MediaCoder with Windows Movie Maker in XP

Discuss about generic usage of MediaCoder.

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MediaCoder with Windows Movie Maker in XP

Post by meRobs » Sat Jan 30, 2010 12:34 pm

[Updated 7 Apr 2012]

Windows Movie Maker is an application supplied with Windows XP and Vista. In Feb 2012, I checked out version 2.6 for Vista, which also works in Win7 (see: viewtopic.php?f=17&t=11406). It has the ability to capture from a movie camera, edit files, apply transitions, add audio (music or commentary) and, finally, output the resultant 'Movie' to a format suitable for either play (on iPhone, web, PC, etc) or 'authoring' to a DVD (see viewtopic.php?f=17&t=8454&start=0 ).

However, files to be fed to Movie Maker must be in a suitable format and, if not from a movie camera, this is where MediaCoder comes in. So, there are four issues to be considered:
1. What are the supported formats for importing files to Movie Maker and how they may be created in MediaCoder,
2. The behaviour of Movie Maker
3. Exporting a movie from Movie Maker and
4. Use of an Authoring App..

My System
The discussion that follows is based on studies I have conducted using many file formats created by MediaCoder builds 4582 and 4596 (mostly). The operating system on my PC is Windows XP SP3 and the version of Movie Maker is that bundled with SP2 and, I guess, updated in SP3 since the 'About' info indicates both Version 5.1 (SP3) and version 2.1.4026 (SP2)?!

Since the behaviour of MediaCoder and Movie Maker would depend on the Codecs resident on the PC, I took the precaution of re-installing my Codec packs. I did this in the following order: (1) K-Lite Codec pack version 5.6.1, which noted and removed some broken Codecs as well as the Storm Codec pack and other smaller ones, (2) the Storm Codec pack v. 7.01.19 to enable that excellent alternative to Explorer, XnView, to play all formats and (3) Windows Media Payer 11.

I do not suggest all these Codecs are required, although, Windows Media Payer would be a minimum.

1. Use of MediaCoder
Even though Movie Maker claims to support numerous input formats, in practice, it is best to keep to a few 'safe' ones, especially since this program is somewhat temperamental (see below). Of course, if your aim is to directly capture material from a digital camera, you may skip this section and go to Section 2.

It seems reasonable to assume that Movie Maker, from Microsoft, will accept, and even prefer, the importation of WMV files containing WMV video and WMA audio streams. These would include Video via the Codecs WMV 7, WMV 8 and WMV 9 and Audio via WMA 7, WMA 8 and WMA 9 (9.2). And, I can confirm that this is so, at least, for WMV 7 with WMA 8, WMV 8 with WMA 8 and WMV 9 with WMA 9.2.

I was unable to convert to WMV 7 and WMV 9 with MediaCoder builds up to 4596, as well as builds 4616 and 4702. Hence, for this test, I used WMV 7 files from another, similar GUI and WMV 9 files as output from Movie Maker itself. This situation may be rectified in future builds of MediaCoder, and, in any case, WMV 8 has been readily available in MediaCoder, and still is.

Apart from exporting in WMV, Movie Maker also exports in DV-AVI files (with PCM audio), so, it is also reasonable to assume that Movie Maker will import DV-AVI files in PCM or WAV. This is true, but the DV Video Codec in MediaCoder suits only PAL and gives a much larger file than WMV: about 216 MB/min (with PCM), compared with less than ~20 MB/min for WMV (below). One alternative for NTSC is to use the Huffyuv Codec, but the files are even larger, ~615 MB/min! In either case, I suggest you use the PCM or Waveform Codec for audio since Movie Maker does not like either MP3 or ADPCM.

So, I suggest you convert to WMV 8 in MediaCoder using:
* Video tab: Format = WMV 8, Bit-rate = as required (see below), Source = Auto select or MEncoder, Encoder = FFmpeg
* Audio tab: Encoder = FFmpeg, Format = PCM (bitrate will be fixed), Source = Auto select and Resample = 44.1 kHz. If WMA is available in your build of MediaCoder, you may use it, at 64 to 160 kbps, say.
* Container tab: Container = ASF (or WMV, depending on the build), Multiplexer = Auto select or Disabled
* Picture tab: As a general rule, set the Resize values equal to those to be set in Movie Maker, 720x576 for PAL or 720x480 for NTSC, and leave Crop disabled and Aspect Ratio = Keep DAR. See Note 3, below.

For the video, choose any desired video bitrate up to ~4000 kbps, the maximum for build 4596, and more than adequate.
I suggest you use a value significantly more than the bitrate of the source file, to minimize any degradation during the conversion. Note that Movie Maker uses ~2000 kbps for its best output options for video in WMV (2.1 Mbps for video and audio). With the video at 2000 kbps and the audio at 112 kbps, the file size will be 17 MB/min.

Note 1: If WMA 7 audio is selected in build 4596, the result will be WMA 8.
Note 2: The Resample rate is probably not critical since Movie Maker will accept 44.1 and 48 kHz, and maybe others. It outputs Movies at 44.1 kHz for WMV and 48 kHz for DV-AVI.
Note 3: The PAR value for each file imported into Movie Maker will be ignored and its video frames will be converted so as to just fill the output frames in both dimensions. That is why I suggest leaving Aspect Ratio at the default, Keep DAR, and Crop Disabled. If Set PAR = 1 is chosen instead, it should give the same outcome from Movie Maker!

You may need to give the Aspect Ratio and the Crop options further thought. The first is discussed in viewtopic.php?f=17&t=8197&start=0 and the second in viewtopic.php?f=17&t=8188&start=0.

2. Movie Maker
One major reviewer would not recommend the use of Movie Maker because he found it temperamental, and often crashed, and many users in various forums made similar complaints. Moreover, I found it unstable and sluggish behaviour when importing Xvid/AVI files and files having audio streams in MP3 and ADPCM, etc. However, when confined to the choices indicated above, Movie Maker behaved well in my system and was easy to use, most of the time.

The first point of relevance to this topic is that the export options for Movie Maker are affected by the settings under Tools > options > Advanced, where one may choose PAL or NTSC and 4:3 or 16:9. Regardless of the parameters of the imported file, these settings help define the output. Hence, Movie Maker can even convert a PAL source file to NTSC and vice versa, though, probably not a good idea.

Secondly, we now need to discuss the aspect ratios DAR (of the display) and PAR (of Pixels), and later I will mention the Frame AR. These are defined in the guide: viewtopic.php?f=17&t=8197&start=0. The PAR for each of the files that are imported into Movie Maker will be ignored and its video frames will be converted so as to just fill the output frames in both dimensions. This will result in distortion if the DAR of the output file from Movie Maker doesn't match that of the original file, as fed to MediaCoder! Assuming the latter (original) file has the correct DAR (it displays with the correct aspect ratio), we need its value of DAR (4:3 or 16:9) set under Tools (above). Just how Movie Maker does this is explained below.

3. Exporting from Movie Maker
Once the movie has been planned, edited in Movie Maker, if required, and is ready to go, the final step is to export it in a suitable form. And there are numerous choices. Apart from a few options for Pocket PC, all others will have parameters that suit the settings under Tools > Options > Advanced, for PAL or NTSC and 4:3 or 16:9 (DAR).

To see all output options, click the File menu and select “Save Movie File”, or Ctrl-P, which opens the Save Movie Wizard with one option already checked. It is:
* “Best quality for playback on my computer (recommended)”. This will export the movie as a WMV file with a frame size (FAR), PAR and DAR to suit the values set under Tools (above) and a bitrate judged by Movie Maker to match the quality of the source file.

To see the other options, select “Show more choices” on the wizard. There are 18 listed:
* 3 options for a Pocket PC (low bitrates, frame sizes and frame rates)
* 11 options for devices/applications needing a PAR = 1. The value of DAR set under Tools (above) is achieved via the frame itself, i.e., its aspect ratio (FAR) = DAR, and
* 4 options to suit the chosen TV standard (PAL or NTSC). They are the options with either 'PAL' or 'NTSC' in their names. Their frames will be 720x576 (PAL) or 720x480 (NTSC) and the exported file will have a value of PAR (not equal to 1) aimed at giving the DAR set under Tools. These options have relatively large bitrates.

All export options will create WMV files, except for “DV-AVI (PAL or NTSC)”.

NOTE 1: when Movie Maker places a PAR value in the exported WMV file, it seems not to be in the header of the file! For example, the freebies Gspot and MediaInfo will not display a PAR value for WMVs generated by Movie Maker or by MediaCoder, yet they will for the DV-AVI. Moreover, software players such as GOM, MPC and VLC will display WMVs at the Frame Aspect Ratio. On the other hand, Windows Media Player will see the 'hidden' PAR and display the files at the correct DAR !!
NOTE 2: if you wish to add the PAR to the header of a WMV file, for those players/devices that will respond to or need the PAR in the header, it may be quickly added with the very small, free Tool: 'WMV Aspect Ratio Changer'.
NOTE 3: the AVI files exported by Movie Maker are Interlaced, whereas, the WMV exports are Progressive. For a discussion of Progressive versus Interlaced, see: viewtopic.php?f=17&t=9867&start=0.

4. Use of an Authoring App
An 'authoring' application is a program that converts audio/video material into a form that complies with DVD specifications with Menus, Chapter points and all the navigation required. Some free Authoring programs are discussed in viewtopic.php?f=17&t=8454&start=0.

So, if your next step is to 'author' your file(s) to DVD, check that your authoring program will accept WMV or DV-AVI files from Movie Maker. Second, authoring will involve conversion to MPEG for compliance with DVD specifications. Hence, choose an export option (Movie Maker) with a high bitrate so as to minimize degradation of the video.

If your Authoring App responds to the PAR of a file, export from Movie Maker as DV-AVI or choose “Video for local playback (2.1 Mbps NTSC)” or the PAL equivalent.

If the Authoring App does not respond to the PAR, and relies on the Frame Aspect Ratio, use “Video for local playback (2.1 Mbps)”, which, for example, will give a resolution of 856x480 for NTSC in 16:9, instead of 720x480.

On the other hand, a better quality result is more likely if the next conversion after Movie Maker is done by MediaCoder, to DVD-compliant MPEG2 with a GOP of 12 (viewtopic.php?f=17&t=8282&start=0), and set the Authoring App to 'Copy' the streams (without further encoding)!
Have you checked out the Tips & Guides for MediaCoder? Try:
Also, get older builds at: