I’ve always liked Windows Movie Maker – a simple video editing application that was bundled with Windows XP, and at the time, very impressive. In the 5 year gap between the release of XP and Vista however, Windows Movie Maker started to show its age, and it’s re-appeared on the scene with Windows Live Essentials. If you’re using Windows XP, you won’t be able to download Movie Maker as part of the Live Essentials package — you need to be running either Windows Vista or Windows 7.
Previous versions of Movie Maker were very focused on movie making and only movie making (hence the name…) but the first thing I noticed is that there seems to be a shift in focus in the creation of Live Movie Maker. Most of the editing tools found in the older version of Movie Maker have been brought forward to the Live version and been given a face lift in the process. As with all the Windows Live Essentials applications from Microsoft, navigation is handled with the ‘Ribbon’ interface, which is much simpler than the GUI found in the old Movie Maker — everything seems much more organised and features are easier to find. When you’re in Movie Maker, you’ll find everything in 4 tabs.
The first tab is ‘Home’, where you’ll be able to add photos, videos and music to your project. When you’re done, you can export your project to a variety of formats, including the option to export to YouTube, which I found very convenient. In the second tab, ‘Animations’, you can add animations to your project, where you have the choice of a ton of animations and slide transition timing settings. If you want to add visual effects to the videos or photos in your project, you’ll find a lot of effects in the third tab, aptly named ‘Visual Effects’. Finally, you have the ‘view’ tab. Here, you can change the aspect ratio of your project between 4:3 and 16:9, as well as change the zoom level of the thumbnails on the project preview. When you’re working on a project, another tab appears which gives you even more video editing tools, including a trimming tool and audio track tools.
One thing that I was very surprised at in Live Movie Maker is the glaring omission of a timeline! Streamlining an application for simplicity is one thing, but to make a video editing package without a timeline? It doesn’t make sense to me why they’d leave what was presumably a key feature of any video editing application out — I would have felt much more comfortable working with Movie Maker if it was complete with a timeline. Despite this, the variety of choices that are included, especially when choosing animations to go between videos and pictures is plentiful, and a great addition to go along with the sharing options which include 720p and 1080p exporting choices, as well as the previously mentioned YouTube option.
For a free application, Live Movie Maker does a good job of the editing and exporting process, although I still prefer iMovie by a country mile, as it feels more complete and feature filled than Movie Maker ever did. However, for the 90% of you out there using Windows, Live Movie Maker is a good addition to your computer, and one which you should check out when you get the chance!