Windows Live Movie Maker: Burn a DVD

Returning to our long running Windows Live Movie Maker series (these posts and corresponding screen videos will be gathered into an online, self-paced workshop for next semester) here is the final in the series, how to burn a DVD from your Windows Live Movie Maker project.

Windows DVD maker comes with Windows 7 Home Premium, Ultimate and Enterprise editions and can be invoked from within Windows Live Movie Maker.  After performing your edits, adding title and credit screens, text overlays, background music, transitions and video effects—in short, after completing your Windows Live Movie Maker project and saving it as a wlmp file—click on the Movie Maker tab, hover over Save movie and select Burn a DVD.

Burn DVDFigure 1 Burn DVD

Note that the aspect ratio of your project will be used by DVD maker.

Movie Maker will first prompt you to save a WMV version of your project somewhere on your file system.  It will name it the same as your project file, but the name can be changed if you wish.  Navigate to where you wish to save the file and click Save.  If you have a large project the save can take some time.
Next Windows DVD Maker will be invoked, containing your project video.  Note that DVD maker will report the 1) duration of your video; 2) the amount of time it will consume of the total time available on a standard DVD-R or +R disc; 3) the DVD title, which by default is the date on which you created it, but you should change this, because it is the title that will appear in the DVD menu (only 32 characters are allowed); 4) the drive on which the DVD will be burnt; and 5) the option to add other items to the DVD,
video, audio or pictures in its supported formats.   For purposes of this description we will assume you have already added all your project assets in Movie Maker, and do not need to add any more, but note that assets can be added to this program as a stand-alone application.

DVD Maker Add AssetsFigure 2 Add pictures and video

Note that the Options link in the lower right corner of the illustration above will open a dialog that will allow you to change some basic options, like how the DVD starts and loops (if at all), aspect ratio, either 16:9 or 4:3, Video format (NTSC or PAL – and always choose NTSC for American equipment), how fast it is burnt, and the location of the Temp file DVD maker will use.  You usually will not have to change these settings.

After changing your DVD title, click Next.

DVD maker will respond by showing a sample DVD title screen with a scene from the video chosen at random with the DVD title in a large font and Play and Scenes options in a smaller font.  DVD maker will auto generate scene divisions.  This dialog box contains options to 1) Preview the menu; 2) Modify the menu text (and add a Notes section, which is a good idea for future reference); 3) Customize the menu (discussed below); 4) options for creating a slide show (DVD maker can be used in place of Movie Maker to create slide shows from photos with background music, transitions, and zoom and pan effects, but does not contain other more sophisticated effects editing capabilities).  Most importantly it contains a (5) Style gallery from which you can pick a very sophisticated looking menu for your project.

DVD Maker Menu ChoicesFigure 3 Configuration Choices


Selecting preview will place your project in a small preview window with the options chosen from the previous screen in effect.  For most projects this will mean the menu will be visible. You can test its functionality from the preview screen.

Menu Text

Menu Text will allow changes to the DVD title, the text of the onscreen menu buttons, and the addition of a Notes feature, with a text box where notes can be entered.  Only 32 characters are allowed in the DVD title, Play button, Scenes button, and Notes button fields.  256 characters are allowed in the Notes field.  The font family used on the menu can also be changed to any of the True Type fonts available on your system, and font properties like color, bold and italics can be set.  Font settings apply to the entire menu, and selective parts cannot be controlled individually.  Be sure to click Change Text after making your changes.  Note that you can preview the changes from this dialog box.

Change Menu TextFigure 4 Change DVD Menu Text

Customize Menu

The Customize Menu selection allows for similar font changes, configuration of separate independent foreground and background menu videos, custom menu audio (be sure the menu audio is set to the same volume as the project audio, or else you are liable to have extremely loud or soft audio for your menu and have to adjust the volume once the video begins playing).  You can also select from a wide variety of screen button styles from the Scenes button styles drop-down.

If you change the style, be sure to click the Change Style button before proceeding.  If you wish to Save the style for future use you may with the Save as new style button.

Customize MenuFigure 5 Customize DVD Menu Style

Menu Styles

The Menu Styles gallery contains a number of very polished looking menu formats.  Select the one you want by clicking on it.  As you click on the various styles they will be previewed in the video window.  To see them in action click the Preview button.  Even menus styles that include video within video will display properly in thumbnail in the preview window.

Select Menu StyleFigure 6 Select Menu Style and Burn

Burn DVD

Once you have configured your DVD, click the Burn button.  If you have not inserted a disc in the proper drive, you will be prompted.  Note that if you have Windows auto play turned on, you may see a Burn dialog box appear.  Just cancel it. Windows DVD burner will start to burn the disc automatically once a blank one has been inserted.  Since burning is a background activity, you can use the computer while burning is occurring, but if you do it will slow the process.  For large projects the burn can take a significant amount of time.

Burn DVD Progress Figure 7 Encode and Burn

That’s it.  You now have a disc that can be played on any modern DVD player.  When it is finished, Windows DVD Maker will offer to Make another copy of this DVD.  If not, click Close.

Make Another CopyFigure 8 Additional Copy Option

When you exit DVD Maker you will be given the option to save your project, which you should do.  It will save you the work of reconfiguring the menu elements again should you decide to burn another copy at a future time.


If Windows DVD Maker stops responding or refuses to burn the DVD, check the Compatibility tab of the Options selection on the “Add pictures and video to the DVD” screen illustrated as Figure 2 above.  If you find any video or audio filters listed there, clear their check box to disable them, and then try again.  Other audio and video programs on your computer may have installed these filters.  Disabling them in DVD Maker will not affect the other programs.

If your DVD burns but will not play on a DVD player, be sure it is not a really old DVD player.  Also be sure that you did not inadvertently choose PAL format if you live in North America, or NTSC format if you live in Europe.

If playback of the DVD is uneven or missing elements, try burning again and do not do anything else on your computer while encoding/burning.  DVD Maker is set by default to burn in the background, but encoding and burning are processor intensive activities, so it is best to give your project as much computing power as possible.  Disconnecting from the Internet during this process and being sure that backup or other processes are not running can also be helpful.  Your Task Manager will indicate what is going on.

Windows Live Movie Maker: Visual Effects

It is easy to add some very sophisticated visual effects to your still images and videos in Windows Live Movie Maker.  First, load the images and videos you wish to apply effects to.  Next, select the images or video by clicking (or shift/ctrl clicking a group).  Then go to the Visual Effects tab, pull down the video effects gallery, and click on an effect to apply it to the selected images/videos.  Visual effects applied to images and videos will stay in effect for the entire duration of the image/video and if it is a moving effect (like rotate 360 or 3d ripple) the duration of the effect will scale to the duration of the image/video.

visual effects gallery

Note the various types of effects.  Note also the “Multiple effects…” link at the bottom of this dialog box.  Any/all visual effects can be applied to the same picture, for some really create looks.

A trick using still images is to copy the image (Ctrl-drag to copy), apply an effect to the first instance, and then transition (the blur transition works well) into a full-color version of the picture.  The same can be done with videos by splitting the video a certain number of seconds in, applying an effect to the first brief video, and then transitioning to the standard version.

Visual effects in combination with transitions and pan and zoom effects can make for some very interesting visuals in Movie Maker.  I have produced a quick video with demos of many of the visual effects available to you.

Windows Live Movie Maker: Pan and Zoom Effects

Everyone knows what you mean when you say “Ken Burns effect.”  You mean viewing a static image as if it is a motion picture, the panning and zooming of the picture causing the illusion of motion.  Today’s post covers how to apply pan and zoom effects using Windows Live Movie Maker.

Up front let me say that you do NOT have fine control over the zones in your pictures that get panned and zoomed to/from.  In a program previous to Windows Live Movie Maker, Microsoft’s PhotoStory 3, you had the ability to define pan and zoom regions, but no longer.  The design philosophy of the current version of Movie Maker is ‘make it simple, make it effective.’  And the corollary is ‘the fewer choices the better.  So, if you want fine control over regions of your still images for pan and zoom, you will have to purchase an add-in, or simply use another product.

The good news is, it really doesn’t matter.  The 32 pan and zoom effects built in to Movie Maker will meet most people’s needs, and if they do not, it might be easier (and certainly cheaper) to simply edit your photos in Microsoft’s free Windows Live Photo Gallery so that the region you want to zoom in on, or pan to, is located conveniently in the area the pan or zoom templates already use.

I digress, however.  Let’s get down to basics.

To add a pan or zoom effect, select a photo (click it), click on the Animations tab, click the drop down on the pan and zoom gallery, and choose your effect by clicking it.

Pan and Zoom Effects Gallery

If you are not sure, choose the Automatic effect and Movie Maker will pick one at random.  Once an effect is applied to a photo, you will see a small icon in the upper left corner of the photo in the story board frame.

Pan and Zoom Icon

If you want the same effect applied to all your photos, either click “Apply to all” in the Pan and zoom ribbon area, or select all photos (or as many as you wish) before applying the effect.

That’s really all there is to it.  The effect on a photo slideshow is dramatic, however, so I encourage you to use pan and zoom effects.

Here is the screen video, for those who would rather see it done than read about it.


Windows Live Movie Maker: Transitions

The discussion of transitions can be short and sweet.  Transitions are those cool video effects that can be placed between photos or video clips within Movie Maker.  In older versions of Movie Maker you had a timeline and could drag clips or photos so that they would overlap on the timeline to create cross fades and other effects.  Things are much simpler now.  Simply click between photos or clips in the storyboard pane, go to the Animations tab, select the transition you want (there are 72 to choose from) and click it.  That’s all, unless you want to 1) change its duration; or, 2) apply it to all photos or clips in the project.

Transition Duration

To remove one or more transitions, select the slides to which they are applied (as represented by a translucent right triangle across the right side of the photo or clip in the storyboard) and click the None icon in the transitions gallery.  Apply to all if you want to remove all transitions in the project.

No Transition

Movie Maker treats photo or clip number 1 differently than the rest of the photos or clips in the project.  It expects a title slide in position 1, and only a few transitions are available on the title slide (5 in fact).  If you have a clip or photo that you want to apply one of the other effects to in position 1, simply insert a title slide in position 1.

Insert Title Slide

Just a word of warning, it is easy to get carried away with transitions, making them more prominent than they deserve to be and causing distractions in your video, rather than focusing your audience’s attention, so use them wisely.  For the home slide show, they’re great and part of the fun, but for academic purposes I would say that a conservative, sparing use is more appropriate.  Your mileage may vary.

Here is a quick screen video that summarizes the who process.



Windows Live Movie Maker: Using Digital Photos

Today’s topic, as we continue our series on Windows Live Movie Maker, is using photos taken with a digital camera.  Actually, there is not much to using photos in Windows Live Movie Maker.  Once you have brought them into the project, by clicking the “Add Videos and Photos” command on the Home tab,” the only setting you can monkey with is the Duration setting, found on the Edit tab of the Video Tools tab (which will appear when the photo is selected—remember, even though your photos are still images, they are considered frames within a video).  The default is 7 seconds, which is generally too long.

Photo Duration Command

You can select multiple photos and apply a common duration to them all if you wish.

You rearrange photos within your video by simply dragging them.  As you drag, a black vertical line will appear before each other element in your video to indicate the position of the photo after you release the mouse button.

You can, of course, add transitions and zoom and pan effects to the photos, but those are topics for another post.  In this post I would like to consider the issue of the aspect ratio of the photos themselves, and describe what to do when you get those black bars on the sides or tops of your photos within videos produced using WLMM.

With respect to aspect ratio (the relationship of the width to height of the photo) there are two common aspect ratios used by digital cameras and two used in producing video in Windows Live Movie Maker, and they are not the same.

Standard digital cameras usually take pictures that have a 4:3 aspect ratio, that is 4 wide and 3 high, which translate to an aspect ratio of 1.33 (4 divided by 3).  This is the same aspect ratio of old fashioned TV sets and many early generation video cameras.  Because it is so common, it is supported by WLMM.

Digital SLR cameras, however, use a 3 wide by 2 high ratio, or aspect ratio of 1.5.  This is why you will see some of your printed photos cropped when ordering sizes other than 6 x 4.  WLMM does NOT support this aspect ratio.

Remember, there are two possible aspect rations within Windows Live Movie Maker, 4:3 and 16:9 (1.78), and the aspect ratio setting for an entire project is set on the Project tab.

Aspect Ratio

Obviously, if you have used a digital SLR camera that uses a 3:2 aspect ratio to take the photos you wish to incorporate into your video you are going to have a problem.  Either you must crop the photo to 16:9 aspect ratio (and I will show you how below) or you must live with vertical black bars to the sides of your photos when producing at 16:9, or horizontal black bards above and below when producing in 4:3 aspect ratio.

If you have used a standard digital camera that has a built-in 4:3 aspect ratio you will not have this problem, unless you are trying to include these photos in a video that also includes video clips taken at 16:9 (with an HD video camera).  In this case, you will have to crop your 4:3 photos to fit the 16:9 project.  (Just as a note, there actually are a couple of digital still cameras that use 16:9 aspect ratio).

In either case, if you use Windows Live Photo Gallery—which is part of the installation of Windows Live Movie Maker (see my post on installing WLMM) you can easily crop the pictures to the desired aspect ratio.

To do so, open the photos in Windows Live Photo Gallery.  If you have associated your picture file type (usually jpg) with Windows Live Photo Gallery it will open in the program when you double click it.  If not, right click the photo’s thumbnail in Windows Explorer and hover over Open with… , and select Windows Live Photo Gallery.

Open With Photo Gallery

The single picture within the folder you were viewing will open.  Now, click “Edit, organize or share” in Windows Live Photo Gallery.

Edit in Photo Gallery

ALL of the pictures in the folder you were viewing in Windows Explorer will open in thumbnail view in Windows Live Photo Gallery.  You can perform many edits from this view, but not cropping.  To crop you have to go to “one up view.”  To do so, double click the first picture you want to work on.  Click the drop-down under Crop on the Edit tab in one up view, hover over Proportion, and select the aspect ratio to which you wish to crop the photo.

Crop to Proportion

A rectangle will light up in your photo representing the proper proportion, with the rest of the photo slightly dimmed.  Drag the corner handles to include as much or as little of the picture as you want.  It cannot be all the picture, obviously, some will have to be cropped off.  Press Enter to apply the crop.  Now, click the Next control to load the next picture  to crop it.  Continue until finished.

Note that you may want to use some of the other editing tools in Windows Live Photo Gallery while cropping to proportion, like Straighten or Auto adjust, etc.  They are easy to use and can have a dramatic effect on the quality of the final photo.  Note also that if you are unhappy with your crop or any other edits you make in Windows Live Photo Gallery, you can click the “Revert to original” button on the Edit tab to return the photo to its original state.  Like Windows Live Movie Maker, it is a non-destructive editor.  Finally, and nevertheless, my own practice is to work on COPIES of photos, and not the originals.  Once you have applied edits you may have another use for the originals and will not want to revert them.  Since storage is cheap, why not simply copy them, move the copies into your project assets folder for Movie Maker, and edit them there?

This long winded post is neatly summarized in the following screen video.

Windows Live Movie Maker: Video Aspect Ratio

For purposes of editing video with Windows Live Movie Maker you have to be aware that there are two possible video screen aspect ratios:  16:9 (widescreen) or 4:3 (standard screen).  If you shoot video with an HD camera (sometimes referred to as 1080p cameras or 720p cameras (don’t worry about that “p”) you will be shooting in 16:9 aspect ratio and need to set your project aspect ratio accordingly.  If, on the other hand your camera is a bit older, or is a non-HD camera, then you will probably be shooting in standard screen aspect ratio, and need to set your project aspect ratio to 4:3.  To set project aspect ratio, click on the Project tab and choose Widescreen (16:9) or Standard screen (4:3).

Aspect Ratio

You cannot mix aspect ratios within the same project without getting either letterbox black bars top and bottom, on a standard screen project that includes widescreen video, or pillar box black bars at the sides of the video, on a widescreen project that includes standard screen video.  Generally this should not be an issue, but when you assign group projects or have old video you want to include with new this may arise.

Things get a little more complicated when you start adding still images, which are shot, usually, with a 3:2 aspect ratio, but that is for another post.  Cell phone video can have this same issue.  There is a good and simple fix for static photos, not so much for cell phone video.  Sometimes its just easier to live with black bars or borders, but we will discuss that later.

For project preparation purposes, some may find the following pixel resolution/video screen table useful.  If it makes your head spin, just forget it and remember that in WLMM there are only two aspect ratios you have to worry about.

Pixel Video Aspect Ratios

In the mean time, here is a quick screen video that demonstrates the ins and outs of widescreen vs. standard screen video aspect ratio.