PapaJohn Productions


Movie Maker - Saving Movies - Custom WMV Profiles

Movie Maker provides many options for saving a WMV format movie. But there are often reasons to use a different one.

The three embedded ones on this page illustrate it. I also at times want to save a movie using the version 7 codec so people using Windows 95 (I was told that, but don't have Win 95 to test it - let me know) can see it.

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Newsletter #90 is about various shapes and sizes of movies and stories. Click the image to read it.

Newsletter 90

Newsletter 149

Newsletter 149 is about profiles and custom profiles... used by all versions of Movie Maker, by Photo Story 3, and by the Encoders.

Click the image to view it.

Another reason for a custom profile is to have a mono audio track instead of stereo, as built into Movie Maker. Sometimes better audio comes by giving the full energy to a single track, rather than dividing the energy into two equal but lesser quality ones for stereo.

PapaJohn Comment

The ability to create and use custom profiles is a really great feature of Movie Maker:

You can make tiny sized movies to play on a postage-stamped size square on a web site.

You can make odd sized movies like the two on this page.

And you can make very large high quality movies that far exceed the quality of a DVD and even that of HD720 or 1080.

It's a fun area to explore, and once you find the perfect profiles for your work, you can easily select them from the listing in your Movie Maker picklist.

...the custom profiles you make for MM2 in XP work fine in Vista's Movie Maker 6 and MM2.6, and in Windows Live Movie Maker on Vista and Windows 7.

Note: the Windows Media 9 profile editor described here is no longer provided by Microsoft. Links to it take you to the newer Windows Expression Encoder, which includes a feature to change profiles. Windows Live Movie Maker 2011 also includes the feature.

One user in a corporate environment needed MPEG-4 encoded videos... Movie Maker, using a custom profile, can render using the ISO MPEG-4 video V1 codec... the MPEG-4 option may not be on your computer until you download and install the legacy option of the Windows Media 9 Series Codec Installation Package (see the Setup > Other Software page).

It's easier than you might think, using the Windows Media Profile Editor. On the other hand, it might be pretty technical and intimidating. One good thing is that, once you have some profiles developed, you can send copies to others who share your interests in using customized ones.

Microsoft Tutorial: Creating Custom Profiles for Windows Movie Maker

Custom Profile Library

As I develop or get copies of custom profiles that work particularly well, I'll provide them for download. Place them in your c:\Program Files\Movie Maker\Shared\Profiles folder (manually create it if it doesn't exist). Restart Movie Maker so you'll see them in the list of choices when saving your movie.

If using MM2.6 put the custom profiles in the c:\Program Files (x86)\Movie Maker 2.6\Shared Profiles folder.

Other pages of the website have custom profiles specific to the subject... such as the Distribute Movies > YouTube page.

  • I'll start with two made for presentations at a Toronto-area photography club, essentially slide-shows. They considered the first one of sufficient quality and settled on using it:



  • There are a couple profiles that emulate the 720p and 1080i quality levels of WMV-HD files... the links are on the WMV-HD > Intro page in the Comment box.

  • Vimeo is a popular online host for movies and stories. As PS3 stories are standard 4:3 aspect ratio by default, some Vimeo users such as Jan and Leo need a Movie Maker HD sized profile that retains the standard 4:3 ratio... for their high quality stories when processed through Movie Maker on their way to Vimeo.

    Vimeo - 960x720 Profile

  • The Portable Media Centers (PMCs) that were introduced in September 2004 will work in conjunction with version 10 of the Windows Media Player to get video files. WMP10 will transcode any video file that doesn't align with the specs for the PMC. If your target player is a PMC and you want to avoid this transcoding time when syncing or getting ready to sync, here's a custom profile to use.

    Portable Media Center Profile

  • Here are two profiles intended to help you go down the path toward DVDs by using high quality WMV files instead of DV-AVI (avoiding the generational loss and audio issues associated with DV-AVI files).

    Heading to DVD - NTSC - 720x480

    Heading to DVD - PAL - 720x576

    ... when testing my new HP laptop with MCE2005 and MyDVD 6.1.0, I noticed that some of my widescreen movies didn't display as widescreen on the DVDs... but only when using custom profiles. Movie Maker and the Windows Media Player read the widescreen tag in the movie file and display it appropriately, but MyDVD goes by the pixel dimensions. When the video size in the profile is 856x480 (for NTSC), MyDVD shows the widescreen movies as you expect.

    I don't know if other DVD software handles them the same way... here's a profile with the same settings as the one above but with widescreen 16:9 dimensions.

    Heading to DVD - NTSC - widescreen - 856x480

    Playing Odd-Sized Movies in Various Players

    You can't watch a digital movie without a player. And, if you get into making movies with features that vary from the normals, be aware of how they might play back in various viewers. For example, for the 510x186 pixel size video that I have on the introduction page of the Do Amazing Things online companion, I've checked some players and found:

    Movie Maker's preview monitor - shows it at the aspect ratio selected in your options (either 4:3 or 16:9 ratio), not the size defined in the custom profile. It can only be that way because you don't select the profile until the point of saving the movie.

    Internet browsers - the embedded movie plays fine in Internet Explorer 6, but not in other browsers such as Netscape 7 or Opera 5.12. Here's an odd-sized version 9 WMV file to test the playback on your browser. It's 850x60 pixels in dimensions, 838KB in size, and made of a half dozen clips using a custom PIP XML file... big enough so it might take a minute to start.

    Odd Size Movie

    Windows Media Player - odd-sized movies rendered with V7, 8 or 9 video codecs play fine in version 7.01 of the player. In WMP9 they play OK too, but the aspect ratio of the MM2 option setting is used instead of the dimensions defined in the custom profile. It seems that Movie Maker 2 is setting the pixel aspect ratio attributes when it really shouldn't be, which results in playback not sized as intended. This is only important if you want use the odd-sized video in this player.

    Other Players - movies rendered with the V9 video codec play fine in IrfanView's multimedia player, but the V7 and 8 codecs don't.

    Step 1 - Install the Profile Editor

    The Profile Editor is a utility bundled with Microsoft's Windows Media Encoder package. It's no longer provided by Microsoft... if you don't already have it, use either Windows Expression Encoder or Windows Live Movie Maker 2011, both of which have profile editing and producing features included in them.

    If you already have the Windows Media 9 Encoder package, there's no need to open the encoder software to start making your custom profiles.

    Tall and Thin

    Step 2 - Set Up Your First Custom Profile

    You'll need a profile file (PRX extension) to start things off. If you need one, here's one to download to get you started. Just download it to your c:\Program Files\Movie Maker\Shared\Profiles folder.

    Personal Starting Profile

    A great place to study the various options for your custom profiles is the Settings folder of the Windows Media Encoder software. There are 82 profiles in it, and the file names are very descriptive of the profile settings. You can use one or more of those profiles to get your starting one(s).

    Once the profile is in the folder, double-click it. If all is working fine, the profile will open in the Profile Editor utility and you can start to explore it.

    You're now ready to make your own profiles by tweaking the settings in this starter one, and using the Export... button of the utility to create the new custom profile(s).

    Your custom profiles will appear in the pick list of choices to save a movie the next time you start Movie Maker 2. Note that the name in the pick list won't be the file name; it'll be the name you gave the profile within the Profile Editor.

    Custom profiles can use version 7, 8, or 9 video codecs, make PAL or NTSC movies, have multiple bitrate files embedded in a single file for streaming video, have video sizes of 800x600 or higher, have whatever frame rate you select, mono or stereo audio, etc. It's a powerful utility. Besides the small display size for my home page movie, I have a custom profile that provides an 800x600 movie that is equivalent to the movies saved by PhotoStory, and another for the odd-sized movie that plays on the introductory page of the Do Amazing Things online companion.

    In addition to the standard version video codecs, you can opt for MPEG-4 encoding or full uncompressed files. They render fine in Movie Maker and play in the Windows Media Player. File sizes of the MPEG-4 ones are comparable to using Version 7. The uncompressed ones are almost 100 times larger. The version 9 ones are the smallest of the files, about 5 to 10 percent less than version 7. Your choice of a codec version is probably better made by your target audience than it is by file size.

    If you save a new custom profile and it doesn't appear in the pick list when you open Movie Maker and try to use it, then one of the parameters you used isn't aligned with what Movie Maker is capable of doing (or you forgot to change the profile name within the profile itself). If you opt for a video size of 'same as video input' and the profile doesn't appear, change the setting to the dimensions you want.

    In January 2004, the first 2-disc (one DVD and the other WMV-HighDefinition) set of big-screen movies was released. The Coral Reef Adventure movie was originally created for IMAX Theatres. The WMV-HD disc has two versions of the movie, one in 1280x720 size and the other in 1440x1080. The smaller of the 2 runs smoothly on my 2.4 GHz CPU laptop. The larger one needs a 3 GHz to play smoothly. I studied the parameters of the movie and created a custom profile so I can save my personal widescreen movies at that level of quality. It works great... but Movie Maker is limited to 2 channel stereo audio versus the surround sound of the Coral Reef Adventure. If you want to try it, here's a copy of my custom profile.

    WMV-HighDefinition-Widescreen-1280x720 Profile

    Newsletter 94

    Newsletter #94 is about the HD 1080 VC-1 profile of Movie Maker in beta versions of Vista (not included in the final release)... and custom profiles for Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story 3 that align with its settings. Click the image to read it.

    Sample Video Clips

    Here's a sample high resolution WMV file that was made from a single 3008x1960 pixel picture (BMP format). 6 ease in and Pixelan pan/zoom effects were added to achieve a PhotoStory type effect. Then the movie was saved from Movie Maker 2 using a custom profile at a video size of 1504x980.

    High Rez Pan Zoom Sample

    It'll test your computer - a powerful one will run it smoothly. On less powerful ones, it might look like a slide show rather than a smoothly zooming in movie. The sample is 4.6 MB and runs for 14 seconds. I'm zooming toward a home on Monterey Bay that we lived in once for a few months.

    Using the Profile Editor

    Here's what the Profile Editor looks like when you first open the downloaded Personal-Starting-Profile. The utility includes a help file with some detailed information.

    After changing the settings, use the Save and Close button at the bottom if you are saving the changes to the profile you are working on. If you are cloning the settings to create a new profile, use the Export... button at the upper right to save the new one and then be careful not to save the one you started with... or it'll overwrite the one you are copying from. it's truly an export command, not a 'Save As' one.

    In the editor you'll have a General tab and a bitrate specific tab. Don't use the 'ADD' button to add a second bitrate specific one. That feature is to use with the Encoder, which can make compound wmv files with more than one bitrate stream in it. Movie Maker is limited to one stream... one tab.

    Profile Encoder - General

    Import... Open an existing .prx profile.

    Export... Save the settings as a new .prx file. The folder for your Movie Maker custom profiles is \Program Files\Movie Maker\Shared\Profiles

    If the custom profile does not appear in the Other settings drop-down box in Movie Maker 2, try revising the profile using different settings. Although the profile you created may be valid, the specific settings in the profile might not be supported in Windows Movie Maker.

    Name: the name that appears in the Other settings drop-down box in Windows Movie Maker. Note that it's not the file name that appears in the list. It's a good idea to keep the internal name in this entry consistent with the file name.

    Description (optional): Whatever you want to say about the profile

    Language: Select the language for the content. (The default is the lanaguage of the encoding computer.) If you encode content in different languges, users can select their language during playback.

    Media types

    Audio - check the box. It won't work if you uncheck the audio option, but if you have a video without audio, you can select a zero bitrate audio, which effectively reduces the size of the file as if the box was unchecked.

    Select CBR or Quality VBR in the drop-down box. Movie Maker supports constant bit rate (CBR) or quality-based variable bit rate (Quality VBR) encoding modes only. When creating profiles for use with Windows Movie Maker, you must choose one of these two encoding modes.

    In the Codec drop-down box for audio, select the Windows Media Audio 9 codec that best matches the type of content you plan to capture or save in Windows Movie Maker.

    Video - check the box

    Select either CBR or Quality VBR in the drop-down box.

    Newsletter 95

    Newsletter #95 is about the quality setting when using a quality-based VBR profile. Click the image to read it.

    In the Codec drop-down box for video, select Windows Media version. To capture and save the highest quality content in Windows Movie Maker 2, it is suggested that you choose the Windows Media Video 9 codec whenever possible.

    The drop-down box also lists previous versions of the Windows Media Video codec, such as Windows Media Video V7 or Windows Media Video V8. You might use one of these codecs if you think some of your audience will watch your movie on computers that are not running the Microsoft Windows operating system, or if members of your audience will watch your movie on computers running previous versions of the Windows operating system, such as Windows NT 4.0, 2000 or Windows 95.

    A custom profile can only contain one audio stream and one video stream. Other streams, such as scripts, are not supported in Windows Movie Maker.

    Newsletter 70

    Newsletter #70 is about the MPEG-4 choice in the drop down list. Click the image to read it.

    Target bit rates

    Add... or Edit a target bit rate. The detailed settings are on page 2 of the form.

    Video format: Check Custom if your goal is an odd-size.

    Allow interlace processing - Don't check it

    Allow nonsquare pixel output - leave it unchecked... the 12/9/03 post below says differently, but a couple users had problems using my custom profiles, which they resolved by unchecking the option... all my downloadable custom profiles are now unchecked.

    Some of my custom profiles for Photo Story 3 had the nonsquare option checked, which resulted in Adobe Premiere Elements 3 not being able to see the visual of the stories. I resolved it by unchecking the option.

    Profile Encoder - Bitrate

    Audio format: Select from mono and stereo. Note that the bottom choice of 0 kbps mono is the right choice if you are not using the audio stream of your movie.

    And a 32 Kbps mono setting might sound better than a stereo setting.

    Video size: accepts 16 through 2000 pixels. It only works with even numbers, so if you want 99 pixels, use either 98 or 100. Profiles with 'Same as video input' selected won't show up in the list in Movie Maker.

    Frame rate: The amount that you adjust this value to depends on the speed of your computer processor and whether you are encoding high-motion or low-motion video. High-motion video generally looks smoother if you use a higher frame rate, but a higher frame rate increases the amount of work the processor must perform. The setting you specify represents the maximum fps. Depending on factors such as the video size setting and available bandwidth, the actual fps you achieve might be lower. Per the Help file, the frame rate setting for NTSC can be 60, 30, 15, 10 and 7.5 - and for PAL, the frame rate can be 50, 25, 12.5, 8.3, or 6.25

    Key frame interval: All frames between key frames are delta frames, which are considerably smaller than key frames but have poor visual quality. If you increase the time between key frames, the size of the video (in bytes) gets smaller because fewer key frames are used. If you decrease the time between key frames, the size of the video increases. Increase the key frame interval for content with a static background, such as cartoons. Decrease the key frame interval for high-motion content, such as a sporting event.

    Video bit rate: Enter a value for the bit rate followed by K for kilobits or M for megabits. This number is the total bit rate. The amount does not include the overhead required to accommodate network traffic. Remember that the video stream must share the available network bandwidth with any audio streams. If you are creating a quality-based VBR profile, you will not be prompted to type a bit rate. The target bit rate must be between 4 Kbps and 20 Mbps.

    When creating a profile and entering a bit rate value, it is important to keep in mind that higher bit rates require a fast computer with enough system resources to capture video, edit a project, and save and play back a movie. If your computer does not have enough system resources to capture video or save the movie by using a higher profile setting, you notice a decrease in the quality of your captured video and saved movies. If this occurs, reduce the bit rate in your custom profile or choose a lower setting in Windows Movie Maker 2.

    Buffer size: the number of seconds that you want content to be stored before encoding begins. A larger buffer results in better quality content, but requires more memory. When you encode content, the encoding process is delayed by the amount of time specified in the buffer; the content is also delayed by the same amount of time when streaming to a player. When streaming a broadcast, the content played in the Player runs behind the live event by the amount of time that you specify in Buffer size.

    The default buffer size is 5 seconds. So checking the 'Use default' option grays out the entry box and uses the 5 seconds.

    Video smoothness: Type a number from 0 through 100, with 0 yielding the smoothest image and 100 yielding the clearest image. Video appears smooth when objects move easily from one position to another on the screen and the edges of objects are not jagged. Video appears clear when images and motion are well-defined and clearly delineated. As you increase the clarity, the video becomes less smooth. Keep in mind that increasing the clarity can affect the frame rate, depending on the video. For example, if your video contains a lot of motion, increasing the clarity may decrease the frames per second.

    Video Smoothness Setting

    Smoothness Versus Sharpness
    0 to 19 Smoothest
    20 to 39 Smoother
    40 to 59 Balanced
    60 to 79 Sharper
    80 to 100 Sharpest

    Decoder complexity: If you're targeting a hardware device other than a computer, you can specify a category of complexity for the content being encoded. Some hardware devices only support certain categories. (Refer to the documentation for your device for more information.) Note that the Complex option is intended for playback on computers. Typically, you should select Auto, which enables the correct complexity setting to be selected automatically during encoding.

    Script bit rate: Movie Maker doesn't support scripts in custom profiles


    7/26/06 (PapaJohn) - I was reading posts about some of my custom profiles not working due to missing codecs... and traced the issue to the WMVA call in the profile, when it opts for the professional video codec... reinstalled WMP10 to see if it would install the missing codec... and it did, so it had something to do with auto updates of WMP. To minimize future issues, I revised the downloadable profiles to call on the standard video 9 codec instead of the the professional one.

    12/9/03 (Microsoft) - when you're looking for the best WMV profile you'll want it to be 720x480 if you're planning on burning a DVD or going back to tape. In the Encoder's profile editor you'll need to check the setting 'Allow non-square pixel output' to get this to work properly.

    NTSC video is 720x480, and the pixels are non-square (they're 10:11 like skinny pixels) - both of these statements have been fervently debated by video professionals, but for the purposes of this explanation we can assume this is true. Your computer monitor can only show square pixels, so for all intents and purposes, 640x480 video looks the same on a PC as 720x480. Your TV doesn't have "pixels" per say (more like scan lines), so you'll see a difference between 640x480 and 720x480 video.

    You should keep in mind that higher bitrate WMV files require more CPU power to play back (and edit), so you may want to balance performance/quality.