Windows Movie Maker…here all along

Name: Windows Movie Maker (2010)
Cost: Free (only for Windows users)
Type: Software
Rating: 2/5

Movie Maker logo

This may be news to some Windows users, but you have access to video editing software already loaded on your computer, as long as you have Windows 10, 8, or 7. Movie Maker is not really well advertised, as compared to iMovie (which is the free software on Macs), but that might be because Movie Maker is not as comprehensive and professional looking as iMovie. Nonetheless, when looking for a video editing tool, why not rely on the one that’s already on your PC? I am always anxious about downloading new software, so it’s great that my operating system actually provides useful software for “free” (if you define “free” as, “rolled into the costs of the operating system”). I had started using Movie Maker over 10 years ago, but then promptly stopped once I got access to Camtasia. Movie Maker is easy to use, which made it a good introduction to the concepts and skills needed to piece together short video clips that have photos, screen captures or other video files, and audio clips. It has the MS Office feel with the menu tabs and options, so it may not feel foreign to users already relying on PowerPoint for visual creations.

Goal: Rely on a free, easy to use video editing tool to create short videos (mostly graphics and text)

Benefits:

  • Drag and drop ability for adding media to the timeline.
  • Very simple looking workspace. Sometimes a long timeline along the bottom of the workspace can be intimidating to new users, so Movie Maker has more of a graphic approach that downplays the look of a timeline.

    Movie Maker workspace

    As you can see, this is a pretty simple workspace, with a drag and drop option to add movie clips, audio, or graphics.

  • There are some tutorials and guides available on the Microsoft site so that you don’t have to rely on YouTube and other non-Microsoft support sites.
  • As mentioned above, it has a similar look and functionality as Word or PowerPoint, so there isn’t much to learn about navigating the software.
  • The transitions options are interesting, especially when adding some overlays (e.g., sparkling lights around the corners). These might work well if you’re creating a photo montage for an anniversary party or wedding reception, where dozens of photos are projected on a screen in video format.
  • There is the ability to type (or paste) in captions. So, if you have a transcript, you can add it to the video. The trick, though, is timing the captions with the audio so the audience is hearing the content when it appears on screen.

    Movie Maker transition options

    This is the menu bar with the most “feature” options for the software. It is a variety of transitions and slide animations you can apply to each graphic or video clip.

Movie Maker timing tools

I spend the most time with these tools when working on editing a video based on PowerPoint slides and audio narration. I have to adjust the timing so the audience has enough time to read the graphic and/or hear the audio narration before transitioning to the next graphic/video clip.

Drawbacks:

  • Syncing up audio and video can be a little tedious, though this is true for most video editors. One change in transitions or video clips and the audio syncing needs to be redone (the extent of the revising depends on how close to the start of the video the change was made). Students who have used the software have reported similar frustrations with adding audio. I try to add audio only after I’m pretty sure the video is what I want it to be.
  • Although this is true for most video editors (except for Camtasia), video clips created with Jing cannot be added/edited to Movie Maker for further editing or combination with other file types. So, if I want to add a screen capture video to my video, then I need to . Microsoft Support provides a list of accepted files, which is extensive, but .swf for a Jing video is not on the list. To get a Jing video in the right file format, I have to use Camtasia to save it as an MP4. Do not despair, though. My favorite screen capture tool create MP4 files: Screencast-O-Matic.

    Movie Maker error message

    This is the error I got when trying to add an MP4 file I downloaded from Pixabay. The “help” links didn’t provide further insights. So, if I want to use these movie clips in future videos, I’ll have to go with different software.

  • The video is saved as .wmv, so the audience needs the Windows or you need to upload it to a site like YouTube. Mac users won’t have access to Windows Media Player, which will play the .wmv file. So, if you just want to email the file or share it (e.g., Google Drive or Dropbox), then Mac users will need to download a comparable media player (e.g., Free WMV Player, which I haven’t tried so use at your own risk).
  • I like to add background video clips from Pixabay, where there might be a train going by or an abstract figure in motion, and then overlay text to emphasize any points made in the audio narration. Unfortunately, every time I tried to add the MP4 file from Pixabay, it came back with an error. When I tried to use the help function, it wasn’t very helpful beyond explaining that the file was not compatible with Movie Maker even though it’s in MP4 format. I’m not sure if this is a user error or software limitation, but since I’ve used the Pixabay files in other video editing tools, I’m guessing it’s a software limitation.

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Wideo….going for a W (in video) [UPDATED]

Name: Wideo [UPDATED: This is the new link]
Cost: Free for 45 second videos [UPDATED: no free version available]
Type: Internet tool
Rating: 4/5

Wideo logoAs mentioned often on this blog, there are many more options than PowerPoint when presenting text and graphics (and audio) in a video format. To be honest, if I am pressed for time, I still go old-school with PowerPoint and Camtasia to create videos based on slides saved as graphics and transitioned together. This is especially useful for longer videos since most other tools require subscriptions for videos over a minute or so. Wideo provides templates so that I don’t have to put thought into the overall design or animation/transitions when creating videos. I am forced to keep my stunning and enthralling messages to 45 seconds (for the free version), which is probably appreciated by my students.

UPDATE: Ugh! Wideo is no longer available free. Which is disappointing, but even more so that the videos I created are now gone unless I pay for the subscription option. So, my review hasn’t changed except that it is no longer is as accessible for those of us who rely on free versions of software. Considering there are other options that are partially free on the internet, I’d suggest playing around with a free option than investing in Wideo unless you have a budget you need to spend. I’ve edited some of the review content to reflect the change.

Wideo pricing options

Since the free version is no longer available, I thought I’d provide the list of prices and features.

Wideo pricing options for education

For those of you who can prove you’re in education (teacher or student), there are cheaper options. Again, I’m not a big enough fan of this tool to even pay the cheaper prices.

Goal: Create videos with some text (not much) and visual interest that look (almost) professionally designed.

Wideo workspace view 1

This is what the workspace looks like when using a template.

Benefits:

  • Blog and newsletter provide tutorials and insights.
  • Templates are provided to get you started. They seem to be within the 45 second (free) time frame.
  • Templates have guides built in (e.g., Insert Image Here)
  • Provides photo editing tools, including special effects, frames, lighting, resizing, touch-ups, stickers, and meme.
  • Guidelines appear when moving textboxes so that you can line things up.
  • Upload your own voice over files or choose from three background music options.

Drawbacks:

  • Limited to 45 second videos, which might actually be a benefit if you’re like me and tend to cram too much information into one presentation.
  • Wideo.co watermark appears throughout video
  • Editing can be a bit tricky. You have to slide the marker on the time line to see all the items in a template slide. So, if five items are animated on the slide, you may only see the first three when editing, but you can reveal the next two by adjusting the timeline.
  • Without watching any tutorial videos, I can’t readily figure out how to animate graphics I add to the video. They appear in place (rather than flying in like the template’s text).
  • Cannot download the completed project in the free version. This means the video is shared on the web (can be reused and seen by the public).
  • Cannot change the color of objects from the icon library (e.g., a light bulb icon only appears in black outline).

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Adobe Premiere Elements…not quite iMovie

Name: Adobe Premiere Elements (version 13)
Cost: $99 (approximately…there are deals you can search for)
Type: Software
Rating: 3/5

Premiere Logo

I’m not here to argue Mac vs. PC. I have a PC. I’ve always had a PC, but I’ve worked on a Mac from time to time. I suspect that if Macs were more affordable and I had the time to learn a new environment, I’d be cool and make the change. But, I have a PC. This means I don’t have access to iMovie. The only reason I know how cool iMovie can be is because I took a 90-minute course at my local library to learn the basics. I loved this software in that 90-minutes, but not enough to make the switch to Mac. Adobe Premiere Pro is the comparable software that will work on a PC. As noted in previous posts, I’m not one of those college professors who makes enough money to afford leasing Adobe products through the Creative Cloud option. Don’t cry for me yet. Being a student and professor allows me to take advantage of software discounts, so I purchased Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Elements (combo pack) for Students/Teachers.

Goal: find a video creation tool with more features than Camtasia (i.e., iMovie for a PC)

Premiere eLive view

You can easily access recent tutorial videos on common video editing tasks. The eLive list of videos is not exhaustive, and I still end up searching the Internet for other options. But, I do find the videos inspirational in that I don’t consider the options until seen in the tutorial.

Benefits:

  • It has professional editing features such as 3D transitions, pan/zoom (so I can show a photo, and zoom), or graphics that can be added to the video (e.g., a heart that moves across the screen).
  • The Project Assets list has all the clips, graphics, and audio that you identified to add to your video. I like that there is a “used” notation in the list so that I know I’ve already added certain media clips to my video.
  • Like Photoshop Elements, access to training videos is provided in the software under the eLive tab. If you don’t have time for training videos, try the Quick or Guided tabs for help doing common tasks in the software.
  • You can fast-forward when previewing the video. I like to check my transitions and other features in my video, but I dislike having to watch the video (over and over), so I can watch a sped up version (where I sound like a chipmunk).
  • The are “snap lines” when inserting media. So, when I want to match up the start of narration with the end of the previous transition, there is a line that appears to emphasize the beginning/end in the timeline.
  • .AVI is an accepted video file format to insert into my video. This is the file format used when doing screen captures through Camtasia or SnagIt. (See related Drawback below)
    Premiere Guided viiew

    When in either Quick or Expert edit modes, you can access Guided, which gives you some tutorial options for common tasks.

    Premiere workspace view 1

    Here is a view of the workspace with several options open.

Drawbacks:

  • This is not the software’s fault, but within weeks of my purchase, Premiere 14 was released. Argh! This is what happens when you don’t lease your software through CC. (There is a list of the differences between 13 and 14.)
  • The workspace can get cluttered, even on my not-so-small monitor. With experience, I figured out how to open/close what I needed to reduce clutter, but a large monitor is certainly helpful. I can’t imagine do this on a laptop.
  • I’m a little bit old school in that I like printed books to help me with software that has many features. There are few book choices for this software, and of that few, none seem to be outstanding in what is offered in way of explanations and insights.
  • While .AVI files can be used, they render quite awful, as you’ll see in my sample. To fix this, I had to convert the AVI files to Mp4 files and use those versions during the editing process. (Camtasia doesn’t require this extra step and the AVI files will render fine.)
  • The zoom/pan feature is tedious (not my first word for describing, but appropriate). I ran out of patience when trying to zoom out of a graphic to add visual interest to the graphic as it appeared on the screen. I didn’t like the way it was showing up with the zoom/pan, but I couldn’t get it out of the video without just clicking “undo” until it was (hopefully) gone. Adding text to overlay the video was just as tedious. For those with more patience, there is a tutorial video from Lynda.com that might provide insights: Pan/Zoom tutorial.
  • Initial start up takes a while. I suspect it’s checking for updates, but I just want to get to work when I click the Premiere icon.
  • While in use, the software froze for no apparent reason. (I was almost done with the video, and it stopped working. I had to shut it down and lost everything since the previous save, which wasn’t recent. It could be a Windows 10 issue or something not related to Premiere.)
  • The “freeze frame” option only exports as .bmp file type, which YouTube doesn’t accept when trying to upload it as the Video Thumbnail. I had to convert the file to .jpg.

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Kizoa…means “sweep” in Swahili(?)

Name: Kizoa
Cost: Free
Type: Internet tool
Rating: 3/5

Kizoa logoAlthough I’m an novice photographer, I’m not really big on using slide shows to share my photos, even though I’m quite proud of some of them. I guess I’m not sure who my audience for a digital media slide show might be since I print/frame my photos that I like, and torture friends/family by posting them individually to Facebook (I also force students to view my photos by including them in PPT slides or as my screensaver). Nonetheless, there are many many Internet tools to create these types of slide shows. Kizoa is one option, and judging from its templates, the tool is meant for those who want to share photos from a holiday or special event via a photo video. While this option is obviously better than inviting everyone to your house to watch a slide projector version (which you have to get on Ebay because they have been discontinued), I am still thinking about how educators might use this tool effectively. Perhaps it can be used for digital storytelling assignments as long as students are warned about distracting the audience with too many effects, animations, stickers, or blocks of text.

Kizoa workspace 1

This is what the workspace looks like after selecting a template and adding your photos.

Goal: find a digital media tool to create text + graphic videos with professional looking templates and transitions

Benefits:

  • It’s really easy to select the order you want to show the photos in. You just start clicking the uploaded photos one after another, in the order they should appear in the video.
  • When in “collage edit” mode, you can add clipart, animations, and the like to each slide, along with your photos.
  • You can see the website in a variety of languages.

Drawbacks:

  • It takes a minute or so to upload your photos, depending on how many you choose from your computer and the file sizes. (But, there is a progress page so you can see how things are going as you wait.)
  • Without taking the time to personalize the video, the tool will center the photos in the template’s layout, which may not be exactly what you want.
  • The edit mode isn’t always intuitive. I had to click around to figure things out. (If you’re paying attention, unlike me, then you may catch the prompts that suggest next steps.)
  • Every time you modify a collage (slide), it takes several seconds to save before you can move ahead. You have to click “validate” for every change, which adds more seconds to the process.
  • The template transitions are not always good options. The first template I worked with overlapped photos before fully revealing the first photo for the slide (so it was obscured immediately). When editing the collage, look at the timeline under the slide, click and drag the colored line that coordinates with the photo that is coming in too soon; dragging the line to the right will delay its transition.
  • The free version has some limitations: cannot remove Kizoa logo; cannot hide sharing options; cannot set the number of loops (times the video repeats); cannot download finished project. The only one that bugs me is the sharing option, but Prezi and other free tools have the same restriction.
  • The “guide” is all in the form of YouTube videos…I prefer a text version for the simple tasks.
  • The editing features are quirky in Firefox, where the audio catches and lags when reviewing one frame/slide, or the screens flashes and freezes.
  • An embed code is provided, but when I embed it in my blog, clicking on the video will take you to the Kizoa home page, not my video. I have tried editing the code to no avail.

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Camtasia…tentative steps into the world of movie making

Name: Camtasia (version 7)
Cost: $100+ (there is a student version for a reduced price); 30-day trial available
Type: Download (you might be able to purchase a CD version for student use)
Rating: 3/5

 

Camtasia logoThere is something addictive about the ability to create a movie (video). Perhaps it’s a generation thing, as I remember the early days of the Internet, prior to YouTube. I never delude myself in believing that I’ll make real movies/animations, with a moving or compelling storyline. But, I do like the power of mixing text, audio, graphics, and movement. I teach online, so I’m often teaching synchronous sessions with audio and slide presentations. This made it easy for me to transition into video making with Camtasia, where I could combine my slides with audio and transitions. Camtasia also allows for screen capture video recording, so I can record my screen actions (e.g., showing students how to upload their assignment) and add it to a longer presentation with other graphics, audio, and text. The screen capture feature has more clarity than Jing, but Jing is free. I use Audacity to first record my audio files, which can be added individually to the movie during the development process.

Goal: A robust tool to combine graphics (e.g., PPT slide JPG), screen capture videos, audio clips, and transitions. I also wanted to add overlays to the video content, such as an arrow cued up to sync with audio or other highlighting methods.

Camtasia workspace 1

This is the workspace that you’ll see before adding files to work with.

Benefits:

  • Does not require Internet access since it’s software on my PC, thus increasing software stability during editing
  • It is intuitive as long as you know how to work with a timeline when editing video content. Drag and drop to add content, with icons for other features of the tool
  • Provides all the necessary files for editing in Camtasia and then uploading to YouTube; it even creates a screen shot of the first moments of the video in case YouTube doesn’t get it right when choosing the video still image (i.e., what you see before clicking Play).
  • There are tutorial videos on the software’s website.
  • There are “stock” background music and other options to add to your presentation.

Drawbacks:

  • It can’t embed links that work on YouTube. If I upload the video to my Screencast account, which has limited free storage, the links will work; but, users need Silverlight loaded in order to view the video (which isn’t usually a problem, but YouTube is more accessible). I’ve tried work arounds, but they are messy. YouTube and Camtasia need to work out their compatibility issues, or I need to see if posting to a different website is the solution (e.g. Vimeo). Camtasia 8 has not addressed these issues.
  • The timeline can be a little quirky to work with when trying to edit video screen captures and audio. I cannot seem to break the screen capture video if I want to pause it or slow it down at a certain point. [The work around I use to to add the clip twice, cut/delete portions of the video, add a jpg (e.g., screenshot) between the cuts, and then edit the videos as needed. Without transitions, the clipped videos are seamless to the audience this way.]
  • I tried a stop-motion video with hundreds of photos and the software continually crashed, to the point I gave up. I tried researching the error message, but didn’t get satisfactory responses. After spending hours taking photos of “moving” letters, I was too frustrated to figure out the software any further.
  • Very limited shape animations (e.g., arrow) are available. I could get around this by recording my PPT as a video with animations, but editing the captured video is cumbersome, so I have to rely on the software’s stock animations (e.g., appearance of an arrow or box). Free Internet tools have significantly more options to “slide” graphics/text on to the screen.

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Emaze….not as amazing as I’d hoped

Name: Emaze
Cost: Free (pay version gets storage and more templates)
Type: Internet tool
Rating: 2/5

Emaze logoPowerPoint? Been there–done that. Prezi? Tried it–liked it. I was ready for something new, and more dynamic, if possible. I also wanted to impress my students with my ability to show them “new” tools they could also use to be just as cool as me. Ultimately, the tool should rely on my existing PowerPoint content, allow me to add audio narration, and then up my cool factor by including video game like animations and transitions. Emaze seemed to be a good option, as it looked like PowerPoint and Prezi had a baby and called it Emaze. (There have been worse baby names by celebrities!) I took my PowerPoint slides and uploaded them, then had to significantly edit them to get them to fit the templates. I spent a few hours getting the look, transitions, and audio just right. I reviewed the final version and noticed a few glitches, but thought it was okay. Nope. EPIC FAIL. One of my students very politely told me that the presentation was “not working,” which was a nice way of saying: “Professor, the presentation is really screwy. The audio for different slides starts playing at the same time, and the content moves too quickly to understand. Going back to review previous slides sends you on a Dr. Who like journey where you won’t land where expected.”

Goal: Dynamic and engaging presentation that allows for transitions, audio, and embedded links

View of Emaze workspace

After setting up your account, this is what your initial workspace looks like.

Benefits:

  • Accepts PowerPoint files to base the presentation on
  • Several free templates with interesting graphics and backgrounds
  • A sort of 3D feel as the view swings around to the next slide, which my audience liked
  • Supports embedded links

Drawbacks:

  • Audio would not consistently sync with the slides. There were no audio controls during playback; in other words, I could not pause the audio for a slide once it started. The audio would overlap and play at the same time if the audience decided to go back one slide.
  • Firefox was quirky with this tool. For example, at one point it would only represent text in upper-case even though I didn’t have the Caps Lock set. I had to exit the browser and log in again.
  • No further dynamic features beyond transitions, such as animations that reveal or highlight information on the slide.
  • Some color themes are nice looking, but may be difficult to read for those with visual impairments

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Prezi….pushing me past PowerPoint

Name: Prezi
Cost: Free (pay version available, reduced cost for educators)
Type: Internet tool
Rating: 5/5
 Prezi logo

Death by PowerPoint (PPT). It happens. Prezi is the answer to a slide presentation that doesn’t look like a slide presentation. Caution….if you get motion sickness, then Prezi might not be a great option, though the zooming in/out and around is not as bad as other tools (e.g., Emaze).  I suspect the animation of zooming out and over to the next “slide” is the most appealing feature, but it does also allow the audience to see the whole presentation at once and then choose a direction to head in (or just use the arrows to take the path you set). Prezi is fairly popular with students and educators who are familiar with PPT, but seek a different way to navigate. Having PPT experience is helpful, but not required. So, if anyone has ever suggested that you need to “think outside the box,” give them a Prezi presentation and see if that does the trick.

Update, February 2016: I had recommended Prezi to students, but they reported back that it was too expensive to use. I really thought it was free for everyone, not just educators. It takes some work to find the free version since you keep getting flipped to the free-trial version. Here is the link to the “public” version that is free: https://prezi.com/signup/public/

Goal: Create a dynamic presentation that is mostly text driven (no audio, few/no graphics) and can be embedded in an online classroom

Prezi Desktop view

This is what the prezi workspace looks like with a theme applied, but no content.

Benefits:

  • Many templates and styles to choose from, especially with the pay version, but still enough to choose from in the free version
  • Allows embedding of media (e.g., video clips, webcam video, graphics)
  • Can link to online version or embed in website with HTML code
  • There is an app, so audiences can access presentations on mobile devices
  • Can be downloaded as a whole presentation or saved as PDF

Drawbacks:

  • I get a little frustrated when I deviate from the templates and want to add/delete sections. I have to remember the nuances of each step to building a new section, which might be overwhelming for someone with limited experience with Prezi.
  • The printed version of the presentation isn’t as well designed as PPT. I inherently wanted a “whole” view to print of one my shorter presentations, but the text became distorted or too small.

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