The first thing we want to look at for any video editing software is installation. Easy and quick installation is a major bonus when you need to edit videos on different machines or devices.
Windows Movie Maker is designed to run on Windows desktops and laptops. So, if you want to install it, you’ll need to download it on a desktop or laptop PC. Windows Movie Maker won’t work for Mac.
Once you’ve downloaded Windows Movie Maker, installation is fairly straightforward. Because Windows Movie Maker was included in Microsoft’s Essentials bundle, a single installer would open for all of the apps in the bundle. Users could then toggle the apps on and off to choose which ones they wanted to install and which they wanted to leave out. The installer then prompts you through the installation process, and you can then open Windows Movie Player on your desktop or laptop and start editing.
Windows Movie Maker was first introduced over 20 years ago as an included part of Windows ME (and compatible with Windows 7), and it was included in the next Windows versions (for Windows 8 and XP), as well. Today, though, it isn’t included, and it isn’t officially supported by Microsoft anymore. That means Windows Movie Maker is not available to download directly from Microsoft, and you may have trouble getting help with problems and errors. Likewise, getting an update to the newest version may be a challenge, especially if your current version is not working. Movie Maker's modern replacement for Windows 10 is Photos – a photo editing and organizing application with video editing functionality.
You may, however, be able to find and download Windows Movie Maker online. Always be careful when searching for video editing software online, as you want to ensure that you choose a safe distributor and trusted software.
Interface and functions
After you install Windows Movie Maker, it’s time to get started on some editing. iMovie users will feel at home with the interface, as it’s a very similar environment. The editor gives you a somewhat stripped-down version of a video editor timeline, and you can edit clips by dragging them to different places on the timeline. Each clip looks like a long thumbnail image with a clear image of the first frame and faded images of the subsequent frames.
When editing audio for a video clip, you have the option to look at the audio waveform for each thumbnail clip. This gives you a fairly quick and easy way to see where the loudest and quietest parts of your video are. The size options on the thumbnails make it a little easier to handle long and short clips when you’re working on tiny details or when you’re making bigger edits on a longer project. And there’s also a zoom control at the bottom of the screen that lets you zoom in and out on clip thumbnails to cut down on guesswork when you’re doing detailed editing on specific frames.
Cropping and splitting video clips can be done on the fly by hovering your cursor over the area where you want to make a cut, or you can use the edit buttons for more precision. Like most video editing software, Windows Movie Maker takes a little getting used to, but once you’ve found the tools and features you need, it can get the job.
So, what key features can you expect when working with Windows Movie Maker? Whether you’re editing together a few clips for fun, or you’re editing a feature-length film, there are a few key features that you’ll need, including:
- Import and organize
- Audio effects
- Visual effects
- Sharing options
Import and organize
Windows Movie Maker lets you import and organize footage in several formats, including WMV/ASF, AVI, WMA, MP3, MP4, MPG, WAV, and MOV, among a few others. Basically, with few exceptions, you will likely be able to import clips in whatever format you prefer. Organizing media is done by moving clips around on the timeline.
In addition to importing and organizing a wide range of video formats, Windows Movie Maker lets you select a range of audio tracks, as well. Import capabilities include MP3, M4A, WAV, WMA, AIF, and OGG. Microsoft also designed in the ability to browse for music files on Vimeo and some other sources. The Music Tools tab lets you further tweak your audio. With the tools here, you can increase or decrease volume, create fade-in and fade-out effects, and cut audio tracks to match video clips.
Like other video editing software, Windows Movie Maker lets you add and customize titles for your videos. You can choose from any of your system’s fonts, and there are several animations to choose from, including slide, spin, and zoom. If you want to include captions for English translation or hearing-impaired viewers, you can add a text box and move it around on the screen to place it where you want.
Available on the latest versions of Windows Movie Maker, stabilization is a key feature that you can find in the Edit menu. This feature lets you “edit out” mild camera shakes and wobbles that may have occurred during shooting. When you use stabilization features, you have the choice of applying low and high versions of anti-shake and wobble correction. Basically, if you only have a very minor shake or wobble, use the low version for a small correction. If the issue is more severe, try to correct it with the high level.
Along with stabilization, good transitions are essential to creating professional-looking videos. This is another area where veteran video editors will feel at home with Windows Movie Maker, or almost any other at-home video editing application. Windows Movie Maker offers a range of transition options, including curls, slides, wipes, patterns, and reveals.
Creating movies and videos that stand out is a lot easier when you have a variety of visual effects to choose from. Windows Movie Maker offers a few options to create different visual effects for your video clips. From the Visual Effects tab, you can choose Edge Detection to make your video look like an animated sketch. You can also intensify and saturate the colors in a clip, create a pixelated look, or warp a shot. As many visual effects as Windows Movie Maker has, though, you can’t adjust the intensity of any of the effects once you choose them. You can either use them or discard them, but you can’t adjust them.
Once you’re finished editing a video project, you’ll want to share it, right? Windows Movie Maker gives you several options to share directly from the app, including:
With this capability, you can ensure that you share the right size and aspect ratio version of any video to its intended platform. However, to share to your favorite platforms, Windows Movie Maker does require you to sign into an Microsoft account – which may add a barrier for users who don’t have MS Office accounts. Since Windows Movie Maker is no longer actively supported by Microsoft, this capability may not continue to be an option in the future.