Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Should I use Windows Movie Maker?

August 2008 - My wife rarely reads this blog so I’m not concerned about her finding out. However, if you do run into her, try to keep this our little secret.

We have our five year wedding anniversary coming up in about a week. I've never considered myself a great gift buyer (she took back the mother's day gift I gave her and last year's Christmas gifts) so I decided to dust off my creative energy and make something.

The thoughts are to produce one of those photo videos, with music, that shows us before our son, our son, dad with son, mom with son and then our family. It's kind of like those videos you see at weddings where tender music plays while old, sometimes embarrassing, pictures of the groom and bride transition through. We had one and paid (as in dollars) dearly for it.

My dad, who is an Microsoft curriculum instructor at a community college, is a big fan of Microsoft's Movie Maker. I once asked him how he produces his videos and he pontificated for a good half hour about how Movie Maker can do just about everything, including wash his car. Given his backing, I thought we'd give it a try.

Things started off well. I did a short proof of concept (POC) with one Johnny Cash song and about ten pictures that I had locally on my PC. Using Movie Maker, I was able to put the POC together in about fifteen minutes. Thinking I had everything mastered, I started with the gift.

I have about 110 pictures that I imported and started to work with. I dragged them here and there to make sure they were sorted just the way I wanted them. After about an hour, I decided to add some music and then preview it. Seemed to work well except the music was a bit too long. This is where the problems started.

The first problem I had was you can't change the duration of a picture which is added to your timeline. The default is 5 seconds, but if you wanted to make it say 6 seconds (to match up the duration with your song length), you can't. The only way you can do this is delete the picture, change the default duration and then re-add it. Movie Maker is free (or at least priced in the purchase of your OS) so I didn't complain too much. However, when I highlighted the picture to remove and replace it, Movie Maker froze up. This is after an hour of adjusting pictures and not saving. ;)

Now you're probably thinking that I'm an insouciant idiot for not saving my project. I'll give you that. But, it is my belief that software should not just "hang." I shut down all other applications and waited over an hour. Nothing. Thinking that Movie Maker might have saved a temporary copy of the project for me (like Word does), I ended the Movie Maker process and started to sweat.

From what I can tell Movie Maker was able to recover some of my changes, but I can't verify how many. 110 pictures is hard to keep track of, but I did notice a few were out of place. For the next fifteen minutes I started to adjust the pictures again. Low and behold, once again Movie Maker froze on me. Luckily this time I had saved a copy every five minutes.

This entire process went on for about two days (not contiguous of course). I found myself saving the ignominious Movie Maker file after every change I made. It was getting ridiculous.

Oddly, the fact that I had to save the file so often wasn't the turning point in my relationship with Movie Maker. It was the fact you can't change the duration for added pictures. This small, missed feature is at the nexus of my frustration. And given I was adjusting songs (with different lengths) at the same time, I was pulling my hair out.

It was at this point I decided to change vendors and look for a more robust commercial product. Remembering that Adobe had a number of "creative" tools, I checked out their site and found Adobe Photoshop Elements 6.0. I wasn't prepared to pay the $100 purchase price, but I did find a 30 day evaluation. And it was probably the best decision I've ever made.

Not only does Elements provide a far better user experience, you can easily change the picture duration!!! And even better, you can click a button that says something along the line of "Match duration with song length" which automatically adjusts your video slide show. The duration for 110 pictures over three songs is 5.3 seconds (transitions are two seconds). Instead of adding/removing pictures in Movie Maker, all you do is click a button in Elements.

My conclusion is, that I should never use Movie Maker again and buy Adobe Elements. I see Adobe had a video editing software as well called Adobe Premiere Elements 4.0. The best price I've found is from Amazon.


Adam Fokken said...

My family has had really good luck with

Mac Noland said...

Interesting. I actually just ended up buying Adobe, but if I run into troubles I'll have to give Pinnacle a try. Thanks for the recommendation.

Matt said...

iMovie is where it's at... ;)

Jacqui Graham said...

what Matt said.

We have an iMac with iMovie, which is a great program for small video projects. My 14-year old daughter uses it to edit the movies she makes with her friends. Another great program for working with photos is iPhoto.

Our son's summer job one year was to organize all our family movies and videos into something watchable. This was a bit much for iMovie. Using Apple's Final Cut Pro, he organized still photos and film clips into a 2-hour movie about the life of our oldest daughter, from birth to her marriage - adding music - and transferred it to DVD.