PapaJohn's Newsletter #51 - April 30, 2005

Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story

 

 
 
Civil War Project - part III

 
We started a Civil War project in newsletter #42, rounding up some source files, making a project template of a marked trail for a PhotoStory... then in issue #46 we reviewed what we had and picked the theme of 'Gettysburg'. We had only started to think about what to pull together to flesh out the project.
 
This issue is the third part of the series, where we'll start to assemble some clips in earnest, as we work toward the theme. Here's a link to the 2+ minute clip made in the tutorial section...
 
Gettysburg - the Battle
 
We'll go through making it, a good exercise in using a few of our software tools... PhotoStory, VirtualDub, Movie Maker 1, and Movie Maker 2... each contributing things they are good at.
 
 
... before getting into it, a couple notes about current items...
 

 
Items of Note
 
Jason Dunn did it!!! I hadn't seen a professional use of PhotoStory 3 before his product review of HP's new optical dual-layer DVD writers - Not only was I interested in how he had used PhotosStory 3, the content was such that, as I passed them on a shelf in Circuit City the next day I thought '... those who buy them won't know there's a key piece of software missing...', unless they've seen Jason's review.
 

 
Re-capturing a digital camcorder file: In February, out of desperation and having nothing more to lose (the DV-AVI source file for a project was gone), someone recaptured the digital camcorder footage to try to replace it... and was surprised when it worked. I checked at the time to confirm what she found and it seemed to be effective. This week I went back to take a closer look. I'm glad I did.
 
When you open Movie Maker, it checks that the source files associated with clips in your collections are still there. It does the same when you open a project file, a quick check that the source files are in place and ready for use. The checking is a cursory one... if the drive, path and file name matches what is stored in the collection database or project file, then it considers it present and accounted for. If it doesn't find it, the thumbnail image gets replaced with a big red X.
 
What it doesn't do is open the source file to be sure its content hasn't changed. That, in itself, allows you to slip in a replacement DV-AVI file (in the same location and with the same name)... I wondered how close the replacement needs to be to the original when Movie Maker needs to open the file and use the content... how different can the files be? What if the starting frame of the replacement file is not the same as the original??
 
I found that Movie Maker will never know if the replacement is aligned with the original. The only time it'll open and check it is if the drive letter, path or file name is different... and you try to resolve the red-X by browsing to the replacement file. At that point it won't accept anything less than an exact replacement, which works fine when you copy or move a source file to another folder.
 
It can be as different as you want. If the original source file was a 10 minute 720x480 DV-AVI source file of a dog, and you replace it with a 10 second 320x240 WMV file of a cat, it'll assume it's OK and use it. Just put the replacement file in the same folder with the same name, including the file extension... if the original ended with AVI because it was captured from a digital camcorder, and you replace it with a WMV, it'll continue to use it if your renaming includes the AVI extension.
 
The editing in the project file will continue to work with the replacement file... if it runs out of frames because the replacement file is shorter, you'll have edited blackness complete with transitions, effects, titles, etc. Throughout the editing and rendering of a movie, you'll never get an error message. The thumbnails in the collection and projects won't change. They are embedded in the collection database and project .MSWMM files, not dynamically re-created from the source file each time.
 
This feature can come in handy, or set you up for serious problems...
 
 
.... on to the main topic
 

 
The Initial Approach to Gettysburg - the Battle
 
The downloaded video of the Civil War (newsletter issue #42) started with Lincoln going to Gettysburg for his famous address... and then flashed backwards in time to the battle itself. Its rendition of the battle was from ground level.
 
To be different, and because of the source material collected, I decided to create a clip of an aerial rendition of the battle... we can use the clips from both as the project takes shape.
 
We already had a scan of an old map, and some aerial images from the NASA World Wind software. Add to those some footage from last July's Chicago fireworks show... and make a clip that would be a good lead-in to the battle portion of the Gettysburg story.
 

 
Gather Some Fireworks Footage
 
I wondered if footage of a fireworks show could sufficiently simulate small arms and cannon fire. I used MM2 to trim a 103 second segment from and saved it as a DV-AVI file (type I).
 
The video showed trees and lampposts in the foreground, and the fireworks were shooting upwards as usual. To crop the treeline and change the angle of the shooting, we'll use VirtualDub. Movie Maker is limited to rotating in 90 degree increments and we need a lesser angle.
 
... VirtualDub can only use a type II DV-AVI files, so a quick side trip through MM1 rendered a type II DV-AVI from the type I.VirtualDub - Cropping
 
You can use multiple filters in Virtual Dub in one pass, but for ease of understanding, let's do the cropping in one pass and the rotations in others.
 
Each pass will be rendered to a new DV-AVI file using the Panasonic DV Codec (the Microsoft DV codec doesn't appear in the list of choices).
 

 
Virtual Dub - First Filter Pass - Crop Out the Chicago Trees and Lampposts...
 
After opening the clip in VirtualDub, use Video > Filters > Add > resize > New width of 720 and new height of 480 (the same size we're starting with, but we'll be resizing the cropped segment, and the Panasonic DV codec won't work if it's not being rendered to a 720x480 file) > OK. That'll add the resize filter to the process.
 
With the resize filter highlighted, press the Cropping... button to the lower right of the Filters window... to open the working window you see at the above right.
 
The treeline of the Chicago shore was at the bottom of the video... moving the bottom border up (the Y2 offset control at the lower left) to crop 82 pixels off the image was enough to keep the trees and lampposts out of sight.
 
To keep the aspect ratio the same, take the same percentage of pixels off the width... my calculator said we need to take 122 pixels off the width. (480 original height - 82 = 398 pixels left, 17.08% of the height was taken off... so take 17.08% off the width (17.08% of 720 = 122, which leaves 598). Split the 122 pixels appropriately, pulling the left border (X1 offset) in by 82 pixels and the right border (X2 offset) in by 40 pixels. Once it passes the math test and eyeballing it confirm it looks OK, you're done.
 
The resize filter is now set to take the cropped 598x398 image and render it to a new file at 720x480.
 
... set the compression codec (the default is uncompressed, so don't forget to set the compression codec)...  Video > Compression > Panasonic DV Codec > OK.
 
... save the file using File > Save as AVI > file name and location > Save. The re-rendering took about 3 minutes (on a 2.4 GHz computer).
CroppedClip
 
The figure at the left shows the before and after clips in Virtual Dub, at one of the bright spots in the clip, when you can see the trees being cropped off.
 
From the newly saved file, it's time to make another pass to rotate clip...
 

 
Virtual Dub - 2nd Filter Pass - Rotate the Video to Suit the New Use...
 
Open the new clip and use the > Video > filters > Add > rotate2 filter for fine rotation control.
 
Check a few different angles by looking at the preview. When you like what you see, use it. When going counter-clockwise by 70 degrees, use a negative angle like this one of -70.000 degrees. Rotate2
 
Rotated minus 70
The setting has the fireworks being shot off at a 20 degree angle above the horizon, from the left (check it visually using the filter preview feature)... another 3 minutes to render the new video clip.
 
For the answering shots from the other side at Gettysburg, keep the file open and use the rotate2 filter again, setting it to another angle. Let's use a positive 30 degrees (later I thought it would be better if I had used something like positive 60, but I didn't go back to make a new one... not yet).
 
The second fireworks (now gunfire) clip will be shooting at an angle from the right side toward the left.
 
After another rendering we now have two 'shooting clips' at different angles.
 

 
Put the Gunfire Simulation Together in Movie Maker
 
First the Audio: We have left and right shooting clips for a 30 second visual... but the Chicago orchestra was playing in sync with the fireworks, and the best I could find with good fireworks noise, no orchestra notes, and no serious crowd noise was a 3 second segment.. it had lots of staccato type small firearms sounds, with some cannon type booms. But it was pretty short.
 
Mix the 3 second audio clip in Movie Maker, adding it to the audio/music track a few times... overlapping the clips a different amount each time, and raising or lowering the volume of each clip.... for variety. Similarly, use the 9 second audio clip to build into a 32 second audio to align with the visual clip duration. If you use a simple repeating 3 second clip, it'll be a bit like the routine sounds from a big clock with a steadily swinging pendulum or the rythmic lapping of waves coming ashore... a battle is more chaotic and the audio needs the variety that Movie Maker can add so easily.
 
Combine the Video and Audio: Overlap the two shooting clips to get some crossfire as the first clip fades into the second...
 
It help it not look too much like sideways fireworks, use the 'Threshold' effect on both clips... to make them seem more like explosions. Here's what the completed 32 second cross-fire project looks like.
 
Gunfire Simulation

 
Gettysburg - Aerial Story
Aerial Story
 
Whenever it's time to assemble still pictures that need panning or zooming, open PhotoStory 3.
 
The first picture is a section of the scanned antique map, with Gettysburg circled in red (in Paint). Set the motion duration to use 26 seconds.
 
Why 26 seconds? To sync the pace of the still pictures with the narration file from the old documentary video... use Movie Maker 2 to rip the audio track to a wma audio file, and have PhotoStory use it as the background music.
 
That lets you include the audio each time you preview one of the pictures in the story, and make the duration adjustments you need.
 
... the rest of the pictures go in with their durations set similarly.
 
A far shot of Gettysburg with the NASA World Wind app was next, for 17 seconds... the zooming/panning toward it continued.
 
5 closer up images from World Wind, the first one marked 'Little Round Top' picture for 5 seconds, 'Devil's Den' for 14 seconds, 2 images of 'Cemetery Ridge' for 10 seconds and 5 seconds, and the last one of 'Pickett and Mead' for 54 seconds. I did all the annotating in Paint.
 

 
the Clip Assembly
 
The final step in this issue is to assemble the two clips, the story and the gunfire simulation clip. It's a simple project for Movie Maker 2.
 
The simulated gunfire clip is 32 seconds. Insert it in place of that many seconds of the last picture in the story, which has a duration of 54 seconds.
 
Add the full copy of the WMA narration file that was ripped from the Civil War documentary earlier. Use it as the overall audio track for this project.
 
Split the story clip, insert the gunfire simulation, and trim the last clip to align. Use the audio wave patterns to do the alignment, and when done mute the audio of the two story clips.
 
Gettysburg - Assembly A
 
Leave both the audio of the gunfire simulation clip and the Civil War documentary to play together... adding more variety and interest to that segment of the audio. The documentary narration includes small real firearms and cannon fire during that segment, to mix with the snaps, crackles and pops of the fireworks.
 
The link to the final rendered video clip was in the introductory paragraph. Here it is again, if you missed seeing it then.
 
Gettysburg - the Battle
 

 
Conclusions and Closing
 
The goal in this project isn't to make a better Civil War video than the downloaded documentary we started with... it's to get you more familiar and comfortable with using your various software tools.
 
You should be able to decide in a split second to do something in Virtual Dub, and not be confused or intimidated by having to convert a type I DV-AVI to a type II. And, if a filter applied in VirtualDub doesn't work just right, don't hesitate to go back and try again. It's usually easier to do those kinds of things than it is to think about them... provided you have your basic understanding and skills down pat.
 
As you use your tools more often, things will get easier and easier...
 
Remember too that rendering videos is always a time consuming process, but it's never a real-time process. You're free to continue using your computer to do other tasks as the rendering happens... for the past two hours I've been finishing this newsletter on my laptop and rendering a one hour DVD from source files on an external drive to a DVD project on the C drive... the two tasks don't conflict. 
 

 
Have a great week...
 
PapaJohn