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Windows Movie Maker (Part 1)

Windows Movie Maker (Part 1)

I’m sure you are familiar with the scenario: you are visiting your family or friends or maybe even your neighbors and suddenly, you hear those immortal words, “Okay, let me show you our movies from last year’s holiday!” You are probably too polite to say anything out loud, but inwardly you are already groaning and preparing yourself to be bored out of your mind! You sit back and try to show interest in scenes of endless beaches, kids paddling in the sea, everyone eating meals of unimaginable concoctions, while at the same time, stifling the yawns.

The question is: are your home movies the same?

In this three part series of articles, I am going to show you how you can make movies that people will actually ask to see and enjoy watching! Really!

And a bonus to the cost? It’s free! All you need is a little imagination, some time and free software, courtesy of Microsoft (yes they do give some things away free).

The program we’re going to use is called Microsoft Movie Maker. If you have installed Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), you probably already have the program on your computer, but if not, head on over here [1] to pick up the latest copy.

Before we begin, let’s just set out a few caveats about these articles.

Firstly, Movie Maker can be operated at various levels. As a beginner, you can make decent movies without a lot of effort and no technical knowledge. These articles are for you. Once you get familiar with the program, then you might want to move on to more advanced techniques. The Help file, as well as, the Microsoft Web site will also give you lots of tips and advice, so make sure you use them if you need to. So, that means in these articles (although there may be many variations on the techniques I show you), we will just deal with the basics and allow you to explore the other options later.

Secondly, we will split these instructions over three separate articles (representing the three stages in the movie making process). Don’t be put off by the amount of information. It actually takes longer to explain what to do than to actually do it! Just plunge in, get your feet wet and enjoy making movies your family will want to watch!

The first thing to do after downloading the program is to install it (click setup.exe and follow the onscreen directions). Thereafter, click on the Movie Maker icon and let’s start making our first movie!

The first screen you will see is this one:

In the left hand panel, you will see the three stages of the process.

They are specifically:

Capture Video: This shows how to get your movie into the computer to work on it. This will be covered in this article.

Edit Movie: This almost speaks for itself. You cut out what you don’t want and move the parts of the movie around to suit your story. You don’t necessarily do this in the order in which you shot the clips. This will be covered in Part 2.

Finish Movie: This is when you decide how you want to be able to show your “work of art.” You can show it on your PC, burn it to a CD or even send it in an e-mail to someone. You can also play it back on your camera through to the TV. All of these avenues will be explored in Part 3.

But just before we start off on our Speilberg-like adventure, let’s just clarify a few things for you on the screen shot above.

You have seen already the three stages (called “tasks” in Movie Maker). But, if you click on “Collections” (see Circle 1), you will see that the left hand pane changes and as you progress, it will show the various collections of shots and audio tracks you have accumulated.

To the right, we have the “Preview Window,” which will either show you what you have done so far or the various effects and titles that you are creating at any one time.

Below (Circle 2), you will see an icon that is clickable and will show either a “Timeline” or a “Storyboard.” In brief, the Timeline will show you a timeline of the movie you are assembling and the amount of time each clip will play for. It will also show any audio tracks (music and/or narration) and where they synchronize with the action. The Storyboard shows you how your story is building up, which clips in which sequence with which enhancements and/or transitions, etc.

Any other details will be spelled out for you as we reach them in the articles.

So, let’s get going now with Part : Capturing your video.

So, where is your masterpiece at the moment? Is it still in your camcorder? Or have you already downloaded it to your PC? Or do you want to record something on your Webcam directly to the PC in “real time”?

Those are the factors that govern this first step; getting it in to a form you can work with.

So, let’s go to Video Capture and look at the options offered.

Firstly, you have “Capture from video device.” This could be a tape in a DV camera or an older analogue camera. Or, it could be a tape in your VCR or maybe you want to record live from either your camcorder or Webcam (if the quality is good enough).

Whatever it is, first of all, connect it to your computer (for a digital tape, you would need an IEEE 1394 port to do this and for an analogue tape or VCR, you would need some sort of video capture card. It’s not really within the scope of this article to go in to those details, but there are plenty of Web sites you can visit that will help you there).

Next, click on “Capture from video device in Movie Maker” and the following screen will appear. You should see your device listed under “Video Capture Device.” If there is more than one device listed, choose the one you are using for this operation.

Clicking Next will then take you to a screen asking you to name the video you will be capturing and where you want to store it on your computer. Enter those details and click Next again. The following screen will appear:

Looking at Circle 1, you will see a setting that says “Best quality for playback on my computer.” Unless you have a major problem with space on your hard drive, leave this alone.

Circle 2 tells you how much room each minute of video will require and Circle 3 tells you how much free space you have on your computer. As a result, you can quickly calculate if you have enough space to do the recording.

Click Next yet again to reveal this screen:

Before you click on “Start Capture,” just look down to the second circle on the picture where you will see a box that says “Create clips when wizard finishes.” Make sure this is check marked before you proceed (what this does is break your long video up into individual clips, usually between the various shots, to make it easier to edit them later).

Now, you need to start your camera/camcorder/VCR (often labeled VTR or VCR ) and at the same time, if you now click on “Start Capture,” you will see what is happening on the preview screen and the time elapse and file size in the middle. “Stop Capture” just does exactly what it says.

After a short while, you will then see something similar to the following screen shot appear in your Collections area (see below). And you will see that Movie Maker has broken your video up into the individual scenes just as you asked it to do.

As we mentioned, there is another way to get your movie in to Movie Maker and that is if you already have it on your PC (maybe you have found the way to move it from your camera to the computer earlier). In which case, you want to select “Import Video” under Capture Video. You will then be asked to tell Windows where the file is located and what its name is.

When you complete that process, a little moving line like this will tell you that Movie Maker is doing the job and importing the file for you (and cutting it up into the individual scenes as mentioned above).

You will notice that there are two more options under Capture Video. Let me quickly explain what they are to you.

The first is “Import pictures.” Maybe you want to include some still shots during the movie for effect. Or maybe you would just like to make a movie of all your still pictures with background music and nice transitions between one and the other. In either case, this will let you do that. It will ask you where the pictures are and which ones you want to import and it will then dump them in your Collections area for you.

The next is “Import audio or music.” Maybe you have decided that a nice piece of Beethoven’s Fifth or Sinatra’s New York, New York would be a fitting background track to your movie. Well, import it in to Movie Maker here using the same process.

So, now we have all the components for our masterpiece.

But before we do anything else, let’s Save what we have done (Movie Maker calls them Projects). Go to File, Save As and give it a meaningful name.

So, now let’s move on to creating the movie.

And that’s Part 2: Edit Movie. Stay tuned, because that part is coming your way tomorrow!

~ David Woodford