Microsoft Movie Maker at DV quality

Microsoft Movie Maker was introduced in Windows Me as a useful video editing tool. Microsoft stated that the application “allows you to organise, edit and share Windows Media over e-mail and the Internet”. However, if you dig around, you will find that the program deals perfectly well with DV quality video as well. In this column, we will look at the Movie Maker interface and how to import video from your DV camcorder.

The workspace

Movie Maker can be found by clicking on the Start button in Windows and then navigating through All Programs and Accessories. Once you select Movie Maker, create a new project by selecting File-New Project from the top menu or open an existing project by selecting File-Open Project.

The Windows Movie Maker interface is simple yet effective. You have a collections area where you can keep source material (video, audio, images, etc.) and a workspace to edit the movie you create. Video for different projects are kept in separate collection folders, allowing you to move from one video project to another by clicking on the relevant folder.

The workspace displays either the storyboard or the timeline view. The former is useful when organising your clips into the order you want, then you can drag the clips to the timeline to add transitions and other effects. You can also cut or split your clips on either the storyboard or timeline, removing video footage you don’t need. A preview monitor to the right of the screen plays the video, with VCR-type controls such as play, pause, advance, rewind, or stop to control the video device.

Getting video in

The next step is to record video from your camcorder or other video device into the program. You can also open existing video files, but remember that the quality of the existing video has a bearing on the quality of your finished video. Don’t expect to open a Web video file and then save it as DV quality video ready to watch on your lounge room TV.

If you have a DV camera connected to a DV capture card (also known as a FireWire card), you can choose to record movies in DV format, saving the finished movie as an AVI. Unfortunately, you can’t export the final AVI back to your camcorder using Movie Maker, as you can with programs such as VideoStudio 6 or Premiere 6.5. However, this will not be an issue if you want to burn your AVI movie to a CD or DVD disc.

The record window provides a few controls, the most useful being the ‘Create clips’ item. Movie Maker breaks the video into separate clips whenever the program recognises there has been a break in a scene based on differences in the time stamp on the DV tape. If your PC is finding it difficult keeping up with the demanding task of video capture, disabling the ‘Preview while capturing’ feature, located above the settings tab, is recommended.

The options in the Settings window clearly indicate that high quality is recommended as video for broadband, indicated as 320x240-pixel quality at 30fps. This is far from satisfactory if you want to send your video back to tape using another application, or record a DV quality video to a Video CD or DVD.

Thankfully, there is an Other section of the settings menu, with support for everything from video for Web servers delivered to a 28Kbps modem through to video suited for watching on a VideoCD. Select DV-AVI (25Mbps) from the drop-down menu and you can import your video in the DV format with no further loss in quality.

When you are happy with your settings, press the Record tab below the preview screen to start capturing video. When you have captured the video you need, click on the Stop tab and your video will be shown in the workspace area as a series of thumbnails or files representing each clip (see here for an example).

Check out the Microsoft update site ( for the latest version of Movie Maker for Windows XP, which provides support for the latest Windows Media Audio and Video codecs, as well as better recognition for CPUs such as the Pentium 4 processor. If you already run on Windows XP its automatic update should point you towards available updates, where you choose Movie Maker under the updated applications list.

To check if you have the latest version of Movie Maker on your system, go to the help menu and click About Movie Maker. If the pop-up screen shows Version 1.0, 1.1 or 1.1.1, update to the latest version of 1.2.25.

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Denis Gallagher

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