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Microsoft Windows Live Movie Maker review

Microsoft Windows Live Movie Maker
Our Rating :

Camera support is limited and the fixed 30fps export frame rate limits it further, but as a simple, free editor it hits the right notes

Windows Movie Maker first appeared bundled with Windows Me. For Windows 7, the bundled application has been dropped in favour of a new one with the word Live shoehorned into its name. It’s a free download for Windows 7 and Vista users.

Unlike Pinnacle’s free VideoSpin, it supports MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 as standard, albeit only for import. Exports are limited to Microsoft’s own WMV format, although the templates include 720p and 1080p – again, an improvement on VideoSpin.

AVCHD clips’ Dolby Digital soundtracks weren’t recognised on our Windows 7 Home Premium test PC, though. We tested footage from five AVCHD cameras, and although we could edit these clips, the audio was muted. AVCHD is listed as a supported format when running on Windows 7, but searching forums suggests that lots of other people have experienced problems getting AVCHD working in this editor. It failed to import various other cameras’ footage, too.

Another frustration is that exports are always at 30fps, regardless of the original footage. That’s fine for most stills cameras’ and mobile phones’ video modes, but less suitable for European video cameras, which run at 25fps, plus the various stills cameras that record video at 24fps.

Choosing DVD from the Sharing section generates a WMV file and send it over to Windows DVD Maker. This simple but functional authoring tool is included with Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate versions of Windows 7 and Vista. Once again, though, discs conform to the 30fps NTSC standard, rather than the 25fps PAL format used by European video cameras. Windows DVD Maker can generate PAL discs but Windows Live Movie Maker sends it the wrong sort of file.

Anyone who is unaffected by these limitations will find a simple, friendly editor with a lot going for it. The revamped timeline takes its inspiration from Apple iMovie, with a series of thumbnails that spans multiple lines like a word processor rather than the scrolling multi-track timelines used elsewhere. It’s an unconventional approach but it works well.

The interface can be resized to give more space to this timeline or to the preview window, but it’s frustrating that the other controls are bunched up at the top of the screen. There’s quite a bit of scrolling involved to view all the available effects, transitions and export templates, and a big expanse of wasted space under the preview.

Editing options are limited, but there’s a collection of attractive effects that are applied with a single click, plus a separate brightness control. There are simple controls for rotating clips, fading soundtracks in and out and for adding music, animated intro titles, captions and end credits. The Animations tab is home to a range of transitions, and they’re a little smarter than we’re used to seeing. Truncating clips is handled in a dedicated mode rather than on the timeline, but it works well enough.

The limitation to WMV export is frustrating, but this is actually a good choice of format that’s well suited to most tasks, including YouTube uploads. However, the sloppy handling of frame rates and the poor camera support make it hard to warm to Windows Live Movie Maker. Still, if your camera’s footage is compatible, you want HD export and you don’t want to pay for it, it’s a decent choice.


Price £0
Rating ***

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