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MS PhotoStory 3 use and limits

Using PhotoStory 3

Finding Microsoft PhotoStory 3

Authenticated Windows XP users can download the software for free from the Microsoft Photo Story 3 web page.

If you are not an "authenticated Windows XP user" (for example, you are using Windows Vista/7/8/10), you can find copies of the PSTORY.MSI installer elsewhere on the web, HOWEVER watch out for 'adware' and 'search hijack' installers that even many 'good' sites now try to scam you into running. The real Microsoft PSTORY.MSI install package is 5,271,552 bytes in size and it's Digital Signature time-stamp is 12 November 2004 02:13:32 (if you are offered anything else, or an .exe 'installer', it's either a Virus infected root-kit or (if you are lucky) just some browser/search engine hijacking spam-ware installer)

Note. PhotoStory 3 needs Windows Media Player 10. If you have WMP 11 or later (or let Microsoft 'update' you to WMP11 at the end of WMP10 install) expect a whole world of pain trying to 'go back' to 10.

The pain is all about DRM. Each 'version' of WMP installs more and more restrictive DRM 'enforcement'. So, when you 'upgrade' to WMP11, and find you have lost direct access to your CD/DVD drive (and can no longer play 'wrong region' movies) don't blame me.
To 'downgrade' Windows 7 to WMP10, users will have to start by removing all existing MS 'Multi-media' components, then selectively install WMP10 and then avoid MS 'auto-updates' from overwriting WMP10 with a later version (i.e. one with 'improved' Digital Rights Management). For details see my PhotoStory 3 on Windows 7 page

What can I use MS Photo Story 3 for ?

MS PhotoStory 3.0 is a really easy to use way to turn a collection of photos into a 'slide show movie' with your chosen music. You can crop, pan and zoom ('Ken Burns' effect) and add various different 'transitions' (such as 'fade' and 'page turn') between photos. You can even add some basic text 'titles' (which 'overlay' the photos) and record your own 'voice over' narration !

The GUI is simple, intuitive and very easy to use and it is especially easy to define a 'pan and zoom'. In short, it's a very quick way to generate a short 'story' to show off your recent holiday snaps that will play back on your (Windows) PC and (with 3rd party tools) can even be used to make a DVD.
However getting DVD quality output (let alone HD quality) is much harder. It is possible to create a full-length 90 minute 16:9 5.1 surround-sound DVD (or even an AVCHD) starting with PhotoStory 3 'clips', but this requires a lot of work, the use of a number of supporting applications, and can best be described as 'a challenge' :-)

You start by importing some photos. You then define a start and end 'crop' - which defines the 'pan & zoom' - and a 'transition' (for this photo, from (with) the previous). You can get PhotoStory 3 to generate 'random' music or add your own (stereo .wav) tracks which you can even 'overlay' with your own narration. You can pre-view to see what you have and then re-edit the timing as needed.

You should always 'Save' your 'project' before attempting to add more photos ('Import Pictures') from a NAS/Server mapped drive, Save before using 'Preview' and especially Save before trying to 'output' your Story. PS 3 has a tendency to 'lock up' when looking for photos during Preview / output on a 'mapped share' - and if it does, you will loose all your 'edits' since the last Save.

Having prepared your movie slide show, click 'Next' to get to the final window & select the 'Save your story for playback on your computer' option. Click the 'Settings' button to choose an appropriate output Profile (the 'standard' Profiles all generate rather low quality / low resolution output - the 'best' is only SVGA (600x800) - however it's really easy to create your own 'high quality output' Profile = see my later pages)

Why use MS PhotoStory 3 ?

Other than it's really easy GUI and the ability to choose whatever output resolution (size) you like (by creating your own Profile), there's the 'Project File' format which is extremely easy to 'hack' :-)

PhotoStory 3 may be more than 10 years old, but it's actually 'more functional' than many of the over-bloated 'commercial' applications of today.
Many current Photo-slide-show packages are limited to a few pre-defined (programmed in) 'output' choices, typically aimed at low resolution 'web' ('blog') and 'smart phone' or YouTube 'tiny screen size' playback.
Even when a 'DVD' option exists, it's likely to be limited to NTSC (720x540). Few (if any) will offer any sort of 'HD' output, and those that do invariably get the fps setting wrong for AVCHD (which is 23.976fps = most packages set 24 or 25 fps which leaves you tearing your hair out when your carefully crafted 'all in sync' timed video and audio becomes progressively more and more 'out of sync' as the Story is played back)

PhotoStory 3's support for 'xml' based (user modifiable) .prx output Profiles is one of it's most useful and powerful features. You can generate virtually any resolution you want (up to 2048 x 2048 pixels) at any 'frame rate' you like.

Needless to say, like all such software, the 'default' PhotoStory output Profiles are all but useless - however there is nothing preventing you from creating your own (unlike many other packages that refuse to output anything better than 'smart phone' resolution)
Getting decent output means using the right 'Profile', especially if you ever expect to 'burn' your story to DVD for standard (SD) or HD (AVCHD) playback
This is so vital that I dedicate a whole page to PhotoStory output Profiles (which also covers profiles for HD / AVCHD use)

Another huge advantage is that a PhotoStory 3 Project (.wp3) file contains copies of all your imported photos, in their original size and resolution ! Of course, all the music track(s) are also included. Further, since the project.wp3 is held in Windows 'cabinet' (CAB) file format, it can be 'unpacked' and modified with ease

This is almost unique - almost every other 'slide show' application just saves 'thumbnails' and rely on you to leave the originals in some 'source' folder.
Even those that do 'save' the originals' often crop and compress then to the project output resolution (thus making it virtually impossible to reuse them at higher resolution, even if it was possible to 'extract' the photos from the proprietary compressed archive being used).
Whilst this means PS3 generates much larger Project files than other 'slide show' applications, it also means you can move your Project where-ever you like and know you have everything needed to re-edit and re-build even 10 years later !
What's more, when you do copy and edit a photos specifically for use in PhotoStory (eg crop, color adjust etc. or use the 16:9 pre-distortion 133% height adjust trick), you never have to worry about 'keeping the copy' anywhere else.
One thing not saved is the actual Font used for any Title Text (only a problem if you move the Project to another PC lacking that Font - and even then it opens OK (it just defaults to some other Font)

Hacking the PhotoStory 3 Project file (which is in standard Microsoft XML file structure) is really easy.

Most other packages use proprietary formats that are 'un-hackable', especially as they typically use a Database approach (such as MySQL)

Unpacking the PhotoStory .wp3 - for example, to 'get your photos back' - can be done using '7zip'

It's also relatively easy to repack the project - for example after making some 'story' specific adjustments to the photos (eg. brightness / contrast / sharpness etc) or even after replacing a photo (although if you want to avoid doing lots of calculations the replacement does have to be the exact same size as the original).
Repacking requires the use of the ancient Microsoft CABPACK.EXE utility (which was shipped with Windows 2000).

For a lot more details, see my Hacking the Project file page.

Are there any 'bugs' I need to be aware of ?

The biggest 'bug' is that the output format is designed for 'standard' resolutions (up to movie DVD / SVGA) at 30fps. Whilst PhotoStory 3 can generate HD (1920x1080) or even higher resolution output and any fps you choose to put in your Profile, you need to watch out for 'jitter' during playback (the best way to avoid jitter is to stick to 30 fps = see later).

NOTE. If you stray from a strict 4:3 aspect ratio the output quality drops as PhotoStory is (frankly) crap at interpolating. This means for PAL DVD (720x576) best quality is achieved when you output at 'square pixel' 768x576 (or for HD (1920x1080) output at 1440x1080) and do the 'squeeze' to PAL DVD 720x576 (or expand to 1920x1080 for HD) in Movie Maker later.

Getting decent quality output from PS means starting with high quality (high resolution) photos and never cropping below the output (pixel count) size. You should also avoid 'fast' pan and zoom 'combinations' (one of the main causes of 'jitter') and never, ever, expect PhotoStory to output anything other than strict 4:3 (if you want 16:9 (from pre-distorted photos), crop and output in 4:3 and only 'expand' into 16:9 later using Movie Maker)

1) PhotoStory doesn't like 'mapped' network drives or drives that have 'gone to sleep', or, indeed, any file access delays = as might be imposed by your Anti-Virus app. for example. Whilst the initial 'import' of images from your NAS / Server for a new Story works just fine, when you try to add images from the same source sometime later PS3 will often 'lock up'. The same happens if you only Preview some time after importing or if you 'opened' an existing Story direct from a network share and start to edit without first clicking 'Preview' (PS3 will fall over when you later click Preview, Save or build, thus loosing all your edits).

When you initially choose a photo (or open a saved Story), PS3 only generates thumbnail images which it keeps in RAM whilst you edit the Story.
It's only when you first click on Save Project, Preview or 'build' that PS3 goes back to fetch the 'high res' images (a copy of which it then keeps in RAM or, if Previewing, the local /temp folder) - and if your Net Share has 'gone to sleep' (so there are a few seconds delay waiting to access it), PS3 promptly 'locks up'.
The same happens when you 'open' an existing Story from a network share - again, it 'opens' into RAM just fine, but when you Save, Preview or build it has to go back and unpack the actual photos from the original saved Story .wp3 file
So, if you normally use a NAS or Server to store your photo's and keep your wp3 Project 'safe', I highly recommend you 'Save Project' to your local computer Desktop immediately after first opening the Project (and immediately after adding more photos)
You should then re-save to the desktop after making changes (and especially before 'Preview' or 'output'). Only after you have completed your edits, made a last 'save project' to the desktop and exit PhotoStory 3, should you 'drag and drop' the final version of the .wp3 project file back to your NAS / Server
It's actually quite rare for PS3 to fall over waiting for a local drive since Windows more or less ensures they never 'go to sleep' (it's always Indexing, playing with Virtual memory (swap file) or 'optimising' the drive (by moving files around)), however if your laptop or desktop has one of those useless 'Green' drives (that automatically shut themselves down every few seconds, no matter what, thereby wasting power as they have to be spun up again and, of course, wearing themselves out 100x faster than an 'always on' drive) 'tempting fate' by Outputting before saving will eventually lead to the loss of your edits ...

Why do I have to wait for Net Share access ? Well MS 'Client Licencing' in a Workgroup restricts mapped share Licences to a maximum of 10.

So, after 15 minutes of non-use, the mapped share Licence is returned to the 'licence pool' (for other PC's in the Workgroup to use) and the share is disconnected NO MATTER HOW MANY PC's YOU HAVE IN YOUR WORKGROUP. When you (or your application) next access the share, there is a delay whilst a 'Licence' is re-acquired (if there are any spare).

This insane system, is, of course, designed to generate frequent 'access failures' when your LAN exceeds 10 PC's in order to 'push' a small business toward a 'Client / Server' configuration (in which MS can charge for 'additional Client Licences').
Of course, since each stand-alone PC Licence comes with the 'right' to allow 10 other PC's to connect, you might think a sensible approach would be for each PC to allow 10 connections and then, when the 11th requests access, just drop the 'oldest' (most 'unused') existing connection (that had finished a file transfer).
Such an approach would mean you could build Workgroup LAN's with as many PC's as you like - and if 11 wanted to access the same share 'at the same time' the last one to 'get in' would just have to wait for the 'oldest' connected other to finish it's current file transfer (rather than having to wait 15 minutes after one of the others has finished transferring files).
In the sensible system, any that did get kicked off only has to wait for the next oldest to finish a file and then kick that one off - and so on until the first is kicked off after transferring 10 files or so. In other words (just like Ethernet) the higher the user count the slower the transfers ..
.. but such an approach would allow hundreds of PC's to work happily together and that's not going to sell many Client/Server systems
Instead, the sensible business (and home user) will use a Linux/Unix 'box' (NAS) for their central file storage 'shares' (the Open Source Linux/Unix operating system lacks the concept of 'Client Licence' restrictions), although many home NAS systems incorporate a clever 'green' power-down approach instead ...

2) PhotoStory 3 often gets the playback speed of mp3 (and all 'variable bit rate') music tracks 'a bit wrong', typically playing it 'too fast' (so the music track ends 'too soon', by a few seconds in a couple of minutes)

PS3 can't cope with high-bit-rate .mp3 (anything above about 128kbps) at all, so don't waste your time trying to use mp3 (or anything except .wav) with PhotoStory - it only takes a few minutes to convert from mp3 to .wav (using Audacity), after which you can even 'up scale' the .wav to (a sort of) 5.1 surround sound for your final DVD author step (see my preparing music for PhotoStory page)
If music timing is critical (eg you want to change your transitions from one photo to the next 'on the beat') you will still need to import a 2ch (stereo) .wav to PhotoStory. To allow easy replacement later, always import at with the first photo. To avoid timing problems, the first photo should never be set to 'transition in' at the start of the Story.

In fact, 'exact' alignment of music and photo's can be a real pain. This is because (unlike some other Photo story apps) PS 3 doesn't 'display' the music waveform under the photo 'timing strip'. Alignment is thus a process of 'trial and error' with lots of Preview use - of which more below

3) After making multiple image deletes & imports, timing and transition changes, the 'link' between photos and music played in the 'Preview' can slip by about 0.5s by the end of a 30s clip. This can be a real pain if you are trying to 'synchronise' photo transitions to the 'beat' of the music

To save time, PhotoStory ONLY BUILDS THE CHANGES when you select 'Preview'. After multiple changes, the 'Preview' video can be significantly 'out of step' to the music 'beat'. The fastest way to force PhotoStory to correctly synchronise is to delete the music track and re-import it (the slower way is to Save the project, exit and restart PS3)

4) It is not possible to crop to pixel accuracy using the GUI. Some significant movement of the mouse is required before the 'crop box' moves (jumps) from it's current position. This makes if EXTREMELY difficult to align a 'pan and zoom' from one photo to another (except when the photos are identical, when you can click the 'Set crop box the same as the previous' option)

The 'wire-frame' crop box SIZE is shown (in pixels, although you can't enter an exact value, only 'drag' the box by mouse) but it's POSITION is not. You have to 'estimate by eye' = which is easier on a 800x600 display of course :-)
This makes it rather hard to 'line up' the crop box on a long zoom across multiple 'half sized' (or double sized) versions of the same photo
By 'hacking' the saved Project .wp3 file, you can manually adjust the crop box start and end positions (the two 'Rect' entries) within the project.xml file), however you also need to adjust the 'RelativeRect' values or your adjusted start and end won't be 'spotted' when you next open the project (see my Hacking the Project file page)

5) Not really an issue in the only available version of PS3 (3.0), but PhotoStory 3.1 (which is no longer available) came with a useless 'built in' DVD 'burn' tool from 'Sonic'.

Whilst 3.1 can't be found anywhere on the Internet, when I last checked (mid 2015) you could still purchase the CD/DVD 'burner' tool as a $20 chargeable 'add on' from Roxio.
However user reports say it places a 'Sonic logo' at the start of your completed DVD and you can only 'burn' a single 'story' (in 4:3 mode) to a DVD, the quality of the 'movie' is rubbish and often the 'finished' DVD won't 'play back' in a stand-alone DVD player anyway !
Of course PS3 doesn't support 5.1 surround sound audio and you can't build a story over 10 minutes or so (no matter how much RAM you have, output always fails with an 'out of memory' error (see later re: RAM usage), so save your $20 for something that actually works (such as the Open Source ImgBurn) :-)

The main limitations of PhotoStory 3

It's a single 'instance', single threading, 32bit application

Single 'instance' means you can only open (and edit) one PhotoStory at a time.

PhotoStory only 'runs' on a single CPU. So, no matter how many 'cores' you have, PhotoStory only uses one.

This means a dual core 4GHz system is much better at running PhotoStory than a six core 3GHz, although (in practice) build times are limited by data access rates (so, for max. speed, use a RAM disk for PS3 output and Temp files)

PhotoStory is a Microsoft 32bit application. This means it's limited to 2Gb of RAM, no matter how much RAM your computer has, even when running on a Windows 7/8/10 64bit system.

Actually, you can 'hack' almost all Microsoft 32bit application .exe files - including PhotoStory 3 - to allow them to access 4Gb (see my PhotoStory Memory use page)

Fixed size GUI windows

The only 're-sizable' window is the 'Import Pictures' File Browser window. The 'main' GUI window size is fixed. This may seem of little consequence, however being unable to 'zoom up' the 'Customize Motion' window can make it very hard to see details of the photo - such as what's in focus (and what not) or even if people are smiling or frowning, which makes it very hard to decide what parts to crop out or zoom into

The 'trick' to 'zooming the GUI' is to reduce your Display resolution. On older 4x3 displays, use 800x600 - on more modern 16x9 displays, 1280 x 720.
On a PC with a modern graphics card you can usually plug in a second monitor and set the resolution for PS 3 work (whilst leaving the other set to high resolution for normal work)

Excessive RAM usage

The more images you use, the longer the Story time and the higher the output resolution you choose, the more RAM PhotoStory will need to 'build' the output.

Fast transitions (and fast pan and zooms) also appear to require lots of extra RAM -  at a guess PhotoStory is 'building' the entire output in RAM before it outputs to disk

As the RAM usage increases at each Step, output will eventually 'fall over' with 'Insufficient memory' (but only at the last Step).

You can often 'recover' a Story that 'fails' during the last Step with 'Insufficient memory' by removing the music track (so long as the track is 'imported' by the first photo and you don't have any start of story 'fade in', you can just add the same track later in Movie Maker)
On a 4Gb PC, the 'Insufficient memory' error typically occurs when the memory 'in use' by PhotoStory3 exceeds about 1.5Gb - i.e. when your Story exceeds 50-100 photos or 5-10 minutes for DVD 100% VBR video + PCM audio quality output (even without music).
PCM is fixed bit-rate audio so will use the full bandwidth even if the music consists only of silence
PhotoStory won't show Profiles without an audio channel, so the 'minimum' audio you can have is VBR audio at 10% Quality (so silence will compress to almost nothing)

Why PhotoStory uses such huge amounts of RAM is a mystery. Even it it assembles the output in RAM (indeed that's exactly what is seem to do) the output (WVP2) .wmv is typically no more than 100Mb per 100 photos = so 1.5Gb RAM should allow 1500 photos, not fall over before 300 ...

Other errors during the output sequence

The PhotoStory 'Insufficient memory' message is just a 'generic' error that means 'something went wrong'. This means most such errors have nothing to do with the size of RAM fitted (or amount of free disk space). Often closing and reopening the exact same Project file will allow it to build just fine = indeed it seems that the longer the project is open the less likely it is to build (and show an 'Insufficient memory' error) == perhaps it has some sort of 'memory leak' :-)


When the Profile list is 'opened' for you to 'choose' one, some basic checks are performed on each one and only 'valid' Profiles shown. Profiles without any Audio are not shown, however it's possible to choose a Profile with an audio format that will lead to PhotoStory 'abort' at the final output Step

The name of your chosen profile is 'remembered' whilst the Story is 'open'. If you manage to corrupt the Profile whilst the Story is open, it's just possible to get a 'Invalid profile' error when you click Output.
Profiles are, of course, not saved to the Project file (actually it doesn't even remember the name of the Profile 'last used' anyway - unlike Fonts (where the name is saved but the Font is not))

Missing/corrupted photos

When an existing .wp3 project is 'opened', PhotoStory 3 generates thumbnails of the photos for the GUI. So it will have 'spotted' any 'missing' photos (and photos larger or smaller than the size specified in the Project file) at that stage. These types of errors on 'open existing project' can result in the 'Invalid or corrupted project file' error, however PhotoStory 3 usually 'just copes' by 'silently dropping' any photos it can't find / doesn't like.

Note, however, it does NOT check the 'crop' dimensions or the timing of a photo before output (and even if you 'open' that photo in the GUI using 'Customise Motion' it only makes incremental changes from the existing values).
This means you can modify the crop and timing in ways that the GUI does not 'allow' (specifically, set crops 'off the photo' = into the bounding box, and set transition times greater than the photo display time, as well as 'reuse' the same source photo multiple times).
But if you 'get it totally wrong', you will run into a terminal 'Invalid or corrupted project file' or 'Insufficient memory' error at the output stage.

One thing PhotoStory refuses to cope with is a corrupted JPEG file, aborting the file 'open' process and refusing to show you the 'story' at all.

Using 7-zip to unpack the .wp3 will quickly reveal any corrupted JPEG(s). Unlike PhotoStory, 7-zip will complete the unpack just fine, and will even give your the PhotoStory file name (1.JPG etc) of the corrupted file.
Remember - although PhotoStory renames all photos with numbers, it always stores the original full-size photo and saves it's 'creation' date and time. So even if it's totally corrupted, it should be possible to find the original from the 'properties' (size, date/time) of the corrupted one.
If you can't find, or don't have, a copy of the corrupted photo, for Photostory to open the project, you will have to replace the corripted jpeg with a 'blank' image of the exact right size.
The project.xml file will give you the exact height and width, in pixels, of the corrupted photo, so it should be a simple matter to use any photo edit software to generate a 'blank' JPEG of the exact correct size.
You can then replace the corrupted photo, repack the .wp3 cabinet and open it in PhotoStory. Once open, you can delete the photo and PhotoStory will automatically re-number all the remaining photos.

It just falls over

Occasionally, PS3 just gives up with an 'Insufficient memory' error for no obvious reason. Using 'Save As,' then closing and re-opening the same Project will usually 'cure' whatever the real issue was

/temp file space

PhotoStory 3 uses the /temp folder location (as set by the Environment Variable when PhotoStory is launched) to 'unpack' an existing .wp3 Project (into temp/PhotoStorySession0/PSPreviewImage0). Whilst it is unclear exactly how much /temp space it needs, a RAM disk with 1.4Gb free space caused an 'Insufficient (temp) file space' warning when attempting to open a 400Mb .wp3 project.

It is possible that the 'problem' was down to using the same RAM disk for the Windows swap file (pagefile.sys) i.e. some sort of i/o 'clash'
Rather than 'abort' the open (when it decides there is 'Insufficient space') PS3 asks you if you wish to choose a different folder for the temp files, which it then seems to 'remember' in some way (there is no setting in the Project file, so I guess it's put in the Registry)

Photo limits

Count, Order, Types and Size limits

Count limits. PhotoStory 3 can't import more than 200 photos in one batch and the limit for a single 'Story', imported in multiple batches, is 300 images.

PS3 assigns a 'serial number' to each imported image. The 300 limit is the upper limit of the serial number 'count'. If you import 300 photos and then delete 299, your story will be limited to a single photo until you 'save' (and re-open) the Project when all the photos are re-numbered (starting at 0).
The re-numbering occurs when the Project is saved.

You can expect to generate a 'reasonable' 10-15 minute story of 50 to 100 photo's at preDVD movie resolution (768 x 576 pixels) depending on your computers physical RAM (2Gb - 4Gb).

Building a 50 minute+ DVD with many hundreds of source images must be done in smaller steps (i.e. in chapters).

Creating 'HD' (1080p) movies with PS3 can be a very frustrating business, as the 'output' will start to fail somewhere around 50 photo's (depending on the 'Pan & zooms' and the speed of transitions - the more extreme the zoom and the faster the transitions, the more likely it is to fail).

For tips on building your Story in 'clips' (i.e. multiple segments), see end of this page

Default Order. When you select more than one photo to import (i.e. a 'batch'), they are imported in 'name' order (and not the order you selected them in) and then added to the end of the 'story' (i.e. after any existing photo's already present)

Whilst individual images can be 'dragged and dropped' within PS3 to re-order them, you cannot drag a group (or even make a selection = 'Shift' select and 'Ctrl' select do not work).
So if your Story will contain more than a couple of dozen photos, before 'importing' you really do need to 'rename' them into your 'story order' (or waste a lot of time re-ordering one by one).

Supported Types. .bmp, .dib, .eps, .gif, .jhif, .jpe, .jpeg, .jpg, .pcd, .pcx, .png, .psd, .rle, .tga, and .tif

The actual, full, original photos are saved within the Project file (.wp3) 'archive'. Whilst the photo files are renamed (using sequential numbers), the original file format is retained (i.e. the project .wp3 might contain 0.jpg, 1.tif, 2.bmp etc)

This is both an advantage (your can move the PhotoStory 3 Project file anywhere you like) and a disadvantage (modifications to the original 'source' photo after you 'import' it won't be 'picked up') - however see later re: 'hacking the Project file'
Note that whilst it is not possible to 'duplicate' a photo from within the PhotoStory GUI, there is nothing to stop you 'importing' the same photo twice (or more), or 'hacking' the project .wp3 file (to use the same photo multiple times)

Size limit.

Photo Story image import Error

Whilst the PhotoStory 3 'import' limit is 7200 pixels (in both width and height), I have discovered that PhotoStory refused to 'Preview' (saying 'insufficient Resources' on a PC even with 4Gb RAM) after importing a number of 'portrait' photos all within the 7200 limit.

The likely reason is that a 7200 high portrait photo has to be placed into a 4x3 'bounding box' that will end up 9600 'pixels' wide. So, to 'stay safe' you should assume the 'actual' limit is on the 'bounding box' and that means "Landscape max. 7200 pixels wide, Portrait max. 5400 pixels high"

For a 10 year old application this is really good. Many 'modern' slide-show applications have lower limits - for example, PhotoShop Elements 11 has a limit of 4096x4096 (and it also 'auto-resizes' photos to the 'project frame size', whatever that is)
Note that if you 'hack' the wp3 Project file and modify/replace/add a photo with one beyond the 7200 width/height limit, when you next open the project, PhotoStory 3 will 'complain' about a 'corrupted file' and then continue whilst ignoring (i.e. skipping past) the over-size photo(s). This means that when you next 'Save Project', the 'skipped' photo(s) will be lost

It's a 'good idea' to provide PhotoStory with 'plenty of pixels' = so it can accurately 'crop' the 'sub-frames' it needs, especially when performing extreme zoom-ins. For maximum quality (especially when making AVCHD's), I use a QBasic script to 'optimise' all the photos to fit within twice the output resolution

The problem is that the 'faster' the pan/zoom = i.e. the more 'pixels per second' the view point has to move = the more likely it is to 'jitter'

Practical zoom limit

You should never 'zoom' below the final output size (PS3 shows the pixel count of the crop box when you adjust the zoom, so it's not hard to check).

Whilst this is not an imposed limit, if you make the mistake of zooming below the output size, pixels will have to be 'interpolated up' by PhotoStory when creating the output file, producing a very very 'smooth' or 'out of focus' looking result

To do an 'extreme' zoom in, it is far better to crop and resize the image using Photoshop etc. before 'importing' it into PS3.

If necessary, copy the original photo multiple times and generate multiple crop / re-sized parts (so you can do the 'zoom' in steps).
Note that it will be a lot simpler to 'align' one image zoom step (in PhotoStory) to the next if you stick to 'binary chops' :-)
With 'photo-stitched' landscapes you will need to watch out for the 7200 pixel width limit (to maintain quality you may have to import the landscape in multiple overlapping sections)

Your imported photo is positioned in the centre of the 'view window' and black borders are added to EITHER the sides OR the top and bottom (depending on the photo aspect ratio). Whilst you can include the border area in your crop, you can't 'zoom out' completely into 'black space' (nor zoom in from black space to the image)

If you want to generate an effect starting (or ending) with black space all around the photo, you will need to add the black space to the edges (borders) of the photo in Photoshop Elements etc. before 'importing' it

Fixed 4x3 Crop tool

PhotoStory 3's 'crop' tool is fixed at 4:3 aspect ratio, as is the GUI 'window' (which means PS 3 either adds black bands to the sides of any photos that are 'too tall' or will try to CHOP OFF the sides of any photo that is 'too wide')

Photo Story music import Error

If the first photo in your 'story' is not 4:3 aspect ratio, Photo Story will ask "Do you want to continue without removing black borders ?".

Make sure you select 'Yes'

If you choose 'No', PS3 will automatically crop ALL your photo's down to the 4:3 aspect ratio, totally destroying your ability to 'pan' eg. across an extra-wide photo-stitched landscape. Worse, if you let it do this, the GUI offers no way to 'un-crop' again

The complete photo is actually 'saved', so you can 'get back' the full width by 'hacking' the Project.xml file (=see later).
See also later for the 'work-around' that allows you to create 16:9 Stories (essentially, you (133% height) pre-distort your photo's so when they are 4:3 cropped the output contains the pixels needed for later 'expansion' to 16:9)
Note that many potential problems are avoided if you do your own 'black borders' i.e. pack the photos with black (or whatever colour you like) space, using some photo edit package, to the exact 4:3 ratio before using them in PhotoStory

Timing limits

Photos and transitions can be set to 0.1s accuracy. The minimum time for a photo or transition is 0.1s

It is actually possible to have 0.1s photos with 0.1s transitions = see "How transitions 'work'" below

Fade in / fade out (transition) timing limits

By default, PhotoStory sets each photo to 'fade in' from the previous with a 1 second Transition. For the first photo in the story, this means it will 'fade in' from a full sized blank (black) frame.

The problem with this is that music track starts when the photo 'starts' = and that is half way through the Transition !
If you replace the music track after output (eg in Windows Movie Maker), you may notice a 0.5 second timing error. This is because of the (default) 1 second 'start fade in' - PS starts the music on the first photo (which starts 0.5s 'in' from the black fade-in), whilst WMM starts it right at the beginning of your movie :-)
The 'fade from black' can also 'upset' lots of 3rd party video processing software (which checks the first few video frames, finds them 'blank' and either assumes there is no video at all, or, worse skips them (which upsets the audio timing again) without bothering to tell you).
Those DVD Author packages that are not upset by the 'fade in' will typically 'grab' a frame some fraction of a second 'in' as a 'icon' for your DVD 'Menu' - and if your first photo contains a pan/zoom (so it's 'zooming in' from the full screen 'black box' to your 'starting crop box' position), you can get some very odd looking 'icons' :-)

So always remove (un-set) the Transition for the first photo in your Story.

I often 'import' an exact 4x3 '50% grey' or '100% white' and start with that as my first photo (and unset the default transition) with a display time = 0.5s and 'fade in' from that to the first real photo (it can look better than 'fade in from black' or 'jump straight in')

Note that the Transition times are 'included' within the overall photo display time (i.e. they do not 'add' to the display time you set).

The GUI will not allow you to set a 'transition time' that is longer than the current image display time (although you can 'get around' this limit by 'hacking' the project file = see later).
If you try to set too long a 'transition time', it will be reset to '1 second' (even if the photo time is longer than 1s), without warning, when you click 'save'.

How Transitions 'work'

When you set a Transition, it is for 'this' photo with the previous photo

The transition time you set is divided into two halves (t/2).
The first half of the transition starts t/2 seconds before the end of the previous photo and uses a 'static' frame from this photo.
The second half starts at the end of the previous photo, extends t/2 seconds into this photo and uses a static frame from the end of the previous.
At the 'half way' time, for a fade (for example) you will see the last frame of the previous photo faded by 50% and merged with a 50% faded version of the first frame of this photo.
When one (one both) of the photos are being 'panned and zoomed', remember that transitions are 'within' the photo display. So prior to the mid point, the previous photo will still be panning and zooming, but during the transition it will be 'merged' with a (static) copy of the (start) frame of the next photo. After the mid point, a (static) copy of the last photo (end frame) is merged with the now panning and zooming next photo.
Thus, if panning and zooming, the previous photo will have reached it's 'end crop' position at the mid transition time (so will now be 'static' as it fades out, from 50% to 0), whilst the next photo will be at it's 'start crop' position until the mid-transition time and then start moving as it fades in the rest of the way from 50% to 100%.
In other words, the transition is only ever merging one 'moving' component and one 'static' component.
It is plainly possible to have a transition time of up-to twice as long as 'this' photos display time (and, indeed, you can hack the Project .wp3 - which contains the XML timings definition file - and set such times and the Project will build OK (subject to the limitations mentioned below))

The way in which transitions are combined with a pan and zoom sequence can generate some interesting effects, which is my main reason for 'sticking' with PS3 (despite all it's problems in creating high quality output)

Of course two transitions can't overlap. So this photos transition must end before the next photo's can start - so if you do set a transition twice as long as the display time for this photo, there will be no display time 'left over' for the next photo to use.

You thus need to be very careful when 'hacking' the wp3 project.xml (see later) to avoid setting a 'transition' time (that you want to exceed the current photo display time) that might 'run into' the time set by the next photo transition.

Note that whist PS3 will 'build' transitions longer than the display time correctly, if you later use the GUI to 'open' the 'transition timing' window for that photo, the time will be 'reset' (to 1 second) without warning

It's to be noted that (fade) transitions combined with fast pan and zoom seem to require (a lot) more RAM during output (and thus risk the build aborting with an 'Insufficient memory' error)

If you must have a fade into or out of a photo with a fast pan/zoom, consider ending the pan/zoom (and 'freezing' the photo) just as the fade-over starts.
To do this you import the 'zoomed' photo a second time. To 'freeze' the end, insert the copy after the original and set it to 'no transition'. Set it's 'start crop' is set to 'same as previous end' and it's end crop to 'same as start' - and it's display time to half the 'fade in' time defined in the next photo. If you need to maintain the same overall timing, you then go back to the original (pan/zoomed) photo and subtract the copies display time
The result will be an even faster pan/zoom on the first photo that stops ('freezes') at the end of the pan/zoom as the copy is shown during the fade in to the subsequent photo
NB. To make this easy I have created a QBasic script to automate the 'freeze' process (see my QBasic scripts for PhotoStory page)

PhotoStory 'titles' are 'burn in' text overlays

For each photo you can choose a single font / size / colour and (start) position / alignment, which is applied to all the text on that photo. The text 'sticks' to the image = i.e. any text will be 'left behind' at it's initial size and position if you zoom or pan across the photo. You can have a maximum of 1,024 characters per photo (the text auto-wraps in the picture preview area or you can use 'enter' to split lines).

Whilst there is no 'undo' button, 'Ctrl-Z' works fine to recover the text you just accidentally deleted.

Note that only the name of the chosen Font is saved as part of the Project File = i.e. the character 'shapes' are not saved ! This means that, if you choose a Font present on one machine and then move your Story to another that lacks that Font, you will get a "Warning - Project file is corrupt" when you open the project - and your text will be reset to Aerial (or whatever the default is) without further warning.

You can set the vertical alignment (text start) to top / bottom or center of the photo (and adjust the text position by inserting blank lines using the Enter key). You can left, center or right align the text (adding spaces allows you to 'left indent', however any text that auto-wraps will go back to the 'left aligned' position).

Text is positioned on the PHOTO, not the 'crop box'. It's quite possible to place the text 'too close' to the edge of the 'crop box' in which case some or more of the text will just be 'sliced off'
Whilst you can adjust the position by choosing from top/middle/bottom and left/middle/right alignment and then adjusting the 'exact' position using blank lines and spaces, this is relatively crude as the line 'height' and space width depends on the FONT style and size chosen.
When the story is output you will often find the text has been 'built' into a slightly different position - it's especially annoying that text you have carefully 'aligned' with the bottom of the 'crop box' often ends up 'too low' (with the bottoms of characters being 'sliced off')

Hacking the .xml within the PS3 Project .wp3 (a windows .cab format) file (see my Hacking the Project file page) allows some more control over the text (actually, just the colour) - - however since the text is 'burnt in', you might as well use your favourite photo-editing package to 'pre-title' your images instead - or (perhaps better) use your DVD authoring software to specify 'proper' sub-titles later.

Note that, if you are aiming at 16:9 final output, remember that the text you define within PS3 will be end up being 'expanded sideways' during playback. This is another good reason to use proper DVD 'subtitles' (rather than have PS 'burn in' text titles).

Audio limits


You can import 2 channel (stereo) 16bit, 44.1kHz PCM .wav or .wma (although you may have to manually rename '.wma' as '.wav' first). If your .wav contains anything else, PhotoStory 3 won't import it !

Photo Story music import Error

To avoid the '.wav error' above, you can choose 'all files' (when 'browsing' for audio) and select an .ac3 (or other 5.1) file, however whilst a 5.1 surround sound .ac3 file 'imported' in this way will play just fine at the 'Preview' stage, PhotoStory 3 will 'crash' during output at 'step 3' (even when you are using a Profile with a valid 5.1 audio codec) !!

Photo Story 3 outputs mp3 without crashing, however (depending on the bit rate = 128mbps seems to be the limit) the result often lacks bass and gains a background 'whistle' :-).

Another issue with .mp3's is that PhotoStory has problems getting the playback 'speed' exactly right (which makes it impossible to 'align' your photo transitions to mp3 music)

If you don't have the .wav original, just use the Open Source Audacity software to create one from the mp3.

PhotoStory has a built-in 'output bandwidth limit'. Audio gets 'priority', what's left over is used for video. When the limit is reached PhotoStory starts to 'skip frames' in it's output. This appears as 'jitter' when you play back the output, usually during 'fast' pan and zooms

Creating 'random' music

PhotoStory 3 'Create music' option uses the 'MIDI method' to generate 'random' (royalty free) music by Genre (from Classical, Country, Dance, Funk, Jazz, Latin, New Age, Pop, Rock, Silence, Soundtrack, and World), Style (from a set that matches the Genre), Band and Mood.

This requires that your sound card drivers support MIDI commands. Whilst I have never had any problems, if imported .wav can be heard OK, but you get no 'PS3 created' (MIDI) sound, start by updating your Sound Card drivers.

Created music replaces an imported music track and runs until replaced in turn (you can 'stop' created music or 'crop off' the end of an imported music track by 'creating silence')

The MIDI parameters for generated music are placed into the project.xml file within the Project .wp3 cabinet.
This means that 'random' music is not created and 'saved' as a .wav - if you want a .wav of random music, you can 'record' the music as it's generated during a preview (using some other software) or output a 'dummy' video and 'extract' the audio track.


You can use a microphone to 'record' (voice) narration directly into the Project file to a 'photo accuracy'. Narration begins with the 'start' of a photo you choose (actually, in the middle of the transition from the previous photo)

Narration is saved as a stereo .wav file in your project .wp3 file (see my 'Next' page, Hacking the PhotoStory 3 .wp3 project file

Narration is 'in addition' to any imported or created Music track. If you also add a music track, the two are ''merged' at output (only) time. So it's quite possible to narrate 'over' background music it's more a case of 'narrate with' since although the volume level for the Music track can be set at the point of import, there is no 'auto-fade' control

If you want to 'fade down' the music when you talk and 'fade up' again when not talking (or you want 5.1 for your final composition), use Audacity to 'combine' your narration and music into a single track (use the "Auto Ducking" Effect to auto-fade during narration).
You can then 'import' your 44.1kHz stereo mix into PhotoStory (as a .wav music track) whilst also saving it as .ac3 (for adding to the DVD later)

Audio alignment

When you Import an audio track, it starts when that photo starts to be displayed (i.e. half way through the transition from the previous photo) and runs until replaced (or the end of the track is reached). There is no 'cross fading' between tracks (if you want cross-fading, use Audacity to 'join' the two tracks together with the fade 'Effect' and save a stereo .wav for PhotoStory 3)

You can 'chop off' the end of a music track by replacing it with 'silence' (select the 'Silence' option from the 'Genre' list in auto-generate music).

Photos Story automatically 'fades out' any music still running during the last 10-15 seconds of your story. The only way to avoid this is to add a 'dummy' photo, at the end of your story, and set it to run for 15 seconds

This is only of concern to those who do not intend to replace the (stereo) music in 'post production' (i.e Movie Maker) with 5.1 etc..
To end your Story 'on a bang' (or you track has it's own fade out), you add the 'dummy' last photo and crop this off in Windows Movie Maker etc. later.

PhotoStory 3 does not show the audio waveform 'graph' in the video 'sequence' (not does it show the video time-line). This makes it very hard to 'line up' photo transitions with the music.

It is still possible achieve good alignment by a process of 'trial and error' with multiple 'previews' and timing adjustments, HOWEVER be aware that, to save time generating the 'Preview', each time you make an adjustment PhotoStory 3 only calculates the 'differences' !
This means that, after making dozens of timing changes, the sound and video can (will) get well 'out of sync' :-)
If you delete and re-import the music track and PS3 will rebuild from the music import photo on the next Preview, which is OK if that's the first photo (and if you know where to find the music track for re-import). A better solution is to 'save' the project, exit and re-enter (thus forcing a complete 'preview' rebuild without the risk of loosing the music)

Finally, remember that whilst most DVD 'author' packages allow you to replace the audio track with it's 5.1 version (prior to building the DVD), a replacement track can usually only be aligned to the start of the movie ! If you aligned photo transitions on the music beat, and want a replacement track to 'line up', you must have Imported the original track in PhotoStory on the first slide :-)

Remember to remove the 1s 'auto fade in transition' from the first photo (or the WMM replacement, which starts at the beginning of the movie, will be 'early' by 0.5s ..)
If your music starts on the second or later photo, just add the required amount of 'silence' to the 5.1 replacement using Audacity before replacing

Output limits

Unless you generate your own Profiles (or download mine = see below), the best you can get is "Profile for computers - 4 (1024x768)", however even this 'throws away' image quality (it is set to 95%, which appears to be about jpeg x64 compression).

Instead of using any of the (rather useless) built-in profiles, I have generated my own set = see my Output Profiles page

To maintain maximum quality, you should minimise the number of interpolation 'steps' required to reach your output.
For DVD's, this means you are facing a dilemma - ideally you want to compress the 'square pixel' PAL DVD 768x576 into 720x576 in a 'single step' but you also want to provide as many 'key frame' pixels as possible to Movie Maker when it's converting from PhotoStory WVP2 to AVI (or wmv)
I thus recommend using a 'DVD direct' Profile to get Photo Story to do the compression = remember, it is already using the start and end crop box to perform multiple crop and resolution adjust to output size to get the multiple 'morphing step' key-frames (about 1 per second)
When you convert this to AVI in Movie Maker, the 'key frames' will then be 'spot on' (and not require further processing)
Since 720x576 is a 6.25% 'less demanding' than 768x576 this should mean PhotoStory 3 output is a bit less likely to 'jitter' when you use a PWM audio Profile to preserve a Dolby-Pro-Logic-II (DPLII) music track. However, if you get jitter, dump the audio before output, use a 'minAudio' Profile (and add the audio back in Movie maker when generating the AVI)
For maximum quality, output from PhotoStory at 'double DVD resolution' (i.e. 1440x1152, or 1536x1152) = but watch out for jitter !
Note that the 'fps' setting in PhotoStory output only determines the playback 'speed' (it has no effect on the number of 'key frames' generated in the WVP2 file). HOWEVER, the further you set the fps from 30, the sooner 'flicker' starts to appear. So all my Profiles (mentioned above) are now set to 30fps.

Of course, when you come to convert from WVP2 into 'real' movie, you must generate the correct fps (so for PAL DVD, 25fps, NTSC 28.97 and for HD 23.976 fps)

Video size limit

There seems to be no limit to the size of the output .wmv file (other than running out of memory, which suggests a 2Gb limit = see later), however MS PS3 will not 'render' output at a video resolution wider (or higher) than "2000" pixels.

The '2000 limit' is a Profile limit imposed by MS Profile Editor tool. By 'hacking' the Profile you can achieve at least 2048 pixels (the absolute limit is said to be 2100 x 2100), however it's hard to get both 'reasonable speed' panning and zooming with 'jitter free' PhotoStory 3 output (in fact huge 'jerks' & 'jumps' start to appear)
Fortunately, full HD at 1920 wide (x 1080 high) is well within the limit, although the 'next' standard, '4k HD' aka UHD, at 3840 pixels (x 2160 high) is well out of reach (although there is nothing to stop you building at 'half size' and 'zooming up' later)

Output file format

Video output is always "Windows Media Video 9.1 Image" (v2) format (aka .wmv-i, FOURCC = 'WVP2'). Profiles with other Video Codec settings are simply ignored (i.e. not even shown in the 'choose output' window, so they can't be used).

You will discover that the 'PhotoStory.wmv' generated by PS3 is amazingly 'compact' for a 'movie'. This is because the WVP2 format is not really a movie at all - in fact it's similar to a GIF or MJPEG sequence of 'key frames' along with some 'morphing' instructions on how to get from one key frame to the next.
Because of this specialist file format, 'bit rates' are rather meaningless. Instead the file size is determined by the level of compression applied to the sub-photos, i.e. by the 'Quality VBR' setting.
However, if you choose anything other than 100%, PhotoStory 3 will compress further and reduce the quality (sharpness) of your photo's.
Dropping the QVBR from 100% to 98% reduces the output file size by about 30% = so it must be increasing photo compression by about the same and thus reducing your 'quality' by 30%

Whilst WVP2 may be the 'ideal' format for 'slide shows', it is very specialist and essentially unsupported outside the Microsoft world. On conversion into a 'real' movie format (.mpg), you can expect a file size increase between x4 and x6.

Audio output is 'required' (Profiles without Audio are not listed at output time, so they can't be selected). The 'best' you can have is stereo, however you do have some flexibility.

Whilst 'Quality VBR' wma is 'standard' (and 'Bit Rate VBR' typically causes the output to crash with "insufficient memory or your file is corrupt" error), it is possible to 'hack' the Profile and obtain the original .wav 'untouched' (as PCM) = this is a far better choice than .wma since it means a Dolby-Pro Logic II PCM data stream will be 'preserved' (and your story can be played back in surround sound.

The disadvantage is that stereo 44.1 kHz 16-bit PCM requires a CBR (Constant Bit Rate) bandwidth of 1,411.2 Kbps. This is fixed, so even if all you have is 'silence' (i.e. you have removed all audio tracks before output) this means PhotoStory has less bandwidth for the video = and when it 'thinks' the playback can't cope, it starts to 'skip frames' (during fast pan and zooms) even at normal DVD resolution output (720x576) !!
If you want to preserve your Dolby track, a better audio choice for your Profile (found under Quality VBR) is Windows Media Audio 9.2 Lossless. This applies a lossless compression algorithm to the data that reduces the 'raw' 1,411.2 kbit/s to between 470 and 940 kbit/s (variable). The result is a bit-for-bit duplicate of the original audio file (wma 9.2 lossless actually supports 6 discrete channels and up to 24-bit/96 kHz audio, however PhotoStory will refuse to output unless you stick to 44.1kHz stereo).
The drawback is that your 'downstream' software then has to 'understand' this format during playback. Fortunately, although it's never been publicly documented, an Open Source libav / ffmpeg decoder exists and is used by VLC - and most other packages will just 'hook' the Microsoft codec.
Finally, to minimise the bandwidth used for audio, use one of my 'minAudio' Profiles (which use Quality VBR, WMA 9.1 set to 'Quality = 10%') - and replace this before burning the DVD.
For output profiles, see my Output Profiles page (which also looks at how to create your own Profile)

Note - if you have built a complex story using multiple music tracks and narration, you may want to use the PhotoStory audio for your DVD.

For more on this, and processing the audio from the PhotoStory 3 into 5.1 pseudo-surround sound, see my Making movie DVD's, AVCHD page

Changing the Project defaults

By default, PhotoStory sets all photo's to 5 second duration and sets a default transition time of 1s along with 'random' pan and zooms. This is a real pain if you want to display hundreds of photos 'in sequence' with no transition and no pan/zoom (i.e. like an AVI) without having to open each and every one to change the settings. To 'bulk modify' the PhotoStory project file, you can use Mark Coffman's TweakPhotoStory104.msi (442kb)

This tool gives you the ability to do the following :-
- Change the Duration = sets a new time for each photo to 0.01s accuracy (range is 0.01s - 300.00s)
WARNING setting a time below the 'output fps' leads to dropped frames (of course) and unexpected duration changes on the total story (PS seems to limit photo timing to the fps rate)
- Remove Motion = removes all pans and zooms (retains transitions)
- Remove Transitions = removes all transitions (retains pan and zoom)
- Randomize the order of your slides

WARNING - some reports suggest that the tool is limited to 300Mb output file size (and just drops everything beynd that limit) = so make sure to back-up your Project first !

Recommended work-flow

When you 'Save Project', PhotoStory 3 copies all the photos (and music) you 'imported' into it's .wp3 project 'archive' file. These are held in their 'original' form (i.e. full size, .jpg, .gif, .tif etc). So I highly recommend you maintain a 'master project' containing the original (un-cropped, un-zoomed) photos only

Years later, when you come to 're-process' your Story, chances are your original photos will have become 'hidden' in some forgotten 'archive' or 'cloud' (or just lost altogether when you last but one hard drive crashed). In other words, the only 'version' you have will be the one inside your PhotoStory Project file

If these are un-cropped and un-zoomed, you have the maximum of choice when making changes

I always 'build' a 'master' PhotoStory with my 'original' photos and music, then 'hack the Project file', using a script (QBasic + 'command line' .cmd file), that makes use of the 'convert.exe' command-line image processing tool (from ImageMagick), to crop and resize all the photos to the 'optimum' for the chosen output resolution, but only just before (and for) the output.

To save processing time, for DVD output (768x576) the script also removes the music track (this is going to be replaced by a 5.1 version before the DVD is 'burnt' anyway). To check timing, a Dolby ProLogic II version can be added when the PhotoStory format is converted into .avi etc. in Windows Movie Maker
After repacking the .cab archive and generating the required output, I then delete this 'output only' version of the .wp3 before checking the result.
This approach is to forces me to go back to the 'Master' whenever I need to make changes = it's the ONLY way I can avoid the temptation of 'just making a small change' to the 'output only' version ...
Generating 16:9 output is rather harder, since, no matter how 'clever' the 4:3 -> 16:9 QBasic script is, chances are you will need to manually adjust the start and end 'crop positions'.
I thus start by building a 4:3 'sub-master' Story with all the required photos (and music) and get the cropping 'about right'. I then 'perfect' the timing (after adjusting the music as required, using Audacity).
Once I'm happy with that, I run the 4/3rds (133%) height convert (and double all the timings for a HD 'target') to generate the '16:9 Master', which I then use to get the crop positioning correct.
The 16:9 Master is then reprocessed for optimal sub-frame generation just before output using one of my multiple 'convert' scripts (one for each specific target output 'DVD', '2xDVD', 'HD (AVCHD)', AV 'Beamer' etc etc (see my QBasic scripts for PhotoStory page). This version will have 'illegal' transition timings, so any attempt to 'Customise Motion' will 'trash' the optimally set timings.
Again, the music track is removed in the 'output only' version (and a 'minAudio' Profile used to maximise the chances of jitter free result)
NB My scripts only look for (and process) .jpg photos.

To sum up :-

a) I build a 'master' Story in 4:3 mode using 'original' (i.e. undistorted) photos - and make sure you 'back it up' !
b) When I'm happy with my Story, I use a 'script' to distort the original photos for 16:9 HD, creating a '16x9 Master' version
c) I then open the 16x9 Master project, check and adjust the crop positions as necessary, then 'Save Project'. If the 'Preview' (done after the Save because sometimes a Preview will crash loosing all your edits :-) ) is OK, I use a second script to 'sub-frame optimise' for the target output (which will crop and duplicate photos and set 'illegal' transition times)
c1) I then 'open' the 'output version' and go direct to select the appropriate Profile (see my Output Profiles page). I always click 'Play my story' after output (since if it jitters at this step there is no point in going on)
To get jitter free output you may have to go direct to PAL DVD 720x576 (rather than the larger, and thus more jitter prone, 768x576) or use the 'preHD' Profile (again, output the smaller 'squeezed' 4:3 version of 16:9 (i.e. 1440x1080), which can be expanded into full HD 1920x1080 'down stream')
At high resolution, when PhotoStory thinks playback is going to 'run out of bandwidth' it starts to 'skip frames' i.e. it builds 'jitter' into the output file. To minimise the chances of this happening, use a 'minAudio' Profile - and then try using a Profile with lower video Quality. If you still get jitter at 95% QVBR (jitter usually appears first on fast pan and zooms), and for output resolutions above 2100x2100 pixels, you may have to build your own output (by processing the .xml project using scripts, ImageMagick and ffmpeg). For 'how to', see my Overcoming jitter page

d) I convert the PhotoStory output (.wmv WVP2, WMV-Image) into 'something else' (eg typically, I use Movie Maker to generate DV/AVI for making SD DVDs, Media Encoder / Expressions Encoder for HD AVCHDs) and 'preview' it in VLC.
e) After generating all the Stories (chapters), I 'Author' my DVD / AVCHD (which typically means replacing the stereo audio track (if any) from PhotoStory with an AC3 5.1 version = see my preparing your music page)

Next page :- Maximising quality