Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

Official blog for the Windows Live Digital Memories Experience team

April, 2007

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Movie Maker 2.6


    Hi, I’m Bret Ahlstrom. I’m a program manager on the Digital Memories team at Microsoft. Most recently, I was in charge of Movie Maker 2.6, which is available for download here.

    If the Vista version of Movie Maker is working for you, you’re all set, please don’t install Movie Maker 2.6.

    Some machines with certain graphics cards (cards that don’t support the Windows Device Driver Model) are unable to run Vista Movie Maker at all.  Movie Maker 2.6 was developed specifically to ensure that those machines could run a version of Movie Maker.  No other bug fixes or feature enhancements were included in this release.

    What is Movie Maker 2.6
    Movie Maker 2.6 is simply the XPSP2 version of Movie Maker (version 2.1) brought forward to Vista with as few changes as possible. Movie Maker 2.6 is NOT an upgrade from the Vista version of Movie Maker or even an upgrade from the XP version Movie Maker. It does not replace Vista version of Movie Maker, it installs side-by-side with it. It is not designed to be able to run concurrently with the Vista version of Movie Maker, and it can cause problems if you try.

    So why did we ship it?
    Although the Vista version of Movie Maker does not have major changes to the user interface, we did make significant performance improvements to support things like High Definition video.  These changes involved tying Movie Maker’s rendering engine directly to the graphics card and driver.

    However, this change opened up the possibility that machines without sufficiently powerful graphics cards (cards that don’t support the Windows Device Driver Model) would not be able to run Movie Maker. At the time we made the decision, we were fairly confident that this would not be a big issue. Unfortunately, by the time Vista was complete, it became clear that there would be quite a few machines that would be able to run Vista, but would not be able to run Movie Maker. We didn’t want to leave those users out in the cold, so we decided to release a version of Movie Maker that wasn’t tightly tied to the graphics hardware. Movie Maker 2.6 was born.

    Who Should Use Movie Maker 2.6 (and who should NOT)?
    People who have Vista machines with Vista Movie Maker already installed, but who can’t run Vista Movie Maker are the intended audience of Movie Maker 2.6.

    When you launch Vista Movie Maker, if you get an error that says, “Windows Movie Maker cannot start because your video card does not support the required level of hardware acceleration or hardware acceleration is not available”, then Movie Maker 2.6 is for you. If you don’t get this error, the version of Movie Maker that shipped with Windows Vista is the best version for you.

    Bret Ahlstrom - Program Manager

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Pentax RAW codec released


    Yesterday, Pentax released a Windows Vista codec for their .PEF RAW image format.

    This format is used by the following Pentax cameras: *ist D, *ist DS,*istDS2, *istDL, *istDL2 ,K100D, K10D

    More information can be found on the Pentax website

    - pixblog


  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Living with Vista


    You may have seen news coverage around the Vista launch (link, link) about a special beta program called ‘Living With Windows Vista’. 50 families from around the world participated in the program, which involved them using Windows Vista in their home as their primary PC. The brave families were beta testing builds of Vista as early as Beta 1. Microsoft employees met with them periodically to check on their progress, and listen to what they had to say about Vista. Some families were recruited because of particular interests they had (like music, or photos).

    Photo Families
    There were several ‘photo families’ in the US, and some of our team members went along to visit these families as part of their regular meetings with Microsoft. These families were recruited specifically because of their use of digital photos and/or video. These families were of particular interest to our team, since they were likely to be using and providing feedback on the Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, and DVD Maker in Vista.

    Send a Smile, Send a Frown
    One interesting aspect of this program was the ‘Send a Smile’ utility. This is a small tool that was installed on the families’ machines, and let them quickly send comments to Microsoft at any time. The comment could either be something that they liked (a smile), or something they didn’t like (a frown). The utility sent a screen capture of whatever the family was doing at the time, along with their comments and the smile/frown. This feedback was constantly reviewed by the product teams at Microsoft. This allowed us to get immediate feedback from the families at any time of day or night, and required very little effort on the part of the families to report something that either delighted or frustrated them.

    So what did the families like?

    • The hover effect over thumbnails
    • Fix functionality – especially red eye removal
    • One-click e-mail with automatic photo re-size
    • Quick and easy import

    Where did they run into problems?

    • Tags: Some families didn’t understand, or didn’t use the tagging features
    • Gallery vs. Explorer: Some families were confused by the fact that there were two places (Photo Gallery and Pictures Explorer) that they could find and interact with their photos and videos. They didn’t understand the differences, or why there were two places.
    • Save As: The save model in the Photo Gallery took some getting used to. Most families initially expected to find a ‘save as’ feature, and didn’t realize that their photos were saved for them automatically (as well as a backup).

    Making a Difference
    All of the feedback we received from the families was valuable, but there are several areas where we can point to the finished product and demonstrate that this program made a measurable difference. One of the families was having trouble burning CDs from within the Photo Gallery. They had discovered how to perform this operation from the Windows Explorer, but the entry point wasn’t obvious enough in the early Photo Gallery builds. As a result of this feedback, there’s now a top level ‘Burn’ button in the Photo Gallery task bar. Several families also had issues with AutoPlay when they would plug in their cameras to import photos. They didn’t always select the best AutoPlay option the first time through, but early builds of Vista remembered this setting by default, and automatically performed this option in the future without asking. Based on the feedback from these families, we were able to change the default behavior for AutoPlay to give all users a better experience!

    All in all, this was a very successful program. Not only did we get some valuable feedback that helped make the product better for millions of users, but it also gave our team members the opportunity to visit users in their homes, and talk to them first-hand about the impact that the software we build has on their lives (both positively and negatively). Thanks to all of the families who participated in the program – you made a difference!

    Living with Vista press coverage @ CES

    Video: Family on Vista at CES 2007

    The Regan family pushes the button to launch Windows Vista at CES

    Video: Vista Launch Clip

     - pixblog

  • Windows Live Photo & Video Blog

    Getting Spacey


    The folks here at Microsoft who work on digital photo software and services are pretty passionate about their photos.  So you can imagine that it was a little frustrating for us that Microsoft didn't offer a truly world class way to share the photos that we took on-line.  After Windows Vista shipped, a group of us set about fixing that.

    Windows Live Spaces is a great service for social networking. It lets people create their own home page on the web, link to friends, host gadgets and express their personalities, but it hasn't been a great place to share photos. Today, we took a solid first step towards changing that.

    With the release that went live last night, we've significantly improved the photo experience within Spaces.

    The first thing you may notice is that if you have a photo gadget on your Spaces home page, it should look a bit tighter. Here are some before and after shots to illustrate:

    Spaces Photo Module BeforeSpaces Photo Module After

    On the left is the gadget before the latest set of changes and on the right, after.  As you can see, we moved the player controls, or transports, up from under the photo and overlaid them onto the photo itself.  Don't worry, they will fade away after a few seconds so they don't get in your way, and then return when you move your mouse over the photo.

    OK, pretty subtle.  But wait, there's more! When you open up a photo album by clicking on the module, it used to be that the transports lay off the bottom of the screen on a standard sized monitor, so you had to scroll if you wanted to look at other photos in the album. Getting both the full photo and the transports in view at the same time involved playing with the scrollbar and some fine motor control.

    Album View BeforeAlbum After

    As these two screenshots illustrate, we licked that problem, as well.  On the left is what the page used to look like, and on the right, the new page. You'll notice that the entire photo and the transports are fully visible without scrolling at all.  As a bonus, we open the comments automatically, so you can see when people leave you compliments on your fine photography. (And thanks to Pmatt Freedman for shooting those beautiful bees you see in the examples).

    Finally, we knew it was hard to find an album you were looking for just by scanning a list of names, so we created a page that gave you an overview of all the albums you have on your Space.  Just click the Photos link from the gadget or the View all albums link when viewing a photo album.

    All Albums Page

    From here, you can re-arrange your albums, delete them or just find the one you're looking for.  (Hint: the first album in your list is the one that will appear on your Spaces home screen gadget, use this page to choose it).

    This was only one small part of the overall Spaces release.  Read the Spaces blog to learn more about the other features that were included in this release and get yourself a Space, if you don't already have one.

    Stayed tuned, we're not done yet.

    - Jordan Schwartz (Program Manager)

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