Make Videos with Windows Movie Maker





Make Videos with Windows Movie Maker

You can make better home movies and other videos with XP's built-in video maker.

XP is Microsoft's most media-aware operating system and it comes with Windows Movie Maker, built-in software for making and editing videos and home movies. (To run it, choose Start All Programs Accessories Windows Movie Maker.) But making videos properly with it can be tricky, so check out these tips on how to make better home movies and videos.

Capture the Video Properly

Windows Movie Maker lets you edit movies and add special effects and titles, but it all starts with capturing the video properly. So, first make sure you bring the video into your PC in the best way.

If you have an analog video camera or videotape, you need some way of turning those analog signals into digital data. You can do this via a video capture board, or by using a device you can attach to your FireWire or USB port. If you're going the route of a video capture board, make sure the board has XP-certified drivers; otherwise, you might run into trouble. To find out whether a board has XP-certified drivers, search the Windows Compatibility List at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/catalog.

If you have a USB port, you can import analog video with DVD Express, Instant DVD 2.0, or Instant DVD+DV, all available from http://www.adstech.com. They're hardware/software combinations; to get the video into your PC, connect the analog video device to the USB Instant Video or USB InstantDVD device, and then connect a USB cable from the device to the USB port on your PC. (A similar product, called the Dazzle Digital Video Creator, will do the same thing. For details, go to http://www.dazzle.com.)

Check your system documentation to see what type of USB port you have. If you have a USB 1.1 port, you won't be able to import high-quality video, and you'd be better off installing a video capture card. USB 2.0 will work fine, though.

If you have a FireWire-enabled PC, you're also in luck because its high-speed capacity is also suitable for importing video. You'll have to buy extra hardware, called SCM Microsystems Dazzle Hollywood DV-Bridge. Plug your RCA cable or S-Video cable into Hollywood DV-Bridge, and then plug a FireWire cable from Hollywood DV-Bridge into your FireWire port, and you'll be able to send video to your PC. It's available at online stores such as http://www.buy.com.

Once you've set up the hardware and your camera, recording the video is easy. Open Windows Movie Maker, choose File Record, start the camera or video, and click Record.

Capturing Video with a Digital Video Camera

If you have a digital video camera or webcam, you shouldn't need any extra hardware to capture video from it, as long as you have a FireWire port on your PC. These devices generally include built-in FireWire ports (the cameras might call the port an IEEE-1394 port or an i.Link port). If you don't have a FireWire port on your PC, you can install a FireWire port card. These generally cost much less than $100. Make sure the card is Open Host Controller Interface (OHCI)-compliant.

When you plug your digital camera into a FireWire port and turn it on, Windows will ask you what you want to do with the camera. Tell it you want to Record in Movie Maker, and it will launch Movie Maker to the Record dialog box with a video showing in the preview window.

Best Settings for Recording Video

Before you start recording, you'll see a preview of your movie in the Record dialog box, shown in Figure. This is your chance to change your video settings, and choosing the proper setting is perhaps the most important step in creating your video.

Options for recording video in Windows Movie Maker


Look at the Setting drop-down box in Figure. This box lets you choose the quality of the video you're creating, which is the most important setting. What you choose for this setting will depend on the input source; digital video cameras, for example, let you record at a higher quality than analog video cameras, so they will give you a wider range of options. Movie Maker comes with a number of preset profiles, including three basic ones: High, Medium, and Low quality. When you choose your profile, Movie Maker tells you how many hours and minutes of recording time you have, based on your disk space and the disk requirements of the profile. For example, you might have 193 hours of recording time based on the High setting, but 1,630 hours based on the Low setting.

Those three profiles aren't your only choices, though. You can choose from a much wider variety of profiles (as a general rule, I suggest doing that), based on what you plan to do with the eventual video. Do you plan to post the video on the Web? Just play it back at home? Run it on a personal digital assistant? These other profiles are designed for specific purposes like those.

To select the profile, choose Other in the Setting drop-down list. Underneath it, a new drop-down list appears, shown in Figure, with a range of profiles from which you can choose. They're prebuilt for specific usesfor example, recording video to post on the Web, for color PDA devices, and for broadband NTSC (National Television System Committee), which is standard TV.

Choosing from additional preset profiles


Whenever you choose a profile, you'll see underneath it the frame size of the video and the frames per second. If you choose a profile from Other, you'll also see the video bit rate. Here's what the settings mean:


Video display size

The size of the video, in pixelsfor example, 740 480, or 320 240.


Frames per second

The number of frames captured per second. For smooth video, you need 30 frames per second, which is the "high-quality" setting. The medium- and low-quality settings record at 15 frames per second.


Video bit rate

The bit rate of the recorded videothe higher the bit rate, the greater the quality.


Audio bit rate and properties

These settings aren't shown in the Windows Movie settings, but they vary according to which profile you choose. Audio properties are measured in kilohertz (kHz)the higher the number, the greater the quality. Audio bit rate measures the bit rateagain, the higher the bit rate, the greater the quality.

To help you make the best choice among profiles, Figure shows the settings for all the Movie Maker profiles.

Settings for Movie Maker profiles

Profile name

Video display size

Video bit rate

Audio properties

Audio bit rate

Video for web servers (28.8Kbps)

160 120 pixels

20Kbps

8kHz

8Kbps

Video for web servers (56Kbps)

176 144 pixels

30Kbps

11kHz

10Kbps

Video for single-channel ISDN (64Kbps)

240 176 pixels

50Kbps

11kHz

10Kbps

Video for email and dual-channel ISDN (128Kbps)

320 240 pixels

100Kbps

16kHz

16Kbps

Video for broadband NTSC (256Kbps)

320 240 pixels

225Kbps

32kHz

32Kbps

Video for broadband NTSC (384Kbps)

320 240 pixels

350Kbps

32kHz

32Kbps

Video for broadband NTSC (768Kbps)

320 240 pixels

700Kbps

44kHz

64Kbps

Video for broadband NTSC (1500Kbps total)

640 480 pixels

1,368Kbps

44kHz

128Kbps

Video for broadband NTSC (2Mbps total)

640 480 pixels

1,868Kbps

44kHz

128Kbps

Video for broadband film content (768Kbps)

640 480 pixels

568Kbps

44kHz

128Kbps

Video for broadband film content (1500Kbps total)

640 480 pixels

1,368Kbps

44kHz

128Kbps

Video for color PDA devices (150Kbps)

208 160 pixels

111Kbps

22kHz

32Kbps

Video for color PDA devices (225Kbps)

208 160 pixels

186Kbps

22kHz

32Kbps

DV-AVI (25Mbps)

720 480 pixels (NTSC); 720 525 pixels (PAL)

1,411Kbps

48kHz

16Kbps


Tips for Making Your Own DVDs

If you use Movie Maker to make or copy your own videos and burn them to DVDs, consider these tips:

  • The USB 1.0 standard is not fast enough to connect a camera or other video input to your PC. Its throughput of 11Mbps isn't fast enough for capturing high-quality video, which is 30 frames per second with 24-bit color at a resolution of 640 480, and requires speeds of at least 210Mbps. USB 2.0, which has a speed of 480Mbps, and FireWire, which has a speed of 400Mbps, will work, however.

  • Make sure you have a substantial amount of free hard-disk space if you're going to burn your videos to DVDs. The video will be cached onto your hard disk before it's burned to DVDs, so you'll typically need several free gigabytes.

  • Defragment your hard drive [Hack #94] before creating and burning DVDs for best performance. If you have a second hard drive, use that for DVD creation rather than your primary hard drive. Regardless of the speed of your CPU, turn off any background applications that are running when you import video and create your DVD.

  • If you're burning high-quality video to a DVD, figure that you'll be able to fit about an hour's worth on a single DVD. At a lower quality (lower bit rate), you can fit up to about two hours on a DVD. Keep in mind, though, that if you write at the lower bit rate, the DVD might not be able to be played on a set-top DVD player, though it will work on your PC's DVD player.

  • There's no single accepted standard for DVD burning, so not all DVD disks that you burn will work on all set-top DVD players. Generally, most set-top DVD players will play DVD-R discs, but all of them might not play DVD-RW or DVD+RW disks. Manufacturer information can't always be trusted, but check the companies'web sites for the latest details.

  • After you've created your video and you're ready to burn it to a DVD, set aside plenty of time. It can take up to two hours to burn a one-hour DVD, depending on your CPU and drive speed.

See Also

  • If you want features beyond those offered by Windows Movie Maker, try a variety of software from Ulead Software, including Ulead VideoStudio, Ulead DVD Movie Factory, and Ulead DVD Workshop. They go far beyond basic video-editing tools, and they let you use transitions and add special effects and menus. The software also includes backgrounds, preset layouts, and music you can add to your videos. In addition, they will burn to DVD, VCD, and SVCD and can save files in a variety of video formats. They're shareware and available to try for free, but you're expected to pay if you keep using them. For details, go to http://www.ulead.com.


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