23/08/2010 16:48 | By John Chapman, contributor, MSN Windows Live

Mastering Movie Maker

Is it worth getting out the red carpet for the new remake of Windows Live Movie Maker?

Guide to the new version of Windows Live Movie Maker. Image Microsoft

Transforming your home videos into quality entertainment - and yourself into the next George Lucas - just got a tad easier with the latest version of Windows Live Movie Maker.

And this time around, you've got more control over the end result if you want it.

Movie Maker has always been a terrific tool for quickly turning static photos into great-looking slideshows backed by a well-chosen tune or two. The time-saving AutoMovie feature could do most of the work, adding titles, credits and transitions, then putting it all together for you. Which was fine, as long as you weren't too fussed about the rather bog-standard finished look.

But now AutoMovie has been enhanced with "themes", a set of pre-defined effects that can be applied in one go. Then you can tweak to your heart's delight settings such as how fast the music will fade out, or from what side your titles will gracefully glide in.

Visual effects department

Movie Maker starts to live up to its name with the sheer number of animations now available. These range from diagonal wipes to dramatic dissolves, patterns and shapes to reveals and shatters, curl-ups and spin-aways to fades and blurs. You can pan and zoom and rotate all you like.

For that silent-cinema look, there's black and white or sepia filters. Dream sequences can warp or ripple into view. Or any combination of the above.

Try out a number of new effects in your movies. Image Microsoft

Try out a number of new
effects on your movies.

But our favourites are the new "cinematic burst" transitions, which add flashy Star Trek-style lens flares, even to titles and credits. Make it so!

Now, trying out all these special effects is fun, but it's time consuming to apply them, only to undo them if you're not happy. Instead, just hover your mouse over a command for a second or so before clicking it. Movie Maker will give you a preview of how your movie will look, without committing to the change.

Once you've settled on an effect, "Apply to all" will add it to every sequence automatically. Look, you've barely lifted a finger.

Download Windows Live Movie Maker

Making a scene

At any time, you can slot in another video clip, photo or music track. In addition, Movie Maker now records straight from a webcam, removing the need to capture the output separately - this would be great for podcasts, or direct-to-camera video diary scenes.

It's easy to import your photos and movies. Image Microsoft

It's easy to import your photos and movies.

Rearranging the order of a sequence is just a matter of dragging items into their new position.

Background music too loud? Adjust the volume.

Change the start and end points. Split it in two parts with silence in-between for dramatic effect. Or mix it with a second track.

Movie Maker will even try to fit the music to a scene, so they both end at the same time. Slick, or what?

On wide release

After editing the movie to your satisfaction, it's time to give it a big release on a worldwide stage. What better place than the Web?

Movie Maker's always had the ability to share what you've created via YouTube, but video has exploded in a big way and it's everywhere these days.

So Movie Maker now uploads to other sites, Facebook included, as well as to services you've expressly connected to your Windows Live account. Still more can be added by installing plug-ins.

Export your finished movie to a variety of formats. Image Microsoft

Export your finished movie to a variety of formats

For those who prefer a more traditional movie-watching experience - i.e., on the sofa in front of a big screen (popcorn optional) - DVD burning is but a click away.

And you're now able to save in whichever format best suits how you want to play your movie. 1080p widescreen for hi-def TVs, or lower and narrower for standard-def phones.

Got a device that isn't listed? That's easily fixed - if you know the right settings, just add it yourself. Tweak the width, height, frame rate, bit rate, and audio format, and Movie Maker will take a best guess at the final file size. Handy to see if you need to run to the shops for more blank DVDs.

Movie Maker's streamlined ease-of-use was once at the expense of more powerful features that would enable aspiring movie moguls to tailor things more to their liking. But the new release gives you some of that missing directorial control.

Download Windows Live Movie Maker

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