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[Microsoft 'default' Profiles] [Movie Maker v2.x] [DV/AVI  output] [Movie Maker v6] [Windows Live Movie Maker] [Using Live MM on XP] [PhotoStory 3] [PhotoStory 3 output] [PhotoStory HD] [Video and Audio settings] [Dolby ProLogic II  and SRS]
WMM Output control

Microsoft 'default' Profiles

When building your own movie DVD, each processing step will, at best, retain the quality you start with. So you should always try to minimise the number of steps and maximise the quality of each. Getting quality output from Microsoft media applications (and especially PhotoStory 3) means using your own optimised Profiles (you can download mine from my 'Next' page)

Every Microsoft 'default' output profile 'makes things worse'. Most generate small file sizes by generating poor quality low resolutions low bit rates data and, at a guess, are aimed at devices such as 'smart' phones with low resolution displays or intended for use on your personal web site

In short, they are all just about useless if you want high quality output from anything. Fortunately, you can use your own output Profile with most Microsoft Windows XP media applications.


Movie Maker v2.x (XP)

Note. Windows Movie Maker 2.5 is a 'recompile' of 2.1 with direct DVD burning for XP Media Center. I advise you avoid it = it will be riddled with DRM, and unless you keep all DRM well away from your DVD drive, you will loose control and no longer have access to the 'raw' data on CD's & DVD's = instead you will find that music and movie discs can only be 'played'.

Windows Movie Maker 2.x comes with the usual set of useless Microsoft 'default' output 'profiles', however these 'profile' settings are 'hidden' - there are no .prx files to be found, so they can't be removed (or changed). However you can add your own Profiles (to C:\Program Files\Movie Maker\Shared\Profiles\ ) and they will be 'picked up' correctly.


DV/AVI (.avi) output

DV/AVI (.avi) output is available in Windows Movie Maker 2.x only.

This will allows you to convert whatever PhotoStory 3 wmv ("Windows Media Video 9.1 Image") you feed it into DVD standard resolution 720x576 at 25fps for PAL (or 720x540 at 30fps for NTSC).
There is even the option of setting the '16:9 flag' in the output AVI (this effects playback ONLY = it tells the display app. to 'stretch' the 720x576 sideways into letterbox format - and has NO EFFECT what-so-ever on the actual movie frames built)

All the other 'standard' settings generate the usual low quality low resolution .wmv rubbish. Just ignore them all and use your own


Movie Maker v6 (Vista)

Windows Movie Maker v6 shipped with Vista, but also runs on XP and Windows 7. Whilst it lacks DV/AVI output capability and comes with numerous joke** 'default' profiles, it does also support your own Profiles. My tests show that WMM v6 is able to correctly convert from PhotoStory 3 .wmv into 'high quality' (VC-1) .wmv whilst (if required) correctly 'stretching' 133% pre-distorted 4x3 to generate 16x9 output

**For those who don't get all the jokes - first there's the 'bit rates' offered 'as standard' (ha ha), the second is that plainly Microsoft thinks 'DVD Quality' is 640 x 480 = 0.3 Mpixels (most other Americans think 'DVD Quality' is the NTSC 720x540 = 0.39 Mpixels, however Europeans know that real DVD Quality is 720x576 = 0.41 Mpixels).
The final joke is only available to Vista 'Premium' and 'Ultimate' users i.e. the "HD" profiles. Check out the 'Windows Media HD 1080' and you will discover that Microsoft thinks that 'HD' is '1440 x 1080' = which is actually 4:3 !!! As everyone (except, perhaps, those working for Microsoft) knows, HD is always 'wide-screen' = 16x9 (1920 x 1080) !

Again, the Movie Maker default profiles are nowhere to be found - presumably to make it difficult to modify or remove them. However if you place your own .prx profile files in "C:\Program Files\Movie Maker\Shared\Profiles\" they will be 'picked up' and offered at output time correctly

NOTE that WMM v6 lacks DV/AVI output. To get DV/AVI on Vista, you can download Movie Maker "2.6" (which is just MM 2.5 'wrapped' in a Vista installer)


Windows Live Movie Maker (Win7/8)

Windows Live Movie Maker has a basic 'photo story' capability but with far less functionality than PhotoStory 3 (for example, 'pan and zoom' is fixed to limited set of pre-defined start and end positions with fixed speeds). However it's quite capable of 'importing' PhotoStory 3 output WVP2 and converting to WMV (or even MP4) output

The problem is, when it comes to output, Windows Live Movie Maker appears to be aimed at children = you select the output you want by clicking one of the nice big 'icon' buttons with no idea what's behind them.

The default output is NTSC 30fps SD (.WMV).
HD h264 (.MP4) output is limited to a rather poor quality** 5mbs which is only really 'good enough' for on-line 'streaming' - perhaps for your DLNA server ? - or for web use (eg upload to You-Tube). There are also reports that HD output is limited to 10-15 minutes, however this may be a memory limit rather than a 'hard coded' value (and chances are PhotoStory 3 can't build a HD clip longer than that either)
**For AVCHD (DVD) HD quality you need at least 10mbs (19mbs is better :-) ). For BD (BluRay) HD (= real HD) you need 30mbs. 5mbs is what 'broadcast TV' uses.

Unfortunately, WLMM refuses to 'stretch' an input 4x3 to an output 16x9. Instead of 'interpolating' the input pixels to get the required output, it simply inserts 'black side bands' down the sides, no matter what you try (the same happens when you use your own Profile).

WLMM has it's own built-in 'settings editor' and will accept .prx profiles (at least the WLMM 2011 version does), however this has no effect on the 'black bars' that WLMM insists on adding to the sides of incoming 4:3 videos.
I even tried to use the GUI to 'distort' the movie (by 'expanding' it sideways) before outputting, however all this does is add black bands to the top and bottom as well !!

Until some-one manages to work out how to 'turn off' this stupid "children's edition" trick, you will have to generate 16:9 output from PhotoStory 3 instead (which is not a 'good idea' because PhotoStory 3 does a rather poor job of interpolating the 4:3 cropped images into 16:9 at output time) ...
... unless, of course, you actually want the 'black bands' = see my 'Making a CinemaScope AVCHD movie' in "Worked example" below.

It has been suggested (on some forums) that the "description field" of the .prx profile can be used to control how WLMM deals with aspect ratio changes.
However, to date (2014), I have not discovered the 'magic codes' needed to 'turn on' what would be 'normal behaviour' (i.e. get it to 'interpolate the input to fit the output')


Using Live MM on XP

If you want use WLMM (to generate 'black bands', or h.264) on XP, you need the Windows 7 32bit version. Whilst this works just fine on Windows XP, Microsoft's web site is now clever enough to 'detect' which Operating System you are using - and will refuse to download WLMM onto an XP computer (you will get a 'This version is not available for Windows XP' error message if you try). So you will need to use a Windows 7 computer to download the installer from the MS site & then 'move' that to your XP machine

Now that MS has ended support for XP, you can expect more and more 'error' messages of the 'XP not supported' type when you attempt to download from the MS web pages.
No doubt FireFox users will soon be installing a 'plug in' to tell MS little lies (like "I'm running Win 7 32bit and not XP at all, honest guv" :-) ), so, no doubt, MS will soon be modifying their Win7 32bit app. installers to block actual install onto an XP system.
Worse, Microsoft is moving everything over to it's 64 bit systems, so the 32bit version of WLMM (and all other 32bit apps) might be 'pulled' at anytime !
So, if you ever expect to run WLMM (or any other Win7 32bit app.) on XP, go get it now before it's too late !


PhotoStory 3

All the default profiles add extra compression to your source photos. The highest resolution offered is "Profile for computers - 4 (1024x768)" - however, whilst the resolution is 'reasonable' (almost half HD) the image Quality setting (QVBR) is set to '95%'. This might seem 'reasonable' however it compresses your (already compressed) source photos by about 3x ! This typically results in a very 'smooth' (or even 'out of focus') movie.

There is a PAL DVD Profile, "Profile for creating DVDs - PAL (768x576)", however the output Quality is still only 98% (which is 'only' about another 30% or so compression on top of your existing jpg source photos).

PhotoStory starts to build 'skip frames' into it's output at some fixed 'playback processing bandwidth' (set in about 2005 when computers were very slow) and this appears as 'jitter' during playback.

Jitter starts to appear on 'fast' pan and zooms at output resolutions above SVGA when setting max. quality video (100% QVBR) . Also, the further you set the frame rate from 30fps, the more jitter you get

The 'fps' setting in PhotoStory 3 output is a bit meaningless - the output WMV file contains WVP2 data that is actually a series of 'key frames' with 'morphing' instructions to get from one to the next - all the fps does is set the morphing 'step rate' for direct playback (tests from 20-200 fps all generate the same output file size).
You will have to convert from PhotoStory output into 'something else' - and the 'something else' fps will be used as the morphing step rate during conversion - so the PhotoStory 'fps' has zero effect on the conversion.
HOWEVER the further away from 30fps you 'build', the more 'jitters' you will see when playing back after the PhotoStory 3 build. So I ALWAYS set PhotoStory 3 output to 30fps and all my Profiles generate 30 fps WVP2 (i.e. this has nothing to do with NTSC, which is 29.97 fps anyway)

All PhotoStory 3 Profiles must be placed in the "C:\Program Files\Photo Story 3 for Windows\Profiles\1033\" folder.

Do not be distracted by the 'Registry style' file names (like "{0CA5FD1B-55AC-4B77-85E0-C6ED498E2780}.prx") = there is nothing 'special' about these files (there are NO matching entries in the Registry) = it's just Microsoft 'smoke and mirrors'.
Each of the .prx Profiles is just a simple 'xml like' text file (you can even edit them using Notepad).
Note that PhotoStory 3 ignores the file name (it always displays the Profile's internal 'name=' setting, eg name="Profile for computers - 4 (1024x768)")).
Note also that PhotoStory 3 will check the Profile settings before 'offering' them to the user i.e. only those profiles with 'acceptable' settings are ever shown (in particular, only WVP2 Video is acceptable and Audio must be defined (even if it's minimal quality)

To avoid any possibility of using one of the low quality default Profiles, I highly recommend you do as I did = just delete the whole lot (and replace them with your own, or use mine = see below)


PhotoStory 3 output

PhotoStory 3 can only generate 'Windows Media Video 9.1 Image' output, a type of .wmv (WMV-Image, FOURCC=WVP2) that only Microsoft really understands (if you want to see what other applications make of it, try feeding it direct to DVDStyler :-) ).

FFmpeg has a WVP2 'decoder', however it's results are no better than Microsoft's version - and, in fact, sometimes a lot worse (see, for example, what VLC (which uses FFmpeg) makes of WVP2 with 'skipped frames' (which MS own codec renders with 'jitter' :-))

So, before using your Story output with any 3rd party application, it has to be converted into a "better understood" type of .wmv** (for example 'Windows Media Video 9 Professional' (aka 'VC-1')). To do this, you must use a Microsoft application (eg Windows Movie Maker, Windows Media Encoder, Windows Expression Encoder). Of course, if you never intend to 'play' your Story using anything other than Windows Media Player, you can leave your Story in WVP2 format

**Ideally, you want mpeg2 for SD DVD's and h264 for HD DVD, however MS apps only generate MS wmv
The one exception Windows Movie Maker 2.x (XP version) which can be used to convert WVP2 to DV/AVI (.avi). Use this for SD DVD's, which (for PAL) will always be 25fps 720x576, regardless of the 'input' resolution.

To maintain quality, in PhotoStory 3, you must NEVER allow it to 'interpolate up'. This means never 'crop' below the output size. Ideally, try to keep crops above double the output (so, if you want SD 768x576, limit your minimum crop size to 1536x1152)

This is easy enough to check as PhotoStory always shows the crop start and end size in the 'adjust' GUI window

Further, since you can't avoid further 'interpolation' between PhotoStory and your final 'target' resolution, you should try to output at the highest possible resolution before 'jitter' sets in.

PhotoStory 3 WVP2 output consists of a series of 'key frames' at the output resolution with 'morphing' instructions that control how the playback gets from one 'key frame' to the next.
So, when your PhotoStory 3 output is converted into a real movie, the conversion process will involve multiple crops and interpolations from the 'key frames' to the video output as the 'view point' is 'morphed' from the 'start crop' to the 'end crop' position.
The problem is, as you 'up' the resolution, PhotoStory artificially 'limits' the output bandwidth by 'skipping frames' (which then appears as 'jitter') !


PhotoStory HD

To build for a HD 16:9 'target' (1920x1080), you will always be starting with a 4:3 crop of 4/3rds height pre-distorted photos in PhotoStory 3. At output time you have a choice between 'stretching' to 16:9 fullHD (1920x1080) or remaining at 4:3 'preHD' (which may be the only way to get jitter free output).

If you can get fullHD 1920x1080 direct from PhotoStory, you can use WLMM to get h264 MP4.
This avoids the intermediate step of recoding from Movie Maker .wmv (VC-1) into .mp4 (H264) which will reduce the video sharpness / quality, and means you can go direct from mp4 to AVCHD author.
If you want to output 4:3 'square pixel' from PhotoStory 3, then for a 1920x1080 final 'target' you should output 1920x1440. You should also apply the same approach for other 16:9 'target' resolutions (i.e always output 'higher' resolutions than the target, rather than 'lower')
NB. MS Profile Editor limits the video size to '2k', so, for a 'target' 2730x1536 you can only go for 2048x1536 - alternatively, you can 'hand modify' the Profile and get 2730x2048 (unless you go for 'the one half higher', of which more later)


Video and Audio settings

Video. PhotoStory only supports QVBR 'Windows Media Video 9.1 Image' Video codec.

I always set 30fps and the 'QVBR Quality' to 100%. QVBR adds extra compression to your (JPEG) photos - the only way to avoid this is to use a setting of 100% (you can always 'throw away' any 'unwanted Quality' later :-) )

Only use a lower Video QVBR if 'jitter' is found (and dropping the Audio fails to 'fix' it)

Audio. The 'best' you can do is 'extract' the audio from PhotoStory 3 'unchanged', however to do so you need to set PCM Audio - and that means you have to modify the Profile 'by hand' (the profile Editor won't allow you to combine PCM with QVBR video)

To get 'jitter free' HD, you will typically have to use a 'minAudio' profile (ideal would be 'no audio' however PhotoStory refuses to output without audio, even when you have no actual music track :-) )

Whilst you may build your Story with CD quality .wav (PCM 16bit, 2CH, 44.1kHz, 1141mbps) or even 'surround sound' down-mixed into Dolby ProLogic II, chances are you will replace the sound track during DVD 'author' anyway
So to save some output time, by all means set the Audio in your Profile to the minimum bit-rate mono 'allowed' = PhotoStory 3 won't output Video only (in fact it won't even offer Profiles that have no audio).
NB. To speed up output (and reduce the RAM requirement), I advise you remove the Audio track before outputting from PhotoStory (often this is the only way to build a decent length Story at high resolution without it crashing with an 'Insufficient Memory' error). Just avoid using 'Save project' after output and you won't actually loose the audio track.


Dolby ProLogic II (DPLII) and SRS

PhotoStory 3 is limited to 2CH Stereo output. However, using PCM it is possible to pass through DPLII (Dolby ProLogic II) or DTS/SRS (both methods of encoding 5.1 into a 2CH stereo data stream) and 'decode' the data back into 'real' 5.1 (or replace it with the original 5.1) before 'burning' to DVD

To 'auto-down-mix', use a plug-in with Audacity or Foobar2000 (see my Preparing music for PhotoStory page - or see TFM audio tools)

Many older Home Cinema Systems support Dolby Pro Logic II, so by all means you try 'passing through' DPLII to the final DVD and see if it plays OK.

SRS / DTS Neo:6 is a relatively new approach aimed at 'gamers' and promoted by Microsoft. No doubt, as with wmv, it will only ever really 'work' on a Windows PC, especially as '6' means 6.1 (it adds a new rear Center speaker over the 5.1 standard set)
There are no clever 'flags' in the stereo data stream (in fact, DPLII was 'invented' to work with analogue stereo sound !) so the 'worse' that can happen is that the 5.1 'information' becomes 'corrupted' and you loose 'separation' between the channels

I include PhotoStory 3 Profiles with PCM Audio. This will copy the 'Dolby Pro Logic II' audio from PhotoStory 3 into the .wmv (however you will need to take steps to prevent it being 'processed' by Movie Maker etc. if you want to get it onto your DVD)

Note that some DVD author applications (eg DVDStyler) insist on 48kHz audio. This is a bit of a pain because PhotoStory 3 will only support 44.1kHz (and 'up-sampling' from 44.1 to 48 may effect the Dolby ProLogic II coding).
Fortunately most DVD author apps. (including DVDStyler) will allow you to remove the 'incoming' (44.1kHz) audio from the video and substitute a replacement (48kHz) track

At HD and above, 'jitter' will usually force you to choose a 'minAudio' profile (or even one with a lower QVBR) anyway

The pages in this topic are :-

  + Downloadable output Profiles - (for PhotoStory) == Latest changes (modified 24th Apr 2017 12:23.)

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