Windows Live Movie Maker vs. Picasa

So what’s Windows Live Movie Maker all about and why should I use it? Back in June, I reviewed Picasa’s Movie Maker and compared it to Windows Movie Maker (older version), and Picasa was the easy winner.

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I knew Microsoft was working on a new movie maker product to be optimized for use with the soon-to-be-released Windows 7. WLMM was released in August, 2009 and now I’ve had a chance to try it out and compare it to Picasa. It’s not shipped with Vista or Windows 7, it’s part of the Windows Live Essentials that you can download for free.

This product was designed for the masses – so if you’re looking for upgrades, more features and editing tools, this isn’t the product for you.  If you are an XP user, you can still use or download Movie Maker 2.1

I liked the interface and new look of WLMM. I found it very easy to get started with instructions to click in the timeline area and gather all the pictures and videos needed for the movie. Yes, you can put videos in WLMM as well as pictures – nice.

WLMM also supports Quicktime and MPEG4 formats, so iPhone users can import and upload their pictures to WLMM – if they can bear to give up their iMovie software! It’s nice to have that feature.

If you’re new to movie making, this is the product for you. They’ve made it extremely easy to get something published in quick order with the auto-movie feature. Bring your pictures in, drag and drop them in the order you want and click the ‘auto-movie’ button. The program will add an opening and closing slide and simple transition effects for you. A newbie could potentially publish a movie in under 5″. It’s been found that most people want to create a movie quickly in order to share it – perhaps with a family member, or quick work project. We’re too busy to have to learn a program.

If you’re now accustomed to using Office 2007 products, you’ll feel right at home with WLMM. It seemed very easy to navigate through the ribbon interface and easily apply effects, captions (yes, you can put captions anywhere on your slide and edit your font, font size and colors). With a click, add a soundtrack and have movie maker fit your movie to the soundtrack.

If you need help, there’s lots of it – and easier to follow than Picasa’s more text-based help. Microsoft has provided videos to step you through whatever you’re trying to accomplish. Check out this page for instructional videos.

Publish/Share your Movie

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So you’ve created your masterpiece and now you want to share it. Microsoft really surprised me by having a publish to YouTube button.  Other very useful options are

  • save in a DVD format – or burn a DVD (using Windows DVD Project maker)
  • as mentioned – 1-click to publish to your YouTube account
  • save in a format for a smart phone
  • save in various HD formats
  • optimize for sending via email
  • add a plug-in option – click the drop down and you’ll see additional items. If you click on the plug-in, it’ll take you to this site where you can install plug-ins to put your movie on everything from Facebook to Picasa!
  • Now there is support for additional file formats – including QuickTime formats, AVCHD and .MPEG4. Rejoice iPhone users!

Delving deeper into editing features, you have the ability to change visual effects (there are 20, I believe). Choose sepia, cartoon and others. There are over 60 transition effects from which to choose. You can choose how long to show each photo and painstakingly apply effects to each photo.

There’s a lot to like here and the HD is a nice feature that Picasa doesn’t have. Picasa also doesn’t have all the transition and effects Microsoft offers. With Picasa, I could apply only one transition for an entire movie – Microsoft doesn’t limit you there.

So download and try it out. If you don’t have much time, this is the program for you.

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