Windows Live Movie Maker - Video Editing & Adding Transitions & Effects

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Note: this article was written before the 2011 version was released. See Windows Live Movie Maker - 2011 - Editing for that version.

Standard or Widescreen?

Selecting standard 4:3 versus widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio is a critical first step when starting a project. It you don’t align WLMM with your intended output, it’ll make things look OK but letterbox your movie as needed, embedding black borders at the top/bottom or sides.

Use the view tab of the main menu to select the aspect ratio of standard 4:3 or widescreen 16:9.

Project Files

Windows Live Movie Maker supports the opening of project files made in previous (classic) versions of Movie Maker… MM2.1, MM2.6 and MM6 (not MM1). They are files with .mswmm extensions. If the project uses special effects or transitions not supported by WLMM, they won’t be implemented. You’ll get an error message informing you about the issue, but it won’t point to the specific effects or transitions it can’t do.

A WLMM project file (with a .wlmp file extension, which I guess stands for Windows Live Movie Project) isn’t encrypted like a classic .mswmm file. It’s a text file you can edit with Notepad. Power users, geeks and hackers should love it.

There might be cases where opening a classic Movie Maker project with WLMM and then saving it to a WLMM project file would be the best way to get a set of clips into the WLMM project format.

I’ve not had a hang or freeze yet when editing with Windows Live Movie Maker, but my usual rule of caution applies “… save the project file early and often…”. And back it up regularly when your investment in time becomes significant.


In WLMM the timeline and storyboard of previous classic versions have been integrated into a storyboard which sort of acts like a timeline also, but the time dimension might not be as evident as in classic versions of Movie Maker. It’ll be a learning experience.

The visual effects and transitions in WLMM are not as many as in classic versions of Movie Maker. For example, you can’t speed up or slow down a video clip. Third party add-on packages from Adorage and Pixelan are not yet available, and info about how to make custom effects and transitions isn’t available yet.

There are five tabs on the main working window,

  • In the Home tab you add images, video clips and music files, along with titles, captions and credits. If you would rather turn over the bulk of the editing decisions to a wizard, select AutoMovie. If a project consists only of still pictures, there’s an option to have Movie Maker automatically align the picture durations with the length of the background music… use the ‘Fit to music’ option.
  • The Animation tab provides the transitions from one clip to the next…. WLMM is great at showing you quickly what the transition will look like. All it takes is to hover over the different options to see them in action. Note the pan and zoom animations only work for still pictures, not video clips.
  • Visual Effects let you apply special effects to still pictures and video clips. As with animations, briefly linger over any of the choices and you’ll get an instant preview of what the effect will do. To add multiple effects to a clip use the drop down at the right to expand the view and the ‘Multiple effects’ choice at the bottom of it.
  • The View tab provides zoom in and out icons for the quasi-time view of the storyboard, some thumbnail size choices, and the most important choice of standard 4:3 or widescreen 16:9 for the project.
  • The Edit tab has features for fading the video volume in or out, changing the background color and the duration of still pictures, and splitting and trimming video clips. Unlike earlier versions of Movie Maker, the Windows Live version lets you make changes to the durations of multiple pictures.

The project accepts multiple tunes but doesn’t let you overlap them to mix the fading out of one with the fading in of the next. There are no audio volume adjustments but there’s an ‘Audio mix’ volume slider in the Home tab to adjust the relative volumes of the audio of the video clips and the music track.

Use the Home tab or the drop down icon at the left of the main menu when you’re finished editing and ready to share your video on YouTube, other online hosts, or save it for use in a DVD project.

This has been an overview of the editing process. I’ll be digging into specific features in other articles.

This post is part of the series: Windows Live Movie Maker

The Windows Live version of Movie Maker is the biggest change to come to Movie Maker since it was first released in Windows Me 8 years ago. It promises to be better yet smaller. Join us in looking at the evolution of this new version.

  1. The Future of Windows Movie Maker… in Windows Live
  2. Windows Live Movie Maker - Source Files
  3. Windows Live Movie Maker - Editing
  4. Windows Live Movie Maker - Publish to an Internet Host
  5. Windows Live Movie Maker - Save Movie to Your Hard Drive
  6. Windows Live Movie Maker Meets YouTube