If you’re looking for a new (or first) camcorder then there’s never been a better time to buy: prices are low, resolutions are high and feature lists lengthy, with even budget models capable of impressive high definition movies.
Of course to get the best results you’ll also need a quality video editor, and MAGIX latest release, Movie Edit Pro 17, has a lot to recommend it.
New features in this version include the ability to import videos directly from your iPhone, for instance.
You then get 32 tracks to play with, a host of tools for trimming and organising your clips, fixing problems, adding titles and transitions, fades and special effects, custom soundtracks and more.
An enhanced and very configurable travel route animation tool will help add a professional touch to the presentation of your movies.
When you’re done, this version can now upload your videos directly to YouTube or Vimeo in their 1080p, Full HD glory, as well as exporting them to AVCHD discs with animated menus. (And of course you can still opt to burn your movies to DVDs or Blu-ray discs, too.)
And MAGIX have even thrown in some bonus tools, adding more special effects, title and text effects, even 3D animation software.
An impressive list of features, then, but is the program really worth your cash? Here’s what you need to know.
The MAGIX Movie Edit Pro 17 interface is little changed from previous versions, which themselves follow a familiar style that you’ll recognise if you’ve ever used a Windows video editor.
You have the option to import your footage directly from DV or Mini-DV camcorders, for instance, along with HDV cameras, web cameras, TV tuners or just about any other video source that you might have available.
Or, if you already have the movie available in a video file, then Movie Edit Pro 17 supports importing all the main formats: AVI, DV-AVI, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, MXV, MJPEG, QuickTime, and WMV(HD). Although it’s worth noting that activating the MPEG-4 codec does require a one-time fee of £3.99 in this version. Which, while it isn’t much, is a little annoying as just about everyone will need to use it at some point.
The program now also supports reading MP3 and OGG audio files directly, without needing to convert them to the WAV format internally, which helps to cut resource use just a little.
Once you’ve imported your clips, they’re then displayed in a timeline at the bottom of the Edit screen. These can then be customised by dragging and dropping effects, fades, titles and other objects onto each video, while more advanced options are available via the right-click menu, and the preview window allows you to check your work whenever it’s convenient.
The sheer volume of options can leave you a little confused, just initially. Right-clicking the preview window displays 11 options, for instance; right-clicking a clip provides access to more than 30 others; the menus are even more involved, and the special effects have many different controls.
You don’t have to learn these features all at once, though, and once you start using MAGIX Movie Edit Pro 17 in a real project then everything begins to fall into place fairly quickly.
If you’re starting with a lengthy piece of footage then you’ll probably want to use Movie Edit Pro’s automatic scene recognition to split this into its component scenes. This proved both speedy and reliable in our tests, but if you’re not so lucky then there’s always the option to tweak the scene detection sensitivity, for improved reliability.
You can then optionally split scenes further yourself, perhaps removing the beginning or end of a clip to focus on the really important footage. The scenes may be rearranged within the timeline with a little judicious dragging and dropping. And if you’ve spotted any technical problems with particular clips then they can be addressed in a variety of ways.
At the simplest you might just drag and drop a corrective video effect or two onto your scenes. There are options to fix brightness, contrast and gamma problems, for instance; the Colour filter includes an option to remove red-eye effects; and the Sharpness filter can sharpen up a slightly out-of-focus shot, or soften an image where it’s more appropriate.
More powerful options include an image stabilisation filter which aims to compensate for camera shakes. Figuring out the correct settings for this can take a little while, but it generally does a good job.
And better still is the excellent Audio Cleaning dialog, which includes declipper, dehisser, and a very configurable denoiser filter, along with a 10-band equalizer, a compressor, and a stereo FX tool that can both extend the stereo width or tweak the balance of your audio track.
They’re a quality set of tools, then, which can help to compensate for many problems in your original footage. And that, maybe, is when you can start to get a little more creative.
By default the program will simply cut from one scene to another, but if you’d like something more imaginative then Movie Edit Pro has plenty of options on offer.
These start with simple fades and wipes. But they extend into some fun 3D morphing options, where one image will change into a range of shapes – a bottle, a heart, a paper aeroplane, even a snowman – while the next scene appears underneath. Just drag and drop the transition you need between a couple of scenes and it’ll be applied immediately.
Advanced video effects include an effective chroma key option, many picture-in-picture tools, and almost 60 movement templates (scenes can be introduced via kaleidoscope effects, spiral effects, rotations and a host of zooms).
And MAGIX Movie Edit Pro 17 now includes the proDAD Adorage Starter Pack, which adds 155 new video effects to the mix. Many of these aren’t exactly subtle: there are wiper blades across the screen, spinning planets, animated skeletons, rolls of film, planes, and others that may lose their appeal to anyone more than 10 years old.
But there are still 20 to 30 very interesting effects that are more generally useful – beams of light, fog, autumn leaves, useful split screen filters – and overall the effects are a welcome addition that give you many more creative possibilities.
Elsewhere, the Title effects have been redesigned so that you work with them almost entirely on the preview window.
Drag and drop a titles effect like one of the rotations, say, and a box appears on the preview window. You may freely drag and drop this around, resize it, double-click to enter your choice of text, and so on, then click Play to preview the results in the same window. It’s a very natural approach, and you’ll quickly have it producing the exact effect you need.
And the inclusion of proDAD Heroglyph Rapid 2.6 provides even more customisable animated text effects, from flying words to Star Wars-style scrolling, rotating scripts and more, each with your choice of custom fade in and fade out. Which is impressive, although this is less integrated with Movie Edit Pro: Heroglyph Rapid 2.6 launches in its own window, with its own interface (curiously disabling Aero on our test system). So while this is an addition worth having, we suspect most people will use Heroglyph Rapid only occasionally, when the standard title tools aren’t quite good enough.
MAGIX Movie Edit Pro 17 includes three interesting wizards that can enhance your movie.
The Travel Route Animation tool is a simple tool for producing map-based animations. First, you enter the points on your journey; then you choose how the animation will be presented (how you’ll move from one point to another, the animation length and so on); and you’re ready to export the animation as a video.
This process has some limitations. You can have the program move an object along this line, for instance – a car, a plane – but this may sometimes appear to be moving sideways as the object won’t necessarily be aligned with the direction of travel. Which looks odd. Still, if you stick to just drawing lines from one point to another then it makes high quality animations that are perfect for illustrating your last road trip or holiday tour.
The Slideshow Maker is an excellent tool that allows you to quickly convert a series of photos into a stand-alone movie. The images don’t have to be static; the Slideshow Maker can add pans, zooms and rotations to make them more interesting. You’re able to add background music and titles, as required. And this version now adds low-level control over the type, strength and duration of your image transitions and special effects, helping you to produce a professional quality video slideshow in just a minute or two.
And the Soundtrack Maker is an intelligent wizard that will quickly generate backing music for your videos. All you have to do is choose a music style (“Classical”, “Funky” and “Relaxed” are included, though you can buy more), and a style, like “Playful”, “Emotional, “Suspenseful” or “Romantic”. One more click and the program will add an appropriate and surprisingly effective soundtrack to your selected scene.
Also available with MAGIX Movie Edit Pro 17 is Reallusion iClone 4 SE, a very powerful 3D modelling tool. We’re not sure how much this will appeal to the average Movie Edit Pro user – it’s a complex application that requires plenty of time to master in its own right – but if you’re interested, then it’s good to have it available.
When you’re finished creating a movie, then it can be exported in all the important formats: AVI, DV-AVI, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, QuickTime and WMV(HD). (As we mentioned earlier, the MP4 encoder comes at a small additional cost.)
You also have the option to burn your movies to DVD, VCD, SVCD, Blu-ray, or AVCHD discs. You’ll have to download the menu packs separately first, and even then the choice isn’t too great, but they are at least very customisable. You’re able to tweak the buttons, fonts, menu layouts and styles, you can add an intro movie and more, so it’s not difficult to produce the effect you need.
The most convenient option could be to upload it to YouTube or Vimeo, however, and MAGIX Movie Edit Pro 17 now allows you to directly upload your movie in Full HD (1080p) format: just enter a title, description, keywords and category, choose you resolution, enter your account details and the program takes care of everything for you. Very convenient.
Put it all together, then, and MAGIX Movie Edit Pro 17 proves a very powerful video editor with plenty of features and functionality. The sheer number of options means the program takes a while to learn, but if you’re looking for professional results at a reasonable price then we think you’ll find it’s well worth the effort.
If you need even more, though, MAGIX Movie Edit Pro 17 Plus extends the program’s capabilities in many interesting areas.
Strong 3D support includes options to import directly from many 3D cameras. You’re able to edit 3D videos, apply 3D fades and titles, preview the results on most 3D devices, and output 3D movies to files, DVD, Blu-ray, YouTube and more.
The video editor now handles up to 99 tracks; supports both primary and secondary colour correction; can handle multicam editing (for 2 cameras), and includes a greatly improved audio mastering suite which can give your movies true 5.1 surround sound.
You also get a host of extra effects, sounds and styles. Graphics editing-style masks allow you to alter only defined areas of a video. And when you’re finished, the program can now directly upload your movie to Facebook, as well as YouTube and Vimeo.