For the past 2 years, I have turned countless students and adults on to the wonderful, free tool inside almost everyone’s Windows based computer. Windows Movie Maker is a marvel and the majority of those I teach had no idea it was living on their hard drive. The next astonishing fact is that it’s easy for almost everyone to use. I have had adults in my classes who were uncomfortable surfing the internet and googling and even they caught on quickly to WMM’s ease of use. The teacher in me loves the instructions right there on the left side, called tools as they should be and completely clear…do this, do this, do this ….wah-lah you have a movie. As a broadcast professional and video editor for 30 years and someone comfortable with most video editing software, this is the best way to learn to edit video. Find some pictures and import them into collections, locate the free music in the music sample folder and begin to edit your first masterpiece. It’s delightful to have students of all ages make a 30 second movie with pictures and sound and want to take it home to show everyone that they edited their very first video! That’s the beauty and simplicity of Windows Movie Maker and it’s exactly as it should be for a free, first experience video editing program.
I have read all of the very technical reviews on each and every version, but there is no need to take apart every little flaw in this software. I’ll talk about the few drawbacks a little later but for now let’s just rave about its positives. This software does what it’s supposed to, edit a simple video and output it to a CD or videotape. I think too often the reviewers are expecting too much from this free gift or expecting with later versions that it should do more and more. It shouldn’t. With more bells and whistles come more complicated instructions and functions, again defeating the purpose of this easy to use software.
Here’s what I like. It’s free. Second and actually more important is that it has many wonderful effects that are actually quite complicated even for professional editors in expensive video editing software. My students often need the wonderful old film look or the “ease in” feature so we edit our larger pieces in Adobe Premiere Pro and then import the finished piece to WMM to easily add those great effects. Premiere will do most of them and certainly Adobe After Effects will, but WMM does them effortlessly! I am especially impressed with the titles and title overlay track. To make a newspaper headline with your video inside and then fly it away to reveal new video is very complicated in professional editing software. The WMM squeeze left or right for rolling credits at the end is also brilliantly simple. One special trick I’ve learned while teaching WMM is being able to separate your video and audio and using just the audio on the music or audio track. It’s a much more versatile timeline than it first appears.
Downsides are few but I promised so here goes and there are really only two complaints. Number one is that the output instructions are too vague and complicated. When you output you need to know why you are outputting and what the quality will be and it isn’t explained very well. In the “other” section of “save this video to my computer” there are way too many choices for the inexperienced video user. It should be clearly marked that the best quality saving option is the DV/AVI. But the instructions should also warn that that file will take up a lot of hard drive space. This is a confusing issue for even professionals and it’s a new problem for video on the web, but the software authors should find a way to explain it more clearly. What ends up happening is the editor unknowingly picks a bad quality file. After working so hard on the video they get a bad outcome: a fuzzy video. That makes them blame the Windows Movie Maker software or their computer and they stop trying to edit video. Number two – none of us like the fact that you can’t move video around on the timeline (you can move audio around separately and have it stay where you put it). But when I teach it, I explain that it’s meant to be rigid so the newb editor can’t make a mistake, no matter how hard he or she tries. When you find yourself irritated about that rigidity you have learned all you can learn on WMM and it’s time to upgrade to one of the wonderful and inexpensive new softwares out on the market – Adobe Elements, Pinnacle or Sony Vegas.