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Reducing the Size of a Video File

A reader called to say when he tried to email an AVI video, taken with his digital camera, the file could not be sent. Well, AVI files are often too large for many email systems, so I suggested converting it to a smaller WMV file with Windows Movie Maker, a program that comes with WinXP. Joe wrote back to say this worked perfectly.

Most of today's digital cameras come with video capabilities, and can produce high-resolution AVI movies that play beautifully on your PC via the Windows Media Player. These files can be edited in many ways with Windows Movie Maker, which includes options for reducing file sizes significantly.

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Upon launching Windows Movie Maker you will see a "Story Board" displaying a number of blank frames. Under 1 - Capture Video there are options for importing a file from your My Videos folder or importing a file directly from your camera. A file you select will then appear as a "thumbnail still" of its opening scene.

To simply convert the AVI file to a WMV file, drag the thumbnail into the first box of the Story Board and click on File>Save Movie As, whereupon you will see a number of options, such as saving it to your computer's hard drive or to a CD. You will also see options for saving it with a reduced file size, and be admonished that doing so will reduce the resolution quality of the video. Choosing a very small file size may also reduce the screen view to a quarter of its original size.

You can experiment with these options to see which gives you an acceptable balance of smaller file size versus a somewhat diminished viewing quality. Each successive save will automatically produce a sequentially numbered file name, which leaves your original unchanged.

Getting back to the Story Board, use the various frames to insert titles, other video clips, or any number of features that might enhance the finished product. Windows Movie Maker is loaded with a variety of prompts and "wizards" to make editing easy and intuitive. The finished WMV file will play in Windows Media Player, as well as in most other media players (such as WinAmp and Irfanview) and in most portable video players.

Speaking of media players, I periodically get calls saying the "swing era" songs found on my site don't download and play as they once did. The problem is always the same — the user has unknowingly been switched to something other than the Windows Media Player (a Microsoft program which comes included with new PCs).

There are many media players available, each with its own quirks about downloading and playing files. RealPlayer is the sneakiest, since it is a "free download" which will play most types of audio and video files — for a while. Then you'll get a notice that RealPlayer needs to be updated to continue working — for a fee.

Reinstate Windows Media Player by right-clicking a song and going to Open With>Choose Program, choosing Windows Media Player, and then clicking on Always Use the Selected Program to Open this Kind of File.

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