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Microsoft’s Windows Movie Maker – A review. Sort of

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I’ve been shooting video for nigh on five years – mostly of my kids. I suck at it. I watch some old footage and the camera is rolling all over the place. I don’t frame my shot – hell I don’t HAVE a shot. I just point it at stuff and often not for long enough, while other times too long. I suck.

But what sucks more is that all 40 tapes (some of you may think that is alot, but over 5 years that is really nothing) sit on a shelf collecting dust. I’ve compiled no DVD’s. I’ve grabbed a few small, short clips for posting on web sites the odd time something interesting has happened. And it’s easy to say, “I don’t have time”. It’s not only easy, it’s also true.

But this begets the question: why should it take time? This stuff is supposed to be digital. Isn’t digital supposed to be better (substitute your favourite synonym or antonym for “better” with regard to digital)??? Well, you would think it is supposed to be better, but I have found that it is entirely not better. Editing video from tape to computer and then to finished media is nothing short of a pain in the ass.

At least, I used to think so.

I had tried several software applications for this purpose. Most of them have been lame. Meaning that the interface looks like video tape, and you are walked through a process of capturing, inserting into a scrapbook of sorts, and dropping into a timeline. The capture process sucked. The timeline interface sucked. The transistions were few and cartoony. And the interface itself was cartoony. I refer to “it” and “was” and “is” as though I’m referring to only one product. But no, they really all tended to fit these descriptions.

All but one: Adobe Premiere. Now you Mac fans go “Yay” to this. And so do you professionals. But I tell you – Premiere is a piece of shit. I find all of Adobe’s products to have the most cumbersome, unintuitive, clunky, cludgy interface ever conceived by humans. To add to this, the Firewire device support under Windows is HORRID. Don’t you dare open your brain cells to the notion that this is Windows’ or Microsoft’s fault. Every other program installed can see and use and control the DV device just fine (the camcorder). But Premiere says, “must be some other program’s fault – uninstall them or reinstall Premiere”. Yes Adobe, I’m sure that since all my other programs work fine and yours does not, it must somehow be their fault that yours fails. And I’m sure that since Adobe’s piece of crap fails in the same manner on multiple machines with different “other software” installed doesn’t speak to the problem or indicate responsibility.

Having enough, and needing to duplicate some tapes, I try the program that comes with Windows XP, “Windows Movie Maker” (WMM). You Mac people enjoy iMovie and wonder why I haven’t mentioned this yet. I’m sure iMovie is great. Apple is doing some wicked shit and you are welcome to toot your horns if you are so egotistical or insecure to do so. I however, use PC’s “because”, and have never tried XP’s bundled movie program because I assumed it was crap. I was very, very wrong.

The first bit of pleasantness came when everything worked. It knows my camera. It uses my camera. It controls my camera. Over and over and over again. Adobe, take note.

The second bit of pleasantness is when the wizard for capturing video was simple, intuitive, unencumberred, and worked. “Capture entire tape to file” not only worked, but it was an option! With Adobe, you have to go through a stupidly long process to do the same thing. WMM rewinds the tape to the beginning, and starts capturing. That’s it. A three-step wizard. Adobe, take note.

The next thing was writing out a new tape. Save movie – to DV Device. Done. Adobe’s process isn’t too dissimilar on this one point.

Now the best thing in the whole world. I ran WMM later and imported one of the video files I captured. An entire tape. I didn’t notice a small checkbox. The default setting of this checkbox was to “create separate clips”. You need to understand how your DV camera works to appreciate this. In a nutshell, when you capture a movie, the date and time are encoded on the tape. It’s not visible (unless you enable it through the camcorder’s menus). But this timecode is a permanent record of when the movie was shot. As you stop and later start the camcorder, the new movie you shoot has a different timecode than the previous one. WMM’s “create separate clips” detects the timecode change, and creates a contact sheet (like a scrapbook) of little movie clips for each clip. You can treat each one individually. You can import multiple files this way, and create a library of movie clips, not unlike a photo album. It’s fantastic! You can drag and drop different clips on the timeline and drag and drop transitions in between. AND THEY JUST WORK! Adobe: why didn’t you think of this?

This is so cool, it may be nearly time to capture all of my tapes to an external HDD and begin to make some real home movies. Like, the kind you actually pop into a DVD player.

Thanks, Microsoft.

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Written by worlok2112

November 1, 2006 at 1:10 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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