There are a few rough edges, but this is a capable editor that gets the basics right and offers plenty of entertaining diversions.
Magix is nothing if not prolific.
Only 18 months ago we reviewed Magix Movie Edit Pro 11 Plus, and already it’s up to version 15. We found version 11 to be stuffed with an excess of clumsy and often conflicting features. Thankfully, a key element in this latest release is a tidier, more configurable interface. There are fewer buttons dotted around the main screen, and we’re particularly pleased to see that the effects have been regrouped under a single Effects tab. They’re not as sophisticated as Adobe Premiere Elements’ effects, but comprehensive keyframe editing means there’s ample opportunity for ambitious intro sequences and other tricks.
On the whole, the timeline editing tools are elegant and functional. We were pleased to see options for ripple editing, which dictates what happens to clips further along the timeline when an earlier one is changed. However, these didn’t always work as we expected, sometimes throwing our edits into disarray and forcing us to resort to the undo button.
Another important new feature is support for AVCHD footage. This video format is extremely taxing for any PC to manipulate, as is demonstrated by Magix’s request for a Core 2 Quad 3GHz processor for AVCHD editing. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find that our 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo processor coped well as long as we limited playback to one clip at a time. Adding transitions or layering clips made playback stumble badly, but there’s an option to convert AVCHD clips to the less-demanding MPEG2 format on import. This preserved the 1080i resolution, so it serves as an excellent workaround for anyone with an AVCHD camcorder who is editing on a PC that’s only moderately fast.
We were excited to see multi-camera editing among the new features, although it’s limited to just two cameras. This lets you view simultaneous streams in a split-screen mode and flick between them by clicking on them. Shooting with multiple cameras is a great way to inject some professionalism into an important video project such as a wedding, gig or business presentation.
Export options now include YouTube, but only at the site’s lowest quality setting – it’s better to export your video to your hard disk as a 720p MPEG4 file and then upload it manually. DVD and Blu-ray authoring is more successful. Magix provides only a few menu templates but they’re reasonably easy to customise.
In case customers feel short-changed, Magix bundles an array of other applications. Mufin MusicFinder is an MP3 manager that makes suggestions based around your tastes. Xtreme Photo Designer 6 is a reasonably competent image-editing program, while Photo Manager 8 is a lacklustre competitor for Picasa. A DVD of 1,374 sound effects and musical snippets completes the Magix-branded line up, but the bundled extras don’t stop there.
Reallusion iClone 3 SE is a 3D character-animation program that’s surprisingly sophisticated and just about accessible for beginners. Its characters can lip-sync to recorded audio and it comes with an impressive animation library. We had fun mangling the preset characters into weird and wonderful shapes, but producing more sensible results proved trickier. Anyone who gets hooked will probably want to pay the £40 upgrade to remove the restrictions from this SE version, which is limited to standard-definition resolutions and 30-second running times.
Yet another bundled extra is Vasco de Gama 3, which generates animated routes across maps. It comes with 200 maps and a variety of trains, planes, cars, boats, horses and hot air balloons, and can even change the mode of transport along a route. However, the included maps cover only Europe. Movie Edit Pro 15 Plus is in direct competition with Adobe Premiere Elements. The gap between them is far smaller than it was, but Magix’s editor still isn’t as sophisticated or as polished. At £46 it’s cheaper than Adobe’s competitor, though, and comes with a wide range of fun extras. It’s an appealing alternative to Elements, particularly if you need to edit AVCHD on a slower PC.