it again, this time to an MOV extension, and MM2 won't import
it. Here's the error message.
Yup, it's still a WMV file, but now you can't get it into a collection.
MM2 obviously doesn't like MOV files.
Staying with this one a bit more, rename it again using AVI (or
MPG)... and it'll import, but act almost just like a WMA file. Previews OK, gets the generic
music icon and only goes onto the music/audio track. The only difference is that MM2 creates
a new collection for it.
So you can change file extension names and get files to be treated
differently, but you can't change their nature. Movie Maker 2 likes video source files that are
both the right type and with the appropriate extension.
Is this so for still pictures too? No!!! Take a JPG file and rename
it to BMP or GIF. MM2 will import, preview and use any of them fine. Open them in IrfanView and
it'll tell you that the BMP and GIF files have the wrong extension, and offer to change it (but
it doesn't make you). MM2 doesn't seem to notice; I guess a picture is a picture, regardless
of extension name.
The only purpose of these exercises is to drive home the differences
between file types (which I consider the basic nature of a file) and it's file extension. It
reminds me of someone who changes their last name; same person, same nature, just a different
Which ones work in MM2?
The full process of making movies, from taking pictures and video to watching your production
on a TV or monitor, has lots of parts and can be pretty complex, as you know.
But, if you're like me, most of the files you work with will be coming from usual sources, and
you know how they work in Movie Maker. If they need conversion first, you'll have your standard
tools to do it. And you tools will probably be different than mine. We learn by testing the tools
we have and using those that give good results. The more files you handle, the more proficient
you'll be in doing the process, and the better you'll be at spotting the file exception, the
one that doesn't act or feel right.
I'm assuming that you're over the hurdles of starting up your MM2... no hardware acceleration,
codec or Direct X issues that cause your program or system to crash or run poorly. If you can
easily and successfully edit short movies (a couple dozen clips, a few minutes for the timeline,
with transitions, effects, text, narration, etc.), then you can assume that issues with imported
files reflect more on the files rather than your system or MM2 installation. But you shouldn't
blame any issues on file formats, types or extensions if you have basic problems with MM2 itself.
When I'm working with the first file from a new source, such as one e-mailed to me from an MM2
user to help resolve a problem, I'll first run a virus check on it, then I'll look at its file
properties, then import and check it in MM2. If it's a video, picture or audio file, it might
work... and it might not. It's easier and quicker to try it than it is to figure out if it's
on the approved list.
When a file seems to import and go into the project OK, but the project acts up during editing
or saving as a movie, it's usually related to a codec, and the source file should be converted
first. In conversion of video files, aim toward AVI files, even if it's already an AVI (like
an AVI compressed with the Divx codec converted to another AVI file using a different codec).
The Help file with MM2 says you can import video files with these extensions:
.asf, .avi, .m1v, .mp2, .mp2v, mpe, mpeg, .mpg, .mpv2, .wm, and .wmv..... but it's not a given
that a file will work if it has one of those extensions. The MPEG2 file type that MM2 has problems
with may have an .mpg extension. If it's on the list, but doesn't work.... you'll still need
to resolve it.
For picture files the types listed in MM2 Help are: bmp, dib, emf, gif, jfif,
jpe, jpeg, jpg, png, tif, tiff, and wmf.
Picture files don't need to be cropped or resized unless you don't like black borders. If that's
the case, then you need to align their shapes with the standard 4:3 and widescreen 16:9 aspect
ratio that you're working at.
Animated GIF files deserve a few words - a GIF file might be a still image or an animated one.
Movie Maker doesn't know which one it is until it's imported, so it imports it as if it's a still
picture. But once in the collection it knows its like a video clip so it treats it as a video
from that point. This is great for getting your animation into a Movie Maker project, but unless
it's shaped like the aspect ratio you use, it'll be squeezed or squashed as needed to fit the
working ratio. If it continued to treat it as a still picture, it would be shaped right with
And per the Help info, audio files with extensions
of aif, aifc, .au, .mp2, .mp3, .mpa, .snd, .wav, and .wma will work. The more difficult issues
with such files have to do with bitrates, sample rates and other audio file properties.
MM1 narration files are captured as WAV files. MM2 narrations are
WMA. So I'd expect those two file types to work the best.
What formats are needed for discs, tapes, etc?
Tapes are easy, assuming it's a digital camcorder
tape, either mini-DV or digital8.... the file on the tape is the same as a DV-AVI
file on your computer. When you use MM2 to save it to tape, it makes a temporary DV-AVI file
on your computer and copies it to the tape.
You can also save it first to your hard drive as a DV-AVI file,
and then use a utility such as WinDV to copy it from there to the camcorder. Doing it in
two steps lets you more easily try again if the saving process wasn't successful or camcorder
tape playback isn't smooth. You don't have to render it again.
There have been lots of positive posts about experience using
the WinDV utility. Here's the link to download it:
Disc burning to play on computers
is also easy.... just copy a saved WMV file to a standard blank CD. It'll
play on other computers just like it plays on yours.
The world of TV viewing is different than
computer viewing. Those discs require MPEG (Moving Picture Experts Group)
files, MPEG1 for VCDs and MPEG2 for SVCDs and DVDs. Save your MM2 movies using either WMV
or DV-AVI formats, and use your disc authoring/burning software to convert them to MPEG files.
DV-AVI files are the best quality if headed toward a DVD....
but the differences between starting with a DV-AVI file and a high quality WMV file are not
That's as far as I'll take this subject in this newsletter.
It would be easy to take off into other topics such as codecs, audio issues, the steps involved
in converting files, and other related items. But I'm trying to limit it this newsletter
to file types.
I'm involved in many things that support the users of Movie Maker and PhotoStory, and adding more
daily. Here's a list of those that are available to the public. Some are free and others are reasonably
Wrote 14 hacks that will be included in a new O'Reilly book about Windows Media Hacks
When ordering these books, I'd appreciate you using the links to Amazon on the main page of