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[May 2023] I never really got into using Windows Movie Maker, not to create videos as such, but I do still use the application for creating my Brian reads... episodes that I upload to Youtube; they just aren't videos as such since they consist only of an audio file and a static image that displays throughout (Movie Maker is quick and easy for this task). I have also dabbled with the image stabilization feature for stabilizing footage from the action camera that I use on my bike.

That being said, I recently had the desire to use Windows Movie Maker, more... properly. Not only did I want to learn the software, I wanted to glean some tips and techniques about filming and editing, and this book seemed to provide this aspect too.

I had a few vague requirements:

 - to be able to work on this on a Windows XP machine, and ideally on a laptop I have.

The first part of this was for nostalgia's sense and I'd come to learn that the "latest" version of Movie Maker that I use on Windows 10 is a cut-down and different program to what it was on XP, and the second part of this was to be able to create/edit video files on a less-energy-hungry machine that I typically use for such tasks, which incidentally runs Davinci Resolve... which demands a fair amount of screen real-estate, and I therefore wouldn't feel comfortable running it on a laptop, even if I had one I thought could cope with it.

As part of the "more properly" aspect, I sourced myself a copy of a user guide in the form of "Zero to Hero" (from 2003). (I'd skimmed through a few others and decided this one gelled best with me - a Dummies guide is also available, and while these are widely known, I'm not sure they're always best, and when it comes to teaching yourself something, a guide that works best for you, is, well, best.)


What I quickly came to learn was that Windows Movie Maker was originally included with Windows ME, and then a second, and much improved version was included with Windows XP. After that Vista's version was bundled with Windows Live and from then on, while I still have the version that works with Windows 10, as said previously, it's now not the same thing it was with XP. It was therefore the XP version that I was aiming for.

I spent a few evenings reading my way through the Zero to Hero book until I felt ready to delve into Movie Maker itself; I wanted to avoid just fiddling around unguided. But then the problems began...


My vague intent was to create some more vlogs which I have been recently uploading to Youtube; for this I typically record my chat with one camera (typically a smartphone) and include footage from other cameras (such as the action camera on my bike). I have used other cameras so I was prepared to be flexible if needed... the key thing was being able to conveniently get the footage from whatever camera into the computer for Movie Maker to access.

I knew the main problem was going to be compatibility with file formats:

Movie Maker 2.1 in Windows XP can only use WMV and AVI files (and also import from DV cameras).

My present footage is in MP4 format so I needed to convert it. I thought the AVI format would be the best option to help avoid losses in quality.

I found avidemux which looked promising upon my first attempt as it appeared to convert the 1+GB file quick, as if it wasn't so much re-encoding frame by frame, but simply spitting the file back out in the AVI format. The problem was that Movie Maker didn't accept the file; "AVI" is simply a container and codecs are used and are required to encode the footage and decode it by the editor - Movie Maker lacked the necessary codecs. Actually it was implying it would have originally connected to the internet to download a codec pack, but these are no longer available on the server they once were, although by now I was recalling my past experiences that likely deterred me from using Movie Maker - codecs were a bane for many years.

There was another tool that I tried but was the typical nonsenseware that promises you hope, but then tells you it needs your money in order to unlock the feature you need; it even had the cheek to pretend to process half the file in a promising blink of an eye before crawling to a halt. Yeah, no...

A quick dip on Youtube and I was referred to Format Factory. Through a combination of using the Wayback Machine and the current website it seemed I could get an old 32-bit version that would run on my XP machine, but I first had to install Service Pack 3 (it didn't tell me this, but it kept asking for different things or failing at others until I did that). However, the conversion process was too slow on the laptop; this was not through a CPU/hardware speed issue but how this version of Format Factory did its thing. When using the most recent version it did things differently and also has more features. (I was hoping I could avoid using another machine, if at all possible).

[VLC Player has the facility to convert files but I couldn't get that to play ball with creating AVI files either.]

Movie Maker however again rejected the AVI file, but fortunately Format Factory can output to WMV format (I think it has been criticized for being able to do this because WMV is a proprietary format...yes, those codec and file format wars are still a thing it seems).

Now Movie Maker accepted my WMV file created on my main machine and while it hadn't taken too long to convert the file (it was a little tricky to figure out the procedure though) I did see that one of Format Factory's features in the current version is the ability to trim the files, so that will certainly be useful when dealing with my cycling footage. However...

I was able to create a short video but Movie Maker failed to save my movie; it starts to process but then the ETA counter just goes up and up and it never actually proceeds.

A further issue is that the output format is limited to 720x576 (and also WMV, which Youtube wont like).

This is ultimately the bane that is trying to use Movie Maker on Windows XP in this era.

This is my progress so far. I will probably have a go at trying Movie Maker on a Windows Vista machine:

 - I need to successfully create a movie file

 - Ideally at 1920x1080, but if not, 1280x720.

 - The final step will likely be to use Format Factory to convert the resulting WMV file back to MP4.

P.S. While the more recent versions of Format Factory performs better and has more features, it is another people of software that has resorted to bundling in crap no one Asks for and doing other shady things...

(for some reason you can disagree and yet the software still works)

UPDATE! After spending all that time converting MP4 files from my action camera, I discovered that another action camera I have records in AVI format and those files are directly compatible with Movie Maker!

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