Frame Error in Vista Ultimate's Movie Maker 6: MPEG2 File Troubles

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A Scary Moment

Here’s the scenario…

A user of MM6 on a Spanish version of Vista Home Premium, with MPEG PAL source video files, couldn’t publish her finished project. She shipped two data DVDs with the project and source files so I could publish it on my Vista Ultimate system. I’m in Michigan using a brand new English version of Vista in an NTSC environment.

I was impressed that mailing a couple DVDs from Barcelona to Kalamazoo took only a few days… the project file opened fine and all the red-Xs in project clips caused by my folder setup being different than the author’s were resolved by a single click and redirection of Movie Maker 6 to the new location. The project preview was smooth and the published movie looked perfect.

It was easy for me to upload the published video to my website and send a link to download it in Spain.

Feedback was positive from the first reviewer. However, when looked at more closely by the project’s author, two short segments were showing different scenes than intended.

What Happened?

The problem-solving detective work began.

In Spain, the project preview showed things exactly as the project was designed. At my end, the project preview also aligned perfectly with what I saw in the project storyboard and timeline, and the published movie rendered it perfectly.

After an exchange of emails, it became clear we were each seeing things as the project design called for…. but we were seeing different frames in two segments. How could that be?

I studied the project closer. The two segments involved were both coming from two video DVD files from the same disc. The VOB files had been converted to MPEG2, maybe by simply renaming the extensions to MPG. It shouldn’t matter how. The files were playing and working in the project.

The Work-Around

We were both using versions of Vista that should be able to handle MPEG2 files. She was able to use the files to make the project and successfully preview it. Yet she couldn’t publish the movie. My Vista Ultimate was a fresh install on a reformatted hard drive, and I was able to preview and publish the project. But somehow the two scenes involved were coming out differently.

I scratched my head over the possibilities. Could it be a Spanish versus English version of Vista? Might it have something to do with Spain being a PAL country and the US being NTSC? Or could it be just another typical issue when one gets bitten by trying to use MPEG2 files in Movie Maker?

I started by assuming the usual, that things work better with DV-AVI files then they do with MPEG2. I used VirtualDub MPEG with the Panasonic DV codec to convert the two MPEG2 files to DV-AVI, slipped the new files into the source file location, using the same file names and extension. When I opened the project file in MM6, I was then seeing the same frames they were looking at in Spain. There was no need to tweak the project file as the DV-AVI files were accepted as valid replacements.

I concluded it was a Movie Maker 6 issue when using MPEG2 files. Even with Vista’s MM6 and Microsoft’s new MPEG2 codec in the Ultimate and Home Premium versions, MPEG2 files can bite you. Luckily, the issue was on my system where swapping the MPEG2 files with DV-AVI ones was easy to do and successfully resolved it.