Windows Movie Maker is a storied franchise in the world of consumer-level video editing software. In its latest iteration, the Windows Live team has taken an interesting new direction. Windows Live Movie Maker 2011, which is part of the Windows Live Essentials 2011 suite, which can be downloaded for free, is a complete reboot of the Windows Movie Maker application. It’s pared down, streamlined and geared for foolproof and fast video authoring. But what the software has gained in user-friendliness comes at a big expense in terms of features and functionality.
Ease of Use
Windows Live Movie Maker is easier to use than ever. In fact, you can create a decent looking photo slideshow or home movie in seconds—literally. All you have to do is add photos and videos from Windows Live Photo Gallery, choose an Auto Movie theme and you’re done. Windows Live Movie Maker will automatically apply artistic filters and transitions to make your photos visually appealing and dynamic. Drop in a song to play in the background, and you’re done.
For anyone who wants to throw together a slideshow at the drop of a hat, Windows Live Movie Maker really excels. But if you want to do more finetuning, you may be frustrated.
Audio editing is extremely limited in Windows Live Movie Maker. You have two audio tracks: a background music track, and the audio that’s embedded in the video. You cannot layer two independent audio tracks, which means you can kiss any chances of easily recording a voice narration goodbye. In fact, there isn’t even an option to record a voiceover—although this existed in previous versions.
In terms of controlling volume, you can adjust the master volume, and then you can fade in or fade out. Forget about smoothly adjusting the volume on the timeline via a volume pan. Windows Live Movie Maker isn’t particularly kind in terms of allowing you to rearrange clips or insert titles while retaining the position of your audio. For example, if you had your photos perfectly in sync with a song, adding anything is likely to ruin all of that.
Working with video clips is fairly simple and straightforward. You can choose the start and end times of video clips and apply transitions and filters to them. There’s a nice selection of transitions, and they range from professional to fun and quirky. But again, detailed editing of clips on the timeline is either arduous or impossible in Windows Live Movie Maker 2011. There’s no split or combine feature, and syncing video clips with music is an exercise in trial, error and ultimately, frustration.
Exporting and Sharing
This is where Windows Live Movie Maker 2011 actually excels. When saving files, you can choose from a number of settings based on the quality and file size you’re going for. Plus, you can have it publish automatically to YouTube, Facebook and other sites. For advanced users, you can tweak the individual video settings, including dimensions, bit rate and frames per second, but if you’re not sure what to do with these, you can just use the recommended settings.
The only downside: it only saves to .WMV. Luckily, this format is well-supported across platforms.
Windows Live Movie Maker 2011 is best suited to photos slideshows. Its wide selection of transitions, zoom and pan features and other flourishes make it incredibly easy to make poignant photo slideshows with zero know how and very little time investment. It’s fine for working with small video clips, such as the short moments you might capture on your cell phone camera, but for anything over a minute, you’re better off using something else.