Sony MoviEZ HD review
Sony's Vegas range of video-editing software excels with its swift, precise operation, but we still struggle to find the time to edit our home videos. MoviEZ HD is designed for people who want edited videos without the effort of actually editing them.
It looks nothing like the Vegas family with its single-screen interface and bare minimum of controls. At its simplest, producing a video involves importing source videos and photos and a musical soundtrack, choosing one of the 10 styles and clicking Save movie. However, there are some clever touches that help the finished results veer away from the gaudy, incomprehensible messes that tend to come out of these instant-results editors.
MoviEZ HD condenses the video editing process to three simple steps
Videos and photos can be automatically ordered by date and reordered by dragging and dropping. It's also possible to mark sections of each video with thumbs up and thumbs down buttons to dictate which bits should be included or rejected. For photos, you can define where the main area of interest is to assist the pan and zoom effect, or define start and end positions manually.
Another strength is the styles themselves. As well as the usual headache-inducing frenetic video-clashes, there are simpler styles that lay off the fancy transitions and effects to let the videos and photos speak for themselves. There's some control over the styles, too, with options for cutting rate, response to music, transition type and various creative colour effects.
Importing music would be easier if the file browser had built-in playback, but it's easy to trim and combine tracks. The Personalize dialog box handles intro and end titles, narrations and various global options to customise the behaviour of the automatic edits.
The MagicMoments editor makes it easy to define which bits of a video you want to keep or discard
There are a few areas where MoviEZ feels a little unrefined. Longer credits didn't fit on the screen unless we entered carriage returns manually. Photos automatically displayed embedded captions, but this meant that our slideshows had the words "OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA" across every photo. A spam-style blacklist of ignored phrases is needed here. Videos often cut to a different part of the same video, showing almost exactly the same view. This so-called jump cut technique wasn't so bad in the busier styles, but in slower productions it looked odd. There are comprehensive export options including YouTube, Facebook, DVD, iPhone and iPad, but the frame rate doesn't automatically adapt to match the source footage.
Performance and reliability weren't up to Sony's usual high standards, either. We experienced quite a few crashes while testing, and rendering projects with footage from a Panasonic G3 AVCHD camera sometimes took hours when it should have taken minutes – one three-minute project took 18 hours. We discussed this with a representative from Sony and he recognised it as a bug that needed addressing. We would urge AVCHD camera owners to try the demo before buying, but licensing restrictions mean the demo can't import AVCHD files.
Most consumer video-editing software integrates this kind of automatic editing. Sony's decision to spin it out as a separate application feels much more focused but lessens the likelihood of users progressing to manual editing techniques. However, the results we got from MoviEZ gave us much less compulsion to resort to manual controls. This is a fun editor that aims to do one job well. Despite a few bugs and rough edges, it generally succeeds.