Windows Live Movie Maker

All in all Windows Live Movie Maker is decent freeware that lives up to its promise of making movies fast. Regardless, Microsoft would do well, at the very least, to build more sharing plug-ins and a fleshier Help menu.


3.6
User Rating


Microsoft has run through several versions of its free Movie Maker application for various Windows platforms, most of them earning a fair amount of criticism. The latest edition, Windows Live Movie Maker 1.0, does easily turn photos and video clips into slideshows and movies, but it is far from perfect.

None-the-less, this is functional freeware that's aimed squarely at the casual consumer crowd. Although mostly easy to use, its tool set and interface lack a certain sophistication that users of all levels would appreciate.

Installation tips

The fresh-out-of-beta Windows Live Movie Maker (not to be confused with Windows Movie Maker, minus the "Live") is compatible with Vista and Windows 7 operating systems only. It comes bundled into the Windows Live Essentials suite of apps, but you can separate it out with a little click-surgery. To get Movie Maker only, you'll need to uncheck the boxes for the other programs in the suite, leaving Movie Maker selected. Before the app finishes installing, take care to read the penultimate window; if you race ahead, you'll be changing your default search to Microsoft's Bing and your home page to MSN.

Windows Live Movie Maker comes bundled in a software suite. (Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET)

Interface

With its visual ribbon of menu actions, Windows Live Movie Maker emulates the look and feel of Microsoft Office 2007 applications. The preview window is portioned out to the left of the screen and the gallery of photos and clips you'll import sits on the right. Interestingly, tool tips appear above the Edit, Options and Format tabs to alert you that these are the menus for video, audio and text tools. These tabs disappear when you're not using them. While we like this feature, we also wonder why Microsoft didn't just dispense with the highlights and name them accordingly.

Making instant movies

Microsoft's emphasis on the visual hits home when you get started. In addition to adding photos and video clips through a menu button, you can drag and drop them into the storyboard. Likewise, you can click and drag to move clips around. For extremely simple movie-creation, after you arrange the clips, a click of the AutoMovie button (in the Home tab) ties the clips together with a title, transitions, and pan and zoom effects. If it doesn't add a song clip for you, it prompts you to select one (again, through the Home tab). Automating movies and slideshows this way is a great two-second option for casual or time-stressed users. After all, you can always tweak later.

What Microsoft doesn't tell you is that there's an optimal time to hand Windows Live Movie Maker the automated dirty work. If you haven't saved your project, the app titles it "My Movie" and closes it with "The End". It's harmless, but numbingly generic. Save first and automate later, and the software will title your piece as you saved it.

Tweaking filled-in titles, captions and credits isn't difficult, so long as you remember to double click to edit, not right-click. You're able to change colours, placement and font type through the menu, and you can click and drag elements in the preview window and along the timeline; for instance, if you're delaying the moment an opening credit shows.

You can similarly change transitions (called animations here), as well as pan and zoom effects, just by selecting a new one from the Animations tab. On one hand, it's convenient to see a preview when you mouse over each transition or effect. On the other, it quickly becomes dizzying when you're hunting for the right one.

Quickly preview animations and visual effects. (Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET)

Adding music, editing video

Like any good slideshow or movie tool, Windows Live Movie Maker can pluck audio gems from your music collection. The tools are basic, even a little rough, but there are some necessities — fade-ins and fade-outs, for instance, and fitting the song to your movie's duration. The AutoMovie tool can help you apply a track, but it won't automatically turn on fading, a drawback in our opinion. Adding music at current points also requires a learning curve.

Most videos can handle a healthy trim on either end to get to the meat of the action. Windows Live Movie Maker boasts both trim and splitting tools, so you can shave or hack off slow sections. You can also set start and end points and apply fades.

Microsoft provides a list of all compatible image and video file types here.

Publishing and sharing

When it comes time to share the memories, you'll visit the Sharing bay on the Home tab. The quick-button options within can email the finished video, burn it to DVD, or upload it to YouTube (you'll need an account). Windows Live Movie Maker can also upload to Facebook via a plug-in, save in HD format for you to transfer to your TV (standard or widescreen), and can convert the video to a mobile phone-friendly format.

Windows 7-only

Windows Live Movie Maker looks almost identical on Vista and Windows 7, but it does take advantage of two underlying Windows 7 features. First, there are jump lists, which will give quick access to recent projects and finished movies. Second, it supports QuickTime MOV and QT files, AVCHD and MPEG-4 video formats. As a reminder, this version is not available for Windows XP.

Highlighted tabs clue you into editing tools. (Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET)

Overall look and feel

Compared to Apple's polished, elegant and feature-packed iMovie, Windows Live Movie Maker is a crude imitator. However, it's comparatively spartan interface should also make it more inviting to novices. The menu tabs that disappear when not in use help keep tasks focused. AutoMovie saves time and gives movie makers a starting-off point to further customise. The few intermediate and advanced tools add variety, though the online FAQs found by clicking the Help menu (the question mark icon) fail to explain their use; you'll need to hit up Microsoft's forums for more details.

All in all Windows Live Movie Maker is decent freeware that lives up to its promise of making movies fast. Regardless, Microsoft would do well, at the very least, to build more sharing plug-ins and a fleshier Help menu.

You can start getting acquainted with Microsoft's online overview.



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mac45 posted a comment   
Australia

You have to be kidding. I made a successful movie from Windows Live Movie Maker. When the time came to add more to the movie, it kept closing down. I now have to remake the whole movie.

AnthonyH2 Facebook
1
Rating
 

"Bloody hard to use"

AnthonyH2 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Nothing

The Bad:Everything

I used to use the old version of Windows Movie Maker, it was very easy to use and easy to teach yourself. I bought a new laptop with Windows 7 and found out that Microsoft has 'improved' Windows Movie Maker. It is completely unfamiliar, and really difficult to use. I don't care how much Microsoft reckons it has improved this product, it is difficult to use and looks nothing like the old version.

I don't have time to keep learning how to use the same tool over and over again and this one is not easy to learn. I used it to put my photos to music. I liked the story board format in the old version where you could adjust the duration of photos in the movie clip, easily create transitions between photos and set the music and time specific notes the way you want it with the photos. I can't work out how to do that with the new version.

Trying to put a transition between photos is really annoying, you have to click on 'animations' in the menu, click the arrow key, scroll down and then select the sort of transition you want. If you have fifty to a hundred photos, this becomes very time consuming.

I have not worked out how to adjust the length of duration a photo is displayed but I suspect it is a similar process (before you just clicked and dragged the photo to get the duration you wanted.)

To the tech heads and IT Geeks this might be a wonderful tool but for others who are sick of seeing software get changed drastically with each version and having to relearn how to use them, I think this new version of windows movie maker sucks.

Layman
1
Rating
 

Layman posted a review   

The Good:Interface

The Bad:Does not work - Can not successfully create DVD or wmv file

The editing features are nice and let me include HD movies, title etc without any problem.

But while creating compiled wmv or DVD, it kept prompting for missing files even when files were there.

 

Brnaiffman posted a comment   

The Good:Easy to use

The Bad:Poor quality movie, no HD, horrific rendering, why did they change anything from the XP version!!!!????

Typical of Microsoft, why not improve on the bad and leave the few good things that work well alone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

remsey posted a comment   

The Good:I always used it

The Bad:No Options frustration

In previous versions one could switch off codecs which are bad. That should have been my solution for a file that causes a so called APPCRASH.
Unfortunately there are no options in the new version windows live moviemaker so that feels like Mother Microsoft taking away my rights to choose.

 

LemonPop posted a comment   

The Good:Windows Live Movie Maker provides a simple interface for beginners in video editing. It also allows for publishing movies in wider formats, such as HD and widescreen.

The Bad:It provides fewer options for customizing videos than it provides for photos. There are also less effects in general.

While videos can be published with better quality, Windows Live takes so many things that we liked about Windows Movie Maker and, instead of improving these qualities, throw them all out completely. I really do wish they could have made a better movie maker like they made a better photo gallery. Live Movie maker is, unfortunately, disappointing to any experienced video editor.

IHateWLMM
1
Rating
 

IHateWLMM posted a review   

The Good:Well theres.... erm... well... hmm... import formats?

The Bad:No export formats, bad timeline, NO OPTIONS WHATsoEVER... lags like hell, crashes alot... the list goes on... shall I continue? HD video doesnt even come out looking *decent* looks like it was rendered with a rock and 2 sticks... im very very very very angry at you Microsoft, yet another disappointment... whats next? I am almost scared to ask...

Worst movie making program ever, WMV files are incompatible with just about everything out there... step your game up Bill Gates, or you might find yourself kissing Steve Jobs' ***.

IHateWLMM
1
Rating
 

IHateWLMM posted a review   

The Good:Well theres.... erm... well... hmm... import formats?

The Bad:No export formats, bad timeline, NO OPTIONS WHATsoEVER... lags like hell, crashes alot... the list goes on... shall I continue? HD video doesnt even come out looking *decent* looks like it was rendered with a rock and 2 sticks... im very very very very angry at you Microsoft, yet another disappointment... whats next? I am almost scared to ask...

Worst movie making program ever, WMV files are incompatible with just about everything out there... step your game up Bill Gates, or you might find yourself kissing Steve Jobs' ***.

Xi
10
Rating
 

Xi posted a review   

The Good:Simple

The Bad:No existing plug ins for more effects

I like it but I will still use my Windows Movie Maker 6.0 HD for more expert-like edititng in my Windows 7. If you like the WMM 6.0 here is a link.
http://noeld.com/download/wmminst.zip

 

Brian posted a reply   

Thanks for the download man!


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User Reviews / Comments  Windows Live Movie Maker

  • mac45

    mac45

    "You have to be kidding. I made a successful movie from Windows Live Movie Maker. When the time came to add more to the movie, it kept closing down. I now have to remake the whole movie."

  • AnthonyH2

    AnthonyH2

    Rating1

    "I used to use the old version of Windows Movie Maker, it was very easy to use and easy to teach yourself. I bought a new laptop with Windows 7 and found out that Microsoft has 'improved' Windows M..."

  • Layman

    Layman

    Rating1

    "The editing features are nice and let me include HD movies, title etc without any problem.

    But while creating compiled wmv or DVD, it kept prompting for missing files even when files..."

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