Muvee Technologies Inc.'s AutoProducer 6 software is a remarkably user-friendly way to add a semi-professional sheen to holiday, vacation, wedding and other family-oriented videos, through the use of its unique style overlays. These templates superimpose a variety of textures and effects to what would otherwise likely be fairly pedestrian footage. But in Muvee's rush towards simplicity, its engineers may have created a product that risks alienating professionals and more serious amateurs.
On the plus side, AutoProducer 6 is about as simple as video editing gets. The program's slick, handsome GUI and its easy-to-follow workflow intuitively walk the user through the steps. First you import raw camcorder footage into the PC, either straight from the camcorder or from your hard drive, in most popular formats, including .asf, .avi (including DV), .mov, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, .mp4, .wmv and .3gp. Then you add any desired still images (such as a slideshow) to the timeline. Finally, you complete the project by adding music (and/or a voiceover track), selecting a template design and then rendering it.
AutoProducer's Special Sauce
It's the templates that make AutoProducer 6 worth investigating, and an overview of them helps to explain the core of AutoProducer's concept.
Though Muvee sells many additional templates separately, the program comes packaged with a representative sample. Let's explore what effects and textures these templates generate, such as the Extreme Music Video template.
Seemingly, all products manufactured today must include something labeled Extreme (or as it's commonly misspelled these days, X-Treme!). But don't worry; this rock video template won't insert some of Snoop Doggy Dogg's more rococo lyrics into your videos. What it will do is overlay a variety of MTV-style splatters and scratches onto the video, which helps to simulate the typical rock video shot assembled with a variety of footage and textures. Suffice it to say, a number of budding teenage video producers will take full advantage of this particular template.
On the other side of the spectrum, perhaps one of the most useful templates for the more sedate portion of AutoProducer's intended audience is Journal, an especially attractive style, which places the user-supplied footage into a scrolling template of postcards, letters, stamps and "notes from the road." Another fun template is Back In Time, which, as the name implies, adds sepia tone and a few scratches to the footage, for that old-time first-15-minutes-of-The-Wizard-of-Oz movie-reel look.
Not all of the templates change the look of the footage as dramatically. Classic and Modern are minimalist styles, adding straight dissolves in the Classic and cross-fading to white in Modern. And as its Multiframe name implies, that template adds prismatic split-screen effects to images on the timeline.
In general, the templates do a pretty good job of sensing where there are cuts in existing video footage and adding fades and dissolves matched to the style of the template. Some of the templates also add a slow-motion effect for a dreamy quality or speed up the footage for comedic effect.
Extremely Intuitive Workflow
With some minor adjustments, the templates can be tweaked to fit the material they'll be overlaid upon. If the video on the timeline is shorter than the music, the program can automatically repeat the footage to fill the existing space or take a variety of other customizable steps to ensure a synchronized presentation.
When you first insert the footage into the timeline, it's possible to edit it by selecting a thumbs-up/thumbs-down GUI called MagicMoments that shortens the timeline down, via the segments chopped out. While it's possible, though somewhat awkward, to use MagicMoments for tighter editing, clearly the emphasis is on selecting scenes, rather than anything more exact. If you are used to making tight frame-by-frame edits of videos, you may feel more than a little frustrated by this screen, but, as with the rest of AutoProducer, it should feel very non-threatening to beginners.
A final GUI called Tweak allows some minor last-minute changes to the timeline. This is perhaps the weakest element of the program, as it assumes that any serious editing was done earlier within the MagicMoments window.
All in all, in terms of editing, AutoProducer is the anti-Premiere Pro and definitely the anti-After Effects, with regard to its simplicity and lack of precision control. Since you're reading this in Videomaker, chances are you already have an editing program you're comfortable with. One reason to also pick up AutoProducer would be to take advantage of its style templates, which are an extremely easy way to add some additional textures to existing videos.
Since AutoProducer 6 is clearly aimed at newcomers, a potential issue may be rapid customer support. While Muvee has a US branch office in New York State in addition to its Singapore headquarters, at the time of this review the company lacks a call center. This may be a frustrating inconvenience to a video newcomer, if the program crashes or behaves in an anomalous fashion. That said, AutoProducer 6 could be a fine starter product for someone who's new to editing video on the computer and wants his or her confidence boosted by getting some videos cranked out and burned onto DVD or uploaded to YouTube as quickly as possible. For those who want to easily add some fun graphics to existing footage, its graphical interface is incredibly intuitive. Others may find this software far too dumbed-down for their needs. But for a price of $130 direct from Muvee and a street price of around $85 from retailers, it's certainly worth experimenting with, if only for those style templates.
Platform: Microsoft Windows 2000, XP and Vista
Processor: Intel Pentium III 1GHz, AMD Athlon or equivalent with MMX support
Memory: 512MB RAM
Hard Drive: 154MB hard disk space minimum for program, in addition to space necessary to archive video
Other: Microsoft DirectX 9.0 or higher needed, Apple QuickTime (for .mov files)
- Extremely easy for beginners
- Intuitive workflow
- Intriguing textural video overlay effects
- May frustrate non-beginners; editing seems awfully dumbed down
A perfect editing program for video rookies, AutoProducer has a "special sauce" of overlay effects and textures that could make this an intriguing addition to a more experienced producer's toolkit.
Ed Driscoll is a freelance journalist covering home theater, video production software and the media.
Muvee Technologies, Inc.
375 Sunrise Hwy, Ste. 7
Lynbrook, NY 11563