Users of Microsoft's free movie editing and photo management programs in Windows Essentials received a treat Wednesday as the company released new versions of the offerings for Windows 7 and Windows 8.
Features added to Windows Essentials Movie Maker include video stabilization, better sound editing, and improved titling.
In addition, a new photo-collage feature has been added to Windows Essentials Photo Gallery.
Goodbye to Shaky Video
Video stabilization is a welcome addition to Microsoft's movie app. Sometimes, you want your video to have some shake to give it the immediacy and verité of a handheld camera shot. Most of the time, though, shake is just distracting and amateurish.
This release of Movie Maker takes advantage of new technology in Windows 8 to make even the most wobbly video watchable without giving your audience vertigo.
Add Free Music to Your Movie
Adding music to a video can be challenging, too, especially when posting to a sharing site like YouTube. Even though you may have purchased a song, when you use it in a video, YouTube may block its use as a violation of the creator's rights.
With the new Movie Maker, Microsoft has made it easy to find music that won't run afoul of a those rights. It integrates access to music sources like AudioMicro, Free Music Archive, and Vimeo into the software.
Sound editing, in general, has been improved in this version of Movie Maker. "Waveforms" have been added to the audio tracks, which make it easier to edit all your soundnative, music, and narration. You can even import a video clip as "video with narration," and the program will strip the sound from the video and move it to the narration track.
Some broad tools for mixing the sound in your video have been added, too. With the press of a virtual button, you can emphasize the music track in your project or any of the other sound tracks.
Video Titles Made Easy
Placing titles in a video can sometimes be maddening. They just don't "pop" the way you want them to. With the new Movie Maker, you can automatically outline the letters in a title to make them more readable.
Another convenient feature of the new Movie Maker is its default video format. It now saves your video in H.264, which is one of the most popular formats for video on the Web.
Microsoft also adds its Auto Collage technology to its Photo Gallery app. The technology was developed by Microsoft Labs, and I've found it to be one of the best automated collage programs around.
It also appears that Apple isn't the only company turning its back on YouTube. With the release of the new versions of Movie Maker and Photo Gallery, Microsoft announced a partnership with video-sharing site Vimeo.
This means projects created in the Microsoft programs can be uploaded directly to that site, which could divert some traffic from Google's video sharing enclave.