Creating a movie using your photos, videos, and music is child’s play once you master Windows Movie Maker’s simple editing tools.
Video editing seems daunting, but it’s very easy once you get to grips with a few editing basics. There are tons of free video editing programs, and even free online video editing tools. But Windows Movie Maker is one of easiest to use.
We’ll show you how to stitch your photos, videos, and music together to create a simple montage in under 30 minutes. You can then use the techniques we describe and add your own creativity to further enhance your videos.
For convenience, save all the media files that will be used to create your movie to a common folder on your PC. It’s also worth reading these useful video editing tips before you begin.
Understanding Movie Maker’s Interface
Compared to other video editing programs, Movie Maker’s editing interface is pretty basic. Similar to Office programs, it has useful tabs at the top. For example, the Animations and Visual Effects tabs (which we’ll get to later) let you add those options to your files. Similarly, the Project tab lets you modify the video layout, and change your sound levels; while the View tab gives you options to make your editing timeline easier to use.
If you can’t finish your edit in a single sitting, then save it as a “project” so you can quickly pick up from where you left off. To do this, click the Movie Maker drop-down menu at the top left, click Save project as, then name, and save it on your PC. When you want to continue editing, simply launch this project on your PC.
Importing Your Media Files
The first step in any editing process is to import the media files that’ll form your movie. To do that in Movie Maker, click Add videos and photos in the Home tab, navigate to the first media file you want to add, then click Open. To add several files at one go, press the Ctrl key, select all your files, then click Open.
To add music, click the Add music drop-down menu. The first three options in the drop-down menu (AudioMicro, Free Music Archive and Vimeo) take you to websites that let you download royalty-free music or background scores. To add a track from your PC, click Add Music after clicking the drop-down menu, select the track, then click Open.
Windows Movie Maker also lets you record a voice-over or webcam video. If you want to import files from your video camera, USB drive, or memory card, then click the Movie Maker drop-down menu at the top left, click Import from device and follow the steps to add those files.
The Editing Timeline
Imported files appear as small thumbnails on your timeline (right). Click and drag the black cursor on your timeline to preview that section in the preview pane (left). Use the spacebar to play and pause the video on your timeline while editing.
Click and drag any file to reorder it within your timeline. Similarly, you can select any thumbnail you don’t want, then press Delete to remove it from the timeline. Also, remember that Window’s keyboard shortcuts for Cut, Copy, and Paste all work within in Movie Maker, so you can easily create multiple versions of the same file.
To increase the size of the thumbnails on your timeline, click the View tab. Here, you can use the zoom options, or use the Thumbnail size drop-down menu. You’ll notice that your music appears as a thinner section below your video. Once all your files are in order on your timeline, you’re ready to start editing.
Select a photo you added on the timeline. The Home tab has options to rotate it. You’ll notice that each of your photos play for seven seconds (Movie Maker’s default time) before moving to the next file.
To change this duration, select the photo on your timeline, click the Edit tab, then select another value from the Duration drop-down menu. Do this for each of your photos, then check and confirm you’re happy with their new durations.
Editing videos is where the fun really starts. It’s basically a case of arranging your videos by dragging them across the timeline, then trimming them to crop out any unwanted parts.
What if you want multiple smaller clips from the same (longer) video file? Simply copy and paste the video thumbnail on the timeline to create multiple versions of that file, then trim each version separately.
To trim your videos, you need to define their start and end points. Drag the black cursor on the timeline to the point at which you want to start trimming, right-click your mouse, then click Set start point. Now do the same at the end point, and click Set end point. It’s as easy as that. You’ll notice that the right-click menu also lets you add other media files to that specific point on your timeline.
By default, your music file is added to the start of your timeline. If you want the music to start a little after your video, select the small musical bar on your timeline, then drag it to where you want the music to start.
If the music file is too short for your video, then simply make copies to loop it or add another file. You can trim your music file in the same way you trimmed your videos.
Adding a Title, Caption, and Credits
Movie Maker lets you add a title, caption, and credits. You’ll find these options within the Add section of the Home tab. “Title”, for example, appears as a pink section at the start of your timeline. Type out your video title in the preview pane.
Click the Format tab to change its text font, style, and size, and reposition your text box within the window. Like photos on your timeline, titles, and other sections also play for seven seconds by default, but you can change this duration from the Edit tab.
Adding the Finishing Touches With Effects
Windows Movie Maker has a few simple effects that liven up your videos. The AutoMovie themes section in the Home tab adds automatic transition effects to your video.
To add your own transitions between different slides, press the Ctrl key, click to select the files you want to add the transition effect to, click the Animations tab, then select the effect you want. Similarly, the Visual Effects tab has options (including Sepia, and Black and white), which can be useful to for particular slides – for example, to denote a dream sequence.
You can also add fade in and fade out effects to your video and audio files. Select the file on your timeline, click the Edit tab, the Fade In (or Fade out) drop-down menu, then choose one of the three options – Slow, Medium, and Fast.
There are other ways to enhance your music. Select it within the timeline, then click the Project tab where you’ll see options to boost its volume, boost the narration, and even fit the slide to your background score.
Save Your Edited Movie
Play your entire sequence from start to finish and ensure you’re happy with it. Movie Maker has many options to export your edited movie. Click the Home tab, the Save movie drop-down menu at the top right, then select one of the options. Just go with For computer if you’re unsure which one to choose.
Name your edited video and select where you want to save it on your PC. Depending on your chosen export format, the number of files and effects you added, and your total video file size, your edited movie can take up to a few minutes to save. You’ll see an option to play it using your default media player when that’s done.
Smile… You’re on Candid Camera
Now wasn’t that easier than you expected? And you thought video editing will take up the better part of your day. If you found any of the above steps hard to follow, then read Microsoft’s abridged guide to making a movie in four steps.
If you’re looking for inspiration on what videos to record, check out the popular types of YouTube videos you can make today. We’ve also featured a useful web app to make YouTube videos, but Movie Maker is a better option to create videos.
Could you use these features to make a movie in under 30 minutes? With practice, we’re confident you’ll be able to get it down to less than half that time. Are there any easier editing video editing programs that you’ve used? Let us know by posting your thoughts in the Comments section below.
Image Credit: Fabio Pagani by film reel cut via Shutterstock