Editing Tips for Windows Movie Maker

Microsoft’s Windows Live Movie Maker 2011 offers a new user interface and improved functionality. Editing video with the new Movie Maker software is simple, fun and productive. But it’s been a journey for this free video editing software to get to this point. In this issue, we take a quick look at Windows Movie Maker’s transformation into a refined tool and show you the basics of the new Windows Live Movie Maker.

A Windows Movie Maker Flashback

Microsoft loves to remind us that billions of people use Windows everyday. So it’s no surprise the Windows Movie Maker has been a first crack at video editing for many of video editors. Windows Movie Maker was first introduced to the world in the Windows 2000 operating system, but didn’t really gain mass attraction until it showed up later in Windows Me and more notably Windows XP (source: Wikipedia). We remember the day when all our workstations at the Videomaker office ran Windows 2000, even then we had not spared much time to give Movie Maker a thorough review. Well, it’s time to give it the proper attention it deserves.

Looking for Free Video Editing Software

During those early days when digital video editing applications were growing by leaps and bounds, Windows Movie Maker was quietly making headway against the competition. Through the years, Windows Movie Maker has managed to amass popularity and out live some of its competitors in the free video editing software marketplace (remember Avid Free DV?) Yet Apple’s iMovie has always grabbed much more attention over the years with all its razzmatazz marketing from the Cupertino-based company. But this is a new day and the new Windows Live Movie Maker has a lot to offer new editors looking for a free video editing software package. This new version is very approachable. Its low learning curve makes it a joy to use and it’s got enough advance controls to let your creative side shine through.

Video Editing On Windows

As far as free video editing software is concerned, Windows Live Movie Maker offers a great suite of tools. It should be noted, however, that it can’t do everything and that it’s quite limited in many ways. It’s a great place to start if you’re new to video editing. You can do many of the basic edits needed to put together a thoughtful video. This latest version lacks a timeline, however. Previous versions of free Windows Movie Maker included a timeline, which is a preferred user interface for many editors. So, if you’re looking for something a little more robust, you’ll need to look elsewhere. We recommend entry level or beginner editing software like Adobe Premiere Elements 9 ($100), Nero Multimedia Suite 10 ($70), CyberLink Media Suite 9 ($70), Magix Video easy HD ($40) or Avid Studio ($170), to name a few, for those who want a little more out of their video editing software without breaking the bank. But let’s be honest, it’s hard to beat free.

How to Download Windows Live Movie Maker

If you having trouble finding Windows Movie Maker on you computer it may be that you need to first download it from Microsoft’s website. We know that sounds like obvious advice, but many people make the mistake and assume it’s pre-installed on their operating system. You’ll need to download the latest version from the Live.com site or just do a quick Google search for Windows Live Movie Maker and it will likely be the top result.

Installing Windows Essentials

This latest version of Windows Live Movie Maker 2011 will run on Windows 7 and Windows Vista with Service Pack 2 and the Platform Update for Windows Vista. The installer comes with many more applications than you need to get the job done. We just selected the Windows Live Movie Maker as that’s all we wanted from the suite of tools in Windows Essentials. But it is important to note that this is Microsoft’s new vision for this free editing software, to combine it with other free tools that make sharing photos and videos easier. Included in this suite are more tools that make communication and sharing online easier, too. It’s exciting to see Microsoft invest more time and resources into improving the Windows Movie Maker product in this way. After a quick install, you’ll need to reboot and then you can launch Windows Live Movie Maker.

Upon First Glance

We love Windows Live Movie Maker’s well-thought-out design and layout. There are very few tools to clutter your workspace and that’s great for new editors. Oftentimes, free software doesn’t come with this level of aesthetic refinement and organization, so we’re quite pleased with the latest look in this version.

Basic Tool Bar Options

Along the top horizontal menu are always six basic options: Home, Animations, Visual Effects, Project, View, and Edit. A seventh option will appear based on what specific operation you’re performing. For example, if you’re adding text to your video, a Format menu option appears. Or, if you’re adding music to your production, an Options menu appears to give you more control of your audio file. These different menu options along the top are the main controls for everything you do. Get acquainted with them. The Animations and Visual Effects options are some of the more exciting to explore. In both of these, you’ll find different animated transitions and special effects that should be used sparingly, but don’t hesitate to try them all out. They’re a good deal of fun.

Drag and Drop Import

Getting started is quite easy. Just drag in some video clips or photos and drop them right into Windows Live Movie Maker. Poof! You’re already building your video. With this simple way of importing, make sure that you keep your file system well organized otherwise you may end up spending a lot of time looking for that one clip you thought was in this folder, or maybe it was in that folder.

Without a timeline, the new area displays thumbnails of your photos and filmstrip for video. Clips align themselves left to right, top to bottom. You can drag them around and rearrange their order. It makes it really simple to put together photo slideshows or work with a mix of photos and videos.

Trimming and Playback

Click on the space bar and you can play your video. Click it again and it will stop the video playback. Click the mouse on a different part of the project and do the same with the space bar and it will play back that area of your video project. The basic controls are quite simple and standard among other free video editing software. No surprises here.

Trimming is a big part of video editing and Windows Live Movie Maker has a separate control for this task. The trimmer can more accurately remove extra footage at the beginning and ending of your video clip. You can also use the “I” key to mark your “in” point and the “O” key to mark your “out” point. The “in” point marks the starting point in the video clip that plays back. Any bit of footage before the “in” point is left on the cutting room floor. The “out” point marks the end point where the clip will conclude upon playback. These simple controls really make it easier to get your clips trimmed and the unwanted portions of your clip out of your project. Of course, you have to make sure you remember to shoot your footage with extra time at the beginning and end so that you can make sure you’ve capture everything you intend to show in your video.

Easy Text Tools and Audio Options

There are quite a few export options that allow you to render your video for mobile devices, DVD distribution, e-mail and other options. We really like the additional social plug-ins that connect you to your Facebook account, YouTube, Windows Live account and other channels. It’s great to see that sharing your work of art is only getting easier. After all, what good is all this work you’re doing if you don’t get to show it off.

Share Your Video

There are quite a few export options that allow you to render your video for mobile devices, DVD distribution, e-mail and other options. We really like the additional social plug-ins that connect you to your Facebook account, YouTube, Windows Live account and other channels. It’s great to see that sharing your work of art is only getting easier. After all, what good is all this work you’re doing if you don’t get to show it off.

The Beginner’s Choice

While Windows Live Movie Maker is free, it sure doesn’t look like your standard free video editing application. It’s got a refined user interface, enough advanced controls to give you more precision, but not too many features that would only serve to confuse you or at least keep your from completing your projects. While its prolific use has more to do with Microsoft’s vast built-in user base, we think that it’s certainly a top-notch product for the beginning editor. There’s enough in there to wet your appetite and hopefully one day leave you wanting more.

Contributing columnist Mark Montgomery is a web content specialist and produces instructional videos for a leading web application developer.

The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.

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