PapaJohn Productions
Newsletter #128 - Dec 9, 2006
Vista's DVD Maker - Focus on Style

Starting with this issue, I'll open the newsletter with a summary of the main content... to make it easier for those who would rather stop just before the weekly notes or details.
And for those who want the rest of the story, it'll continue after the notes.

DVD Maker's Styles
I did some more testing of Vista's new DVD Maker app this week. I love the 20 animated menu styles, to the extent I'm focusing the issue on them. There's lots more to DVD Maker for future issues, such as including a slide show with your movies.
I wanted to show more than static pictures of animated styles. To do it, I made a set of 20 DVDs, one for each of the styles. I ripped the opening scenes from them and embedded a YouTube playlist to show them.
Click this link or image to go to my website page and view the various styles. They run from 16 to 23 seconds, showing just the opening animation.
Vista > DVD Maker
Website Page
Another neat animation happens when you select 'Scenes' and the disc moves from the main menu to the scenes menu... but that's for the future.

from Tape to DVD... not yet for me
When I first connected my camcorder, Vista offered to go directly from camcorder tape to DVD, using DVD Maker behind the scenes. I opted for each camcorder scene being imported as an individual wmv file, but the disc burning didn't succeed.
An hour of video on a tape divided by 99 scenes is an average of 36 seconds per scene.Error at 99% Newsletter #115 checked the pace of TV Ads and content... and found an average of 1-1/4 seconds for ads and 7-1/3 seconds for content. Camcorder scenes should be much longer, but 36 seconds seems like a lot.
In another attempt to use the folder of individual scenes, I opened DVD Maker and added the folder. It had the same limit of 99, but now I could choose to do a slow burn. It got further this time, to about 25% of the disc... but anything short of 100% isn't enough.

Maybe a medium speed burn?? Nope, it got exactly as far as the slow one, to about 1/4 done. I'm gauging how far it got by looking at the disc to see how much is physically etched. 
Maybe it can't make a DVD with 99 video files even though it accepts that many. That'll be OK for me, as a dozen or so videos is my usual maximum.
... before getting into more details, here are some notes...

Vista Corner... this newsletter is it for this week.

...this link provides a special 50% off the usual annual service price... for newsletter readers... good to Dec 31.... I'll keep it as a sticky note until then.

The orientation class at the Kalamazoo Community Access Center... was interesting. I got to hear about its mission to help anyone who has something to say to actually record and broadcast it on TV... and its 25 year history.
Their output is 24/7 of content to one radio channel and 5 cable TV ones.
... it's a great community service, just a step away and except for the modest training fees, free for the asking.
The only criteria for content is that you're fully responsible for copyright issues. Productions can be news events, shows, entertainment... pretty much anything you want to produce.
.... back to the main topic...

Making the Online Playlist of DVD Styles
Here are the steps I took...
  1. 4 movies and 2 PS3 stories went into a widescreen DVD project
  2. I selected a different style for each of 20 discs... no burning issues were encountered 
  3. The animated menus are the first of the larger sized VOB files on the discs... Movie Maker in Vista can use a VOB file on a disc as a source file. No need to copy the file to the hard drive or rename it to .mpg
  4. Movie Maker in Vista saved each to a widescreen DV-AVI file
  5. I moved the DV-AVI files from Vista to my XP laptop... my main working system
  6. On my laptop, I checked the DV-AVI files... some had audio but most didn't (curious!!!). The DVDs all play with audio, so it's just that some have audio in the VOB files and some don't...or Movie Maker in Vista missed a beat and didn't include the audio when converting the VOBs to DV-AVI.
  7. I ran the DV-AVI files through MM2.1 on my laptop to add the same music to each, saving them as new DV-AVI files.
  8. I used the Riva FLV Encoder to make flash files from the DV-AVI files.... using properties of 720x480 (you can type the numbers in if they don't appear in the drop down list), 29.97 fps, and a bitrate of 768 kbps. As the videos were made in widescreen in DVD Maker and Movie Maker, I might have been better off making the flash files at 864x480... it's something to check later.
  9. Uploaded the flash files to YouTube and copied them to a new playlist of Vista DVD Maker Styles
  10. Copied the html code for the embedded player from YouTube and pasted it into my website page

DVD Maker
Here are some notes about 3 failed attempts to make a DVD from tape and a set of scene files.
Attempt 1 - a 'Behind the Scenes' option
From Tape to DVD
Which didn't work... 
When I plugged my mini-DV camcorder into the computer before opening Movie Maker or DVD Maker, I noticed this interesting option... Vista will take my tape and make a DVD from it with no more input from me than giving the DVD menu a title.
I tried it, but ended up at a dead end.
Temp Files
See the big temporary file at the bottom of the list at the left... data flowed into it, and then from there into individual temporary wmv files, one for each scene.
I took the snapshot of the file list when it was up to 30 imported scenes. It kept going until it reached a DVD Maker limit of 99 files.
Max Number
I told it to use the 99 files, even though it was only 3/4 through the tape.
At more than two hours into this process, the disc drive door opened and I got the error message about it not being able to finish. I looked at the disc and saw that about 10% of the burning had been done.
At least it left the batch of 105 imported source files, so I didn't have to start with the tape again.

Attempts 2 and 3 - Open DVD Maker and Try Again
For the next attempt to make a DVD, I opened DVD Maker and dragged and dropped the full set of 105 files to it. The same note about it being limited to 99 files appeared, and again I settled for the 99.
I lowered the burn rate to slow and it got further, to about 25% of the disc before the door opened and the error message appeared.
My disc burns with the early beta versions of Vista were perfect, but the last few versions, including the RFM wouldn't burn successfully at fast speed. This was my first time running into a failure at slow speed.

Attempt 4 - Combine the Imported Source Files in Movie Maker and Try Again 
After the unsuccessful attempts to make a disc from the 99 individual scene files, I opened Vista's Movie Maker to see if it would work if I put the scenes together. They were from 4 camcorder sessions, so they made 4 movie projects.
I put the 4 movies in DVD Maker and had room left over. I used some of it by adding a pack of 100 7 megapixel still pix with some MP3 music files for a slide show.
I set the burn speed to slow and this time, with more overall material to package on the disc, the burn was perfect.
I wasn't trying to make anything worth viewing, and had mixed standard and widescreen clips kind of randomly. Movie Maker surprised me by handling each of the clips appropriately. Standard or widescreen settings resulted in each clip looking like it should, with appropriate black borders as needed.

Conclusion and Closing... and What's Next?
The styles are so great that I hope it motivates users to elevate the quality of their videos. It reminds me of Power Point presentations and comments about the presentation style being better than the content. With wizz-bang effects, transitions and overlays... and these DVD styles, who needs content???
Each DVD style has its own folder of png images and wmv video files... at
c:\Program Files\Movie Maker\DVDStyles
We'll probably be able to download or create additional styles, as we do transitions and effects in MM2.1 today. I started down that path but haven't gotten far enough to conclude it's possible.
DVD Temp files are stored in a folder of your choice... use the option settings in DVD Maker to select the folder. Yes, but I don't see the correlation between the temp files and those on the burned disc... if you're looking to make an iso image from a set of files you might be best off doing it from the files on the disk rather than those on the hard drive.
Maybe using 99 video clips won't work, regardless of the speed of the burn. That's a left-over issue to test another day.

Have a great week...