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The best possible advise concerning Windows Movie Maker »

FERDY CHRISTANT - JUL 31, 2009 (11:44:45 PM)

The best possible advise concerning Windows Movie Maker is to not use it ever.

It is a bug infected piece of shit that does not even deserve the alpha label. It is rare for me to be so explicit, so allow me to explain...

I was looking into producing a DVD video of our South Africa holiday. Nothing too fancy, just some pics and movies, some title pages and some simple transformations and effects. Windows Movie Maker, which comes with Vista Ultimate is a simple video editor, yet it offers these feautures so I decided to use it for our video.

It is actually quite an easy program to use. You drag pics and videos into the storyboard, optionally include some scene transformations and effects and in the timeline view you can manage many things into detail, most importantly the audio. Easy to use: yes.

The problem starts with big projects. Our video was going to end up at about 30 mins, but appearantly WMM finds 10 mins to be huge already. After 10 mins, on quite a capable machine, editing becomes a nightmare. Almost any action, such as dragging a photo into the storyboard, adding a transformation or effect takes between 10 and 30 seconds to take effect. Considering that in even a simple video you will make hundreds of these actions, your patience will be thoroughly tested.

12 hours later I was ready with the editing and noticed that I could directly make a DVD video from WMM. It failed at 0.4% encoding with a much telling "unspecified error". Online research shows that nobody knows why this happens, and that the workaround is to first publish the video as WMV (with quality loss) and then burn it to a DVD.

The publishing process made more progress, yet halted at 45% with a fatal error telling me that I do not have enough disk space or that the source files (pictures, videos, audio) refered to in the video are no longer available.  Both claims are false. Online research explains that the error message is non-sense, and that in reality it probably means one of the following:

  •  You have used incompatible file types, such as mp3. Use WAV or WMA instead. Excuse me? MP3 is the de facto standard for electronic music. And if you do not support it, why can I import and play it in WMM perfectly fine?
  • You are using too many effects and transformations. Get rid of some. No, I won't. I want my video to publish the way I have edited it.
  • Your project is too complex or your hardware is not capable enough. Shorten your video or cut it into pieces. No. It's a 30 min video. Your software is broken. Rendering has nothing to do with hardware. I can render the most complex 3D scene on low performance hardware. It will just take longer, it will not fail.

At this point my frustration was at its peak. Still, given my large time investment in editing the video I desperately wanted to publish it. To make matters worse, I then encountered another catastrophic error. Upon saving my WMM project, closing the program and then later opening the project, all scenes containing effects play as black screens, as if the reference to the original file is gone. I had to redo all effects, which took over an hour given how slow WMM is. Eventually, I did manage to publish the video by increasing the page size of my machine and getting rid of a lot of effects. A lucky shot it was. The result is a video that was not like I edited it, with lower quality than I wanted.

In summary, WMM:

  • Does not scale at all in edit mode
  • Messes up file references and randomly loses your work
  • Throws unspecified fatal errors
  • Throws specified fatal errors yet the error text has nothing to do with the cause
  • The cause of the fatal errors during encoding or publishing are anyone's guess
  • Forces you to cut into your work so that it can handle the "complexity"
  • Things that work fine in edit mode all of a sudden are a problem when publishing

Surely I am a bit biased by my frustration, but trust me, the net is full with alarming error reports and video projects gone bad due to WMM. If you're a happy user who does not recognize this at all, good for you. My advise, however, is to stay as far away as you can from WMM. Do not let it drain your time or take your sanity.

Now, to end this post constructively, I'm wondering what video editing software do you use?

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AUG 1, 2009 - 08:15:34 AM

comment » I have used WMM to produce longer clips (over 50 min) and have not experienced the problems you cite here. Could be specific to your video card. I recently got a new HD video camera (Canon HF 20) and have been using Pinnacle Studio Plus ver. 12 for my editing due to it's ability to handle the AVCHD files produced by the HF 20. Video editing and rendering for me has always been one of those things that requires time and patience (especially with the larger AVCHD files) and I have found that if I am in a hurry, I will just get frustrated. I have never tried to burn directly to DVD from WMM but I just render to WMV, then use "DVD Flick" to burn it to DVD. Works great for me. 12 «


AUG 1, 2009 - 04:55:45 PM

comment » I have used Camtasia for years, and it is well worth the price. «


AUG 2, 2009 - 01:22:43 AM

comment » I have been using Vegas Video (now renamed Sony Vegas) for years. Together with Sony DVD Architect I been creating some pretty decent results.

Take a look at it and see if it support your file format/camera. It even interacts with Nero to burn DVDs directly from within the program. «


AUG 3, 2009 - 12:21:29 AM

comment » I've used Windows Movie Maker 2 so far for making relatively small movies.

It crashes almost on everything you do, but you can find out how to avoid the things which crash it. It makes video editing very slow though.

Camtasia is also horrible, as well as all other commercial software I have tried.

The only good, simply the best, video editing software is NCH VideoPad, which is free:

They have also the best Video capture program, called NCH Debut, also free of course. I have also bought Fraps, but it fails to make any videos for me using a 3D engine. Debut works fine and provides very high quality videos. «


AUG 3, 2009 - 08.04.42

comment » I am a proud and very satisfied Mac user. As far as video editing, I always used iMovie until I switched 3 years ago to Final Cut Studio Pro. I believe it is one of the best sw out there , with no limitations at all. I know Apple is not your cup of tea... but you might consider it ;-) «


AUG 5, 2009 - 01:44:48 PM

comment » Adobe Premiere and/or Vegas Video have been my picks for video editing when the need arises :) 07 «

COMMENT: MARK BARTON emailhomepage

AUG 6, 2009 - 11:18:04 AM

comment » Ferdy,

Check out this site for creating videos. The longer videos are not free but its pretty quick to create something cool.

I was thinking of using them to produce some promo videos for a product I am working on.

Mark «

COMMENT: JUAN F. RUIZ emailhomepage

AUG 9, 2009 - 08:06:29

comment » Hi, Ferdy.

I know that feeling you get with Windows Media Maker ... I hadn't used that crap ever ... :-D

In home i use Avidemux and Cinelerra. I think these two applications are very good for doing videos and dvd's.

Regards! «

COMMENT: BORISATTVA emailhomepagerating

DEC 20, 2009 - 11:49:12 PM

comment » i have you beat.

all i had were 3 video files, that were split into 7 clips, and 4 of those clips were rearranged into a simple movie, with 3 transitions in between.

thats all - no titles, no text.

just 4 clips and 3 simple transitions.

it worked fine until i decided to change the very last transition. after that WMM would simply shut down with no error given. i could not start it to undo the transition change, i could not start it to remove the clips and start a new project.

after a day of fighting with this thing, i have to admit i understand some of the fanaticism that Apple fanboys/gals show about their simple and limited yet FUNCTIONAL applications. «

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