"Length" of Still Images
To change the length of your still images you have a few options.
A little way down from the beginning of the file is a section labeled [Project]. Under that is the line:
"DefaultSlideLength=X". I added quotes. Change X to whatever length you want as you new default. (Thanks David).
Still Image Sizes
Note I don't know why, but MEP will crash when trying to import images of some particular dimensions. For example, an image of size 1972x1186 will crash the program, whereas if it is resized to 1972x1185, it will import OK. Another is a PSD I made up, 700x550. It crashed every time, including after I saved it as a JPG. But when I changed it's size to 690x550, it imported OK. The crashing also applies if "Large Icons" is selected for the file display function in the media pool/file explorer and these "rogue" files exist in that folder.
To import images with no black bars on the sides or top/bottom, still images need to be in the ratio of 4:3, being 1.333333 to 1, or 16:9, being 1.77777 to 1, depending on your project dimensions. For example, for a PAL project, the frame size is 768x576 (Standard DV 4:3) or 1024x576 (standard DV 16:9) and for High Def Video (HDV2), 1920x1080.
MEP does not import 720x576 or 720x480 still images correctly - it squashes them laterally. I don't know why, but I think it is because these are video dimensions which use non-square pixels, and MEP thinks they are videos, not still images. So if you happen to have such an image, edit it to make the dimensions not exactly those above. Just one pixel off will do it.
It is possible to use images that are not the above dimensions but MEP will display the complete image and add black bars to fill in the gaps. For example:
Import of a tall image
and a long image
If you want to crop the image in MEP to fit without the black bars (for example if you cannot do it in your photo editor or you don’t have one) you can do it in MEP 10, 11 and possibly 12 using the StoryMaker (F2) >Motion>Display Section Only. In MEP 14, open the Movement screen, click on Cam Movement and drag the corner handles around to get what you want in the frame. Click on the Preview button and the drag the Start marker a little to see your cropped image.
The bigger the image SIZE (not PPI or DPI) that is pixel dimensions eg 1800x1400 instead of 768x576, the better the image quality. However, don’t go mad. The image will eventually be re-sized during the encoding process down to DVD size (768x576 for PAL) and also MEP starts to slow down if there are many large images on the timeline. So the recommendation is to reduce their size before import to about 1.2mb if you can (for example if using a lot of images say for a slide show).
Make sure you do not export to 720x576 or 720x480. If you do, the image will be distorted in both MEP and image-editing programs such as Photoshop. For a PAL export, use the provided 768x576.
You can set the proportions as required in the File>Export Movie>Single Frame dialogue. Standard DV PAL 4:3 would be 768x576, 16:9 would be PAL 1024x576, and HDV 2 would be 1920x1080.
For some reason, exporting JPEG pictures from the High Def timeline results in quite low file sizes compared to exporting still frames from other programs. I don't know why this is the case, as the quality of frame grabs in MEP cannot, as far as I know, be adjusted. To that end, if you are after the maximum quality still image, I suggest that you export to BMP, and then convert that back to JPEG outside MEP.
For more info on pixel ratios read this.