windows live movie maker.jpgLast week Microsoft released a new version of Windows Live Movie Maker that I have to admit is rather impressive. I took some time to play around with it over the weekend, and the Ribbon interface makes creating movies so easy that I actually feel like new computer users could grasp how to do it in a matter of minutes. Plus they’ve included an “AutoMovie” button that inserts transitions, effects, credits, and titles automatically for you. The team did a remarkable job of making movie creation simple.

Now here’s the thing that some Windows users might notice. This version of Movie Maker lacks some features that older versions had. The most notable thing is probably the disappearance of the timeline view (used for more precise editing), and I’m pretty sure there are also less transitions available. The real damper may be that this version is only available for Vista and Windows 7, which means Windows XP users will have to stick with Movie Maker 2.1. Yeah… you power users probably aren’t too happy.

So what’s the point of Windows Live Movie Maker then? Many of you may not agree, but I think Microsoft made the right move with the direction they’re pursuing. The Windows Live blog stressed several times that a a good chunk of users are sharing videos that are just a few minutes long:

According to recent research from IDC, over 60 percent of US consumers watch user-generated videos online. They also found that almost half of the videos shared on the Internet are just a few minutes long. While video is becoming just as easy to capture as photos, it’s nowhere near as easy to edit and share.

So the focus of Windows Live Movie Maker is on videos that are around 2-minutes long. Personally there are very few cases where I’ll watch a video any longer than that, and so they are spot on for my kind of usage. That’s why I think the revamped Movie Maker is so nice. If I was going to put together a movie that was an hour or two I’d probably want to look towards a program that’s a bit more advanced.

They’ve also made sharing videos easy by integrating a YouTube uploader, allow exporting in HD quality, and let users burn a movie to DVD. Again, these are all things that are just a few clicks away. It’s fast. It’s simple.

There are some people I know who will absolutely love using this, and I’ll definitely be telling other people about it. The only thing I don’t like is the dreaded installer that tries to throw all the rest of their products on your machine at the same time.

Windows Live Movie Maker Homepage (Windows Vista/7 only; freeware)