Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Windows Live Movie Maker

I've been making videos for my blog for 8 years. I think I have over 160 videos on youtube now. I've been using Windows Live Movie Maker all this time, and I've never liked it. The crossover fade function never worked right, and there's no way to strip the video from part of the file to replace it with a still photo while the audio track keeps playing (i.e. - A-B roll). That is, if I want to give a presentation and display a slide during a voice-over, MM can't do it. So, yeah, I've wanted to use some other package for the last 8 years, but I'd never actually gotten around to trying anything else. I don't quite trust freeware off the net, and I didn't want to spend money on a commercial program.

Well, my old laptop went wonky and I had to switch to a newer machine that didn't yet have the service packs loaded on it. Then, when I had some free time, I checked whether this new laptop had Movie Maker, and I discovered it didn't. Then, I learned that Microsoft had stopped supporting MM for Win 7 a few years ago, so it's not on their update server anymore. That left me with no option but to get something else. I still don't trust internet freeware, so I went to Bic Camera and looked at what they had. There were three titles, all with three price levels - entry level for editing wedding videos; mid-level with more effects and support for other video formats; and high-end, which mainly means having extra third-party audio editing software bundled in.

Based strictly on price, and the screen shots on the box, I went with Vegas Movie Studio 14 Platinum from Magix, for 7,500 yen ($70 USD). The only difference between Platinum and Suite is that Suite includes Acid Music Studio and Sound Forge Studio 10. I trust Acid Studio, and I can get that off the net for free. I haven't really had much of a chance to do anything with Vegas yet. In fact, the only reason I started using it at all was that I'd wanted to play some of my latest videos from the Kagoshima Music Fest on my new Zenpad, and they were too large. Vegas is a fairly complex package, with lots of features, and all the menu items are in Japanese. Magix is actually a German company and their English website is pretty poorly laid out. The only way to get to the support page for accessing the English user manual PDF is to click on the Buy Now button. Sigh.

Anyway, I figured out what I wanted relatively quickly. The process:
Start Vegas with a new project.
Drag and Drop the desired raw video file into the directory window.
Wait until Vegas stops prepping the file (10-20 seconds for a 10-minute video).
Drag the desired video file from the directory window to the timeline.
Wait another 20-30 seconds for Vegas to build up the preview.
Click on Project Settings and change the video format to 640x480, 29.5 frames/second.
Click on File, Make Movie.
On the first screen, select Save to Hard Drive.
On the second screen, change the format from .wmv to .mp4, specify the output file name and directory, and click Ok.

You can see the preview mode play as the movie is built up, which is fun, and it's significantly faster than Live Movie Maker, but in a large part that's because I want a smaller file (a 10 minute video is 1-2 gigabytes in HD format, and 130 meg for the video size I selected). What really matters to me right now is that the smaller files run on the zenpad with no problems, although the color blocks are being pixelated, and the new videos don't look anywhere near as good as the demo movies that come with the zenpad. I need to find out why the demos look so much better. But, at the moment, I'm kind of back to where I had been with Live Movie Maker for doing video editing, which is an improvement from not being able to do editing at all.

Vegas does have A-B Roll capabilities (being able to run two synched videos side-by-side and choosing which one to view with a common audio track), plus title, credits, and special effects options. I don't need most of that for what I do, right now, but it's nice to know that it's there. Now, I just have to wait until the next music event to get something I want to record and edit.

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