Got video? Make a polished film in 5 steps

Did you know you can make movies with Windows XP using a free Movie Maker download?

Movie Maker is a tool that works with Windows XP (SP2) to help you capture and edit film from your video camera.

When I made my first Movie Maker film, it took a long time because I bounced around in the project and learned a lot of stuff the hard way.

I'm not normally a very linear worker; I tend to hop all over an article and write a few words here, then a few words somewhere else, and finally clean the whole thing up at the end. This works OK when writing, usually, but makes video editing much more difficult. So when I recently made another movie, I forced myself to go about it in an orderly way, and doing so made the project a lot more fun.

I noted the steps I took (and why) in case it can help save you some time too. Here you can find all the information we've put on the Web about Movie Maker. There's a lot of great information there for both beginners and more advanced users. Before you get started, I strongly encourage you to do a short practice project that gets you familiar with the basics of using Movie Maker.

Now: Here's my advice for how to create a movie without a lot of trial-and-error:

  1. When you're ready to start your actual project, assemble all of your ingredients (just like when you're cooking). Have all your film clips, still photos, and music ready to go. (Study the material about "collections" if you're unclear how this organizing scheme works.)
  2. Make a rough cut of the film using just your video clips. Get them in the order you want, and trim as much of the extra footage as you can while still keeping the pieces you need to tell the story. One of the easiest traps to fall into is using every inch of film you shot. Believe me, by the time you finish polishing your movie, if you're bored with it, the odds are your audience will be too. Keep things moving along.
  3. After the film clips are in place, insert still photos if you have them. This can help add a firm sense of time and place as you move from scene to scene. Adjust how long the pictures stay on the screen to best fit the mood you're trying to convey.
  4. After you've got your film and photos ordered and timed the way you want, you can go in and add titles, as appropriate. If you add titles earlier in the process, they may get moved around as you rearrange your clips, which can result in having the title appear on the wrong clip. After you get the titles in place for the different scenes of the movie, it's a great time to go back and add the leading title at the beginning and the credits at the end, if you want them.
  5. The last step in creating a polished movie is adding music to provide atmosphere. You'll find it easier to set the timing of the music clips if you've gotten all the rest of your film firmed up first.

As you work through your movie, you may come across questions that you'd like to talk with an expert about. If so, try out the great Movie Maker community for Windows Movie Maker users. You are likely to find some great ideas and tips, as well as someone who can help you.

—Robbin Young