PapaJohn Productions
Newsletter #133 - Jan 13, 2007
Vista - the Shortest Path from Camcorder to DVD


This has been a whirlwind week of Vista for me... I drafted this issue on Monday and put it aside to work on an article for MaximumPC due in a few days. 
Here it is Friday, time to finish it. In mid-week I did a total change in my approach to the magazine article, so I'm curious about how the change will effect the newsletter... I started the article thinking of Vista software programs and wizards as being about Movie Maker, DVD Maker, Photo Gallery and other related apps and wizards. That's how I have the new Vista section of the website structured. I listed the apps in the article and dove into the writing about them, one at a time. For some reason that approach wasn't working.
What got me back into gear was stepping through the process to take screenshots... the process, not one of the apps. I picked one of the paths to go from a camcorder tape to a video DVD... and was amazed to see the app coordination and wizardry that happened.
At the front end, I didn't need to open Movie Maker to capture or import the source material as Photo Gallery did it for me. At the back end, when I finished editing the Movie Maker project, I didn't need to render the movie. DVD Maker didn't need a saved movie to make the DVD. Between Photo Gallery and DVD Maker, they had taken away key parts of what I was going to write about when I covered Movie Maker 6...   
... it changed my thinking about Vista from being individual but somewhat related programs to being a movie making process where the apps and wizards work together to help you achieve what you want. I wanted a DVD, and was starting with a camcorder tape.
I had been testing a couple of the paths to go from tape to disc. The magazine article got the long path that worked well each time. The newsletter got the shortest path which had never succeeded, that is until Monday when I started writing about how it didn't work. It proved me wrong by burning a good disc and letting me get the final screen shots.
Both paths started with a camcorder tape and ended with a video DVD playing in WinDVD on my XP laptop.

autoplay in XP
The settings in my XP laptop have aged, and I didn't put them back to the defaults for this newsletter...
When I connect a digital camcorder by firewire and turn it to VCR mode... the Digital Video Device window pops up and asks if I want to open Pinnacle Studio or Adobe Premiere Elements. Movie Maker stopped showing in the list long ago...
When I insert a blank DVD nothing pops up. If it's a video DVD, WinDVD opens and starts playing it.
AutoPlay in Vista
With the new DVD Maker app in the Home Premium and Ultimate versions of Vista (I'm running Ultimate on an HP desktop system), the new choices and paths they lead you down are interesting adventures.
AutoPlay opens when I connect the camcorder or put a blank DVD disc in... with different options for each.

Vista help says
Q. Why does AutoPlay behave differently when my media program is open?
A. If a media program is open in an active window, it can cancel AutoPlay and just run or play the content itself. AutoPlay won't appear and the default action won't happen. Some programs do cancel AutoPlay when they're open, depending on the type of media you insert.
It's easier to try it than to read about it.... let's check the options that AutoPlay presents when no app is open.

Vista's AutoPlay automatically opens when I...
There's only one option 'Import Video' using Windows Import Video. It's not offering Movie Maker, but my XP system only offers Pinnacle and Premiere Elements which I haven't installed on Vista.
Insert DVD
- Burn a data disc with Windows Media Player... select it and the wizard closes as WMP opens. You can use it put video, pictures, music and other files on a data disc.
- Burn a disc using Windows... go with it and the Burn a Disc application opens as the wizard closes. The app is part of the Windows host process rundll32.exe. You get a data disc when you go down this path... the same as you get with the WMP option. 
- The 3rd choice is the only one that makes a video DVD, as the wizard opens Windows DVD Maker.
AutoPlay, Windows, Windows Explorer, and Burn a Disc are not in the start menu list of All Programs, but Windows Media Player and Windows DVD Maker are. Some things are programs, others are apps, and some are wizards.
When I insert an audio CD in the disc drive WMP opens and starts playing it. When I insert a video DVD Windows Explorer opens to the Video_TS folder of the disc.
These are the defaults on a clean system... use the start button > Default Programs > Change Auto-Play settings to change how it responds.... for example, DVD movie disc options can be to play it in WMP or Windows Media Center.
... before getting into more details, here are some notes...

Vista Corner... 
... the cost of Vista came in with an email from Amazon... I made a link and put it on the Vista > Introduction page of the site. Maybe this will be the year that the cost of an operating system and software suite like Office exceeds the cost of a new computer. The Vista Upgrade to the Ultimate version is $250 and the Home Premium upgrade is $155.... and the upgrade to Microsoft Office Standard 2007 is $220.
When I mention features of Vista to Bernadette, who uses two XP computers. We took a step closer this week by running the Vista Upgrade Advisor on them. The desktop system was cautioned that her two printers might not work... an Epson photo 2200 for her big artwork prints, and a Minolta PagePro 1250W laser. The Epson is the biggie. 
To check it further, I added the two printers as network printers on my Vista system, opted for the option of copying the drivers from the XP computer, and printed test sheets. They both looked fine, so the green light for her desktop is getting brighter.
For the tablet computer, the other one she uses, the Upgrade Advisor crashed in the middle of making its assessment.
Back to my Vista system... the Launch Kit I got included a 2 GB SanDisk Cruzer Micro, a smart USB flash drive. When you first plug it in, it offers to be used as a 'memory boost' for your system, or as the usual thumb drive for storage... or a mix of both. I'd been carrying it around for storage use, but I put it back in the Vista system this week and opted for the full use as a 'memory boost'. The system has 1 GB of RAM... with the usual swap file being on the hard drive. The memory boost is something slower than RAM but quicker than the hard drive... to speed up the system. I can't tell yet what I'm getting out of it but I'll leave it in.  
.... back to the main topic...

The Quickest Route from Camcorder to DVD
The magazine article will be about the scenic route from tape to DVD, where you can get involved to whatever extent you want in selecting scenes, fixing files, editing the movie, and selecting DVD options.
For the rest of this newsletter, I'll show you the quickest route, where you don't stop at any of the apps like Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, or DVD Maker. You make the minimal number of choices to get a video DVD to your player as quickly as possible.
I'm glad it worked on Monday because I really wanted to see what it put on the disc. Would it include a DVD menu style? If so, which one? If not, what then?

AutoPlay WizardStep 1 - Connect a digital Camcorder by firewire... and turn it to the VCR mode
Select the only option, Import Video using Windows Import Video.
We know it's an official wizard as the Task Manager shows the open window as being part of CaptureWizard.exe, a new file in the Movie Maker folder. The folder in XP has only the MM2 executable (unless you also have a copy of MM1 in it like I do).
Being in the same folder as Movie Maker, you'd expect it to be somehow related.

Step 2 - Select a Format Option...
... the wizard offers 3 choices
  • AVI single file (DV-AVI)... a single big one, perhaps your usual capture option in XP
  • WMV single file... another choice comparable to a high quality WMV choice in MM2, but of higher bitrate/quality
  • WMV - one file per scene... a new choice for a pack of WMV files rather than a single one
Import Video Wizard
Absent is a choice for a pack of DV-AVI files like you can get with the WinDV utility.
Also absent is a choice of WMV file quality... it gives you the single big one or the pack of individual ones at about 2 GB per hour size. The properties of the files show them as 720x480 with a bitrate of 4000 kbps... double the bitrate of the highest choice of Movie Maker in XP. That's DVD quality without having to capture it at DV-AVI. 
I selected the single WMV file.
Note that the single DV-AVI choice might be the quickest and best of the choices for this process. Going with a WMV file choice is a two-step import process, first to a temporary DV-AVI file, and then to WMV files rendered from it. It takes more time and may be a quality hit due to the extra rendering. 
All or Part
Step 3 - All or Part...
Moving on to the wizard's next window... 
Choose to import all of the tape or selected parts.
Notice the 2nd option... taking the whole tape to a video DVD.
This is the shortest route to get a disc, the one we'll take.

Step 4 - Insert Blank Disc...
If you haven't yet... insert the disc.
Note this message says it's coming from Windows DVD Maker. Its burn wizard is the software Insert Discrunning in the background as you make selections in the windows.
Parts of DVD Maker come into play as the process moves toward the disc.

Step 5 - Watch the Importing...
Moving on to the next window starts the importing.
Even though you gave it the OK to do the whole tape, if you only want the recorded footage up to the point it's at, press the stop button and opt to have it continue with what's already come from the camcorder.
Stop Importing
Completing Video Import
I stopped it after 5-1/2 minutes and watched it complete the importing, rendering the wmv file from the temporary DV-AVI. It's here when I thought I should have picked the DV-AVI option.
Tip: With this route, there isn't an option to start the importing from somewhere else in the tape other than at the beginning. If you plan to use the route, be sure to have the desired material at the beginning. There's nothing worse than doing a hurry-up to disc, give it someone, and have them call laughing about the first scenes that you forgot were on the tape.

Step 6... DVD Burning
Burning Disc and Problem
When the Import Wizard finishes, it closes and the BurnWizard of DVDMaker opens.
It encodes the MPEG-2 files needed for the disc, and then burns it. 

One Possible Step 7... Cannot Create the DVD
I went into the newsletter on Monday fully expecting to write about how I get this far, but no further. I'd always run into the dead end.
I had my screen shot ready from the many previous attempts. 
But as things happen with computers, things turn. As I stepped through this step one last time, to finished successfully and gave me the first good disc.
A Good Step 7... Your Disc is Ready, Do You Want Another Copy?
The disc drive drawer opens and the wizard asks if you wan another copy.
Disc is ready
I take the disc and check it on a DVD Player before answering. It's the perfect time to make more if you need them, but not if there's something wrong with the first disc, or something about it you want to change, like a spelling error in the title. 
DVD PlayingThe wizard will wait as long as you like for your choice. When you go with 'Close' it'll clean up and delete the MPEG-2 files made for the disc. It won't leave a set of them for you to use later if you change your mind.

Step 8... Play the DVD
I checked the disc on my laptop in WinDVD, where I took these snapshots. The style is DVD Maker's Full Screen.
The scenes are dark. It was indoors in a darker than usual setting, a Whirling Dervishes of Istanbul performance.
The only entry I had made during the process was the name of the disc, which it used. The wizard chose the font and position. If it had turned out really great, I'd wish I had entered something like 'The Whirling Dervishes instead of Newsletter 133. For this disc, my name is appropriate.
The footage was shot as widescreen and it plays appropriately, but the scene thumbnails look standard 4:3.
The Play choice starts the video, which plays full widescreen.
The Scenes choice takes you to the menu of 6 scenes per page. 11 scenes for a 5-1/2 minute test video. Are the scenes set to start at regular 30 second intervals, or at timecode breaks... an item to explore later.

Conclusion and Closing... and What's Next?
The wizard approach to making a DVD isn't one I expect to use often, so its high failure rate on my system isn't a concern.
When I first used the DVD Maker app, the failure rate had also been high, until I changed the burn speed from the default fast speed to slow speedt. I asked Microsoft if the wizard was using the default fast speed.
They checked and confirmed it was using the default of fast speed, and not the user's option in DVD Maker's settings. It explained my failures. 
Have a great week!!
I'll be changing the Vista section of the site to somehow add the various processes in addiition to the app by app info... right now I'm just thinking about how to approach it. 
PS. If you want to change the default choice of the AutoPlay wizard, use Start > Default Programs > Change AutoPlay Settings.

Have a great week...