As a video major in college more than twelve years ago, I struggled through months and months of fighting with an ornery old editor in a freezing cold laboratory at school. My professor had saved money by getting second hand editing units, and video effects “Toasters,” and they never worked properly. I remember hours of re-doing edits that had screwed up, only to find that my tape was damaged and the video wasn’t quite the way I wanted it when all was said and done.
If only we had had digital editing back then, my life would have been a lot easier. With Windows Movie Maker, which comes free with most Windows PCs, you can make movies out of your video, screen captures, screen shots or photographs. It’s amazingly easy, and you won’t have to fight with the program to get the desired effect, or worry about damaged tape or misbehaving editors ruining your work. Then you can submit the videos to Associated Content, to earn cash. Or you can upload them to Google Video or YouTube and watch them go viral.
This tutorial deals with how to use your photos or screen shots to make a movie in Windows Movie Maker. This is particularly useful if you don’t have a video camera, or if you don’t have a video capture card on your computer. You can still make videos in Windows Movie Maker even without these devices. Download all your pictures to the computer from the camera, or make your screen captures before you start. To create screen captures, hit the “prt scr” (print screen) button, then open your image processing program (such as Windows Paint, GIMP, or Paint Shop Pro). Then in Windows Paint, and click Edit > Paste. In GIMP, click File > New, then in the image window, click Edit > Paste. In Paint Shop Pro, click Edit > Paste as New Image.
The first thing you need to do is get all your images in one place, such as a special folder which is assigned just for your video. Then check your images to see if they need any editing. If you took your pictures with a digital camera, then the chances are very good that you will need to edit them. Check out my Paint Shop Pro tutorial for tips on how to edit your pictures for the web. How you edit your pictures will depend on what kind of movie you want to make. If you’re making a pictorial movie, you’ll need to edit the pictures for clarity, increase brightness and contrast, and possibly also crop them. If you’re making a tutorial out of screen shots, you may want to create some extreme closeups of the shots to clarify the points in your tutorial.
Once your images are just the way you want them, open up Windows Movie Maker. You will see the workspace at the top left, with a preview window on the right and the storyboard on the bottom. First, look to your left and click on “Import Pictures.”
In the dialogue box, find the pictures you would like to use to make your movie. Use shift-click to select them all, or use control-click to select only certain pictures. Click Import.
Your pictures will show in the Collections Pane. Simply drag your images from the Collections Pane down to the slots in the Storyboard in the bottom of the screen. Your Storyboard is the place where your idea grows, so don’t be afraid to switch and change your clips around multiple times. Brainstorm and go through your clips to see what you would like to use. Replace pictures that don’t please you with something that you feel is better.
Each frame defaults to five seconds duration. If you don’t want your clips to be five seconds long, click on the Show Timeline Button. It tends to default to a distant view, so click the magnifying glass with the plus button until the Timeline is as large as possible. Then you can start changing the duration of the clips by clicking and dragging the ends one direction or another.
I recommend previewing your video several times and get a feel for the flow of the piece before making these types of edits, though. Also, you will need to add your transitions, if any. Click View Video Transitions to see them in the Transitions Pane. Fade is the only safe transition here. I recommend that you avoid the others like the plague. They are only used by bad videographers, and they will cause your work to be rejected by potential buyers and downrated by viewers.
Next, we can add some video effects. Click the View Video Effects link to view them. There are many good effects here, but use them judiciously. Also, you will need to add each effect to the individual panes, rather than adding one effect to the whole movie. When an effect has been applied, the little star in the clip turns blue. Effects such as Film Age Old and Older allow the film to retain its color, but make it seem worn from long use. Film Age Oldest sets the film to black and white. Fade In from Black is useful to open your film, and Fade Out to Black is useful to end it. There is also Fade In and Out from White. Ease In and Ease Out are good for titles. There is also a Sepia Tone, Slow Down Half and Speed Up Double. All of these are probably safe. The rest of the effects I would probably avoid. They’re too obtrusive, and you’re better off editing your images in Paint Shop Pro or Photoshop, which will give you a subtler and more artistic effect.
Next, we will add some audio to our movie. There are a couple of ways to do this. The first is to get a microphone and record the audio narration directly in Windows Movie Maker. You’ll want to have a script ready before beginning to record. Read the script while watching your movie in the Preview Pane, and make sure the timing is right for your video. You can add or subtract from your script to make it fit the video clips, or you can rearrange, add, or subtract the clips to make them fit your script, whichever is preferable.
Click on the microphone button in the Timeline view. There’s no need to get the whole narration perfect from beginning to end. To get your narration into the piece, record the first segment by clicking “Start Narration” while watching the movie in the Preview Pane, then find a good stopping point in your script. Then click “Stop Narration,” and the Save dialogue box will automatically open. Name your sound clip, and then click Save.
If you mistakenly delete a sound file from your Timeline, simply click Collections in the toolbar, and find your sound clip at the bottom of the Collections Pane. Drag the sound file into your piece where you want it to be, (Timeline View will come up automatically if you’re in Collections View) then play the timeline to see if the sound piece is where you want it to be. You can also trim your sound clip in the Timeline View, just like your picture clips.
Preview the result at least once, preferably several times. The important thing is to make sure that the points in the audio match the points in the video. For example, if you’re making a tutorial on how to navigate the Associated Content website, be sure that your narration on how to find your page views occurs at the same time that the image of the page views appears. This is one area where you can get creative. Instead of using a screen capture program to get one long shot, you can take screen shots and import them into Paint Shop Pro or another image processing program. Then you can blow up a detail of the screen shot to illustrate the point you’re trying to make. You can also add text and arrows in photo editing software to illustrate your point, and make it easier for the viewer to see what you’re indicating in the screen shot. If you change your mind about using a clip in a particular place in the Collections or Timeline view, it can be easily replaced with the edited picture.
If you’re making a pictorial piece or music video, you may wish to take a different approach. There are several ways to add music to your piece. One is to use music creation software to create a sound file. Make sure that the sound file is compatible with Windows Movie Maker before trying to import it. Windows Movie Maker will import .aif, .aifc, .aiff .asf, .au, .mp2, .mp3, .mpa, .snd, .wav, and .wma files. Click on the Tasks button in the toolbar, then click Import Audio or Music to import your files. Be sure that the material you use is of your own creation, or that it is not copyrighted before you use this step.
Another technique is to hook up a midi keyboard and capture the audio directly off the keyboard into the computer. The best way to do this for free is with Windows Sound Recorder. However, I have run into problems with Windows Sound Recorder defaulting to 60 seconds of record time. Then it will stop, and allow you to continue on with your recording by hitting the record button again. There doesn’t seem to be a way to adjust this manually. So click the record button repeatedly, letting it run for the duration of your song, then stop the recording and save the file for future use. Then click the backward facing arrows to send the file back to the beginning. Now you can begin to record your song off of the midi keyboard. When the song has finished recording, save the file as a different file name, so that you can use your generic file to save more songs.
Never try to import a midi file into Windows Movie Maker. A midi file isn’t a sound file; it is a series of instructions to an instrument on how to play a song. Any midi file must be recorded to be transposed into a wav, mp3 or other sound file which is compatible with Windows Movie Player. Whether the midi file is playing on your keyboard and being routed into your computer, or whether a software program is playing the midi file directly on the computer, you should be able to record it using Windows Recorder. Be sure to name your file appropriately and place it in a folder so that you can find it easily.
When the song is finished recording and saved, import it into Windows Movie Maker according to the above instructions. Find the song in the Collections Pane, then drag it into the timeline where you want it to be. This is the time to start making edits to your video in the timeline. You can add, remove, or change the duration of the video clips to change the look and feel of your movie. Preview it several more times, and if you’re not sure if it’s what you want, save the project and sleep on it for a couple of days. When you look at your project again later, you’ll have a fresh viewpoint on it and lots of new ideas.
You can add titles to your video, and transitions. Titles are amazingly simple to add, and you can customize them to your preference. To add titles, click on the Make Titles or Credits link in the Tasks Pane. Type in the primary titles or credits in the top field. Anything secondary can go in the lower field. You can add a title at the beginning of the movie, before the selected clip, on a selected clip, or add credits to the end of a movie.
I strongly recommend that you customize your titles and credits. Using the default will tend to mark you as an amateur. So first click on Change the Title Animation. Click on the appropriate choices at the left, and watch the Preview Pane to see if the animation is to your liking. I recommend the Fade, In and Out and Moving Titles, Layered. If you’re making a sci-fi flick, you can use Scroll, Perspective. For credits, Scroll, Up Stacked is the most commonly used and will be the most appropriate choice in most cases. The rest of the animations are tacky and I strongly recommend against their use.
Next, personalize your titles and credits by clicking Change the Text Font and Color. Select the font in the Font drop-down box. Try several to see how they look. Then decide whether you want the text to be bold (B), underlined (U) or italic (I). Under color, the A with the block below it represents the font text. Click this button to change your text color. The box beside it represents the background color. Here you can change the color of the title or credit background so that your titles will not all be the default royal blue. Adjust the transparency of the text right next to this, and then adjust the size of the text to the right of this. The last selection is the position or justification of the text. In most cases, you will want it to be centered.
If you’re overlaying your titles or credits over the top of an image, it’s important to make sure that the image is uniformly one general tone or color where the titles will be. For example, if your titles are white, your background should be uniformly dark. If the titles are dark, the background should be uniformly light. If it isn’t, your titles won’t be prominent enough to be seen by your viewer. If you have no images that are uniform, it’s safest to go with a solid background for your titles or credits.
The most important thing is to use common sense and good taste to determine what your video should look like. Don’t think that because an effect is available that this necessarily means it’s desirable. Always preview your movie multiple times before uploading it. Remember, the more you do manually, and the more time you take, the better your video will look. If you use these techniques, your viewer will regard you as a professional and will have no idea that you used free software to create your video.