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How to use Windows Movie Maker

Want to be the next Martin Scorsese? Windows Movie Maker may not allow you to achieve this level of stardom, but if you master the program, you could be the talk of the next family get together. Microsoft’s Windows Movie Maker makes splicing home videos a walk in the park.

To help with Movie Maker’s learning curve, we’ve put together a comprehensive walk-through on how to use the software in Windows 8/8.1.

Note: Movie Maker on operating systems prior to Windows 8 largely has the same functionality, though there are some variances in the interface and menus. For those using a version of Windows before 8/8.1, we’ve provided a link to Microsoft’s walk-through for those operating systems at the conclusion of this article.

Feel free to also take a look at our picks of the best free video editing software programs, and our choices of the best free video converters.

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How to use Windows Movie Maker

Getting started

Open the program and start a new project by going to File > New Project. Save your new project under any name you’d like, and choose a destination for the project to save to. We recommend saving as often as possible while working to avoid losing any editing progress–in the event the program or operating system crashes or freezes.

The Interface


Windows Movie Maker has three regions you use while editing your video. The top of the program is the Ribbon and it’s where you’ll access the various editing tools such as transitions, effects, captions, audio levels, and more. You’ll also add any video, photos, or audio via the add tool located on the Ribbon and can quickly save your project with the disk icon located there as well.

Below the Ribbon and to the left side of the program is the preview window. The preview window is where you view the video playback of your project and can see what the sequence would look like as a finished product. You can use the rewind, fast forward, or play button in the preview window and can also toggle full screen view for your preview.

The window located underneath the Ribbon on the right side is your storyboard, or timeline, window. This is the location of your video sequence and it also contains your imported video clips. The storyboard/timeline window is where you navigate through your clips, split them when necessary, and arrange them in the sequence.

Uploading videos and photos

With the interface more familiar and a new project created you’re able to get started with the program itself. First, you need to decide what it is you wish to edit in the program. Movie Maker offers several different ways to easily upload various video, photo, and audio files in to the program.

How to upload an entire video from a digital video (DV) camera tape

For users who have video stored on a digital video (DV) camera tape connect the camera to your computer via an IEEE 1394 connection or a USB 2.0 connection and set your camera to play back recorded video.

Note: On most DV cameras the play back recorded video button says VCR or VTR.

When the camera turns on the program will recognize the device and will display an Autoplay dialog box. Once this pops up select Import Video, name the video file you’re importing, and then save the import to your computer.

The program will ask you which format you’d like to import the video to and you’re given the option of formatting to Audio Video Interleaved (AVI and DV-AVI) or Windows Media Video File (WMV). Formatting to AVI or DV-AVI will import your video using the default file type of your digital video camera while formatting to WMV assures that the information on the video is Windows compatible.

If the Autoplay dialog box doesn’t pop up when you turn your camera on just go to File > Import from device, select the source you wish to upload from then click Import.


Once you select your desired format click Import the entire videotape to my computer and then select Next to begin the upload process. When it’s complete just click Finish and your video is completely uploaded.

How to upload clips of a video from a digital video (DV) camera tape

If you’re not wanting to upload the entire contents of your DV tape Windows Movie Maker allows for uploading shorter clips in to the editor. Following the same directions above for connecting your camera and selecting a format to upload to you’ll want to then select Only import parts of the videotape to my computer then Next. Now navigate to the start of the clip(s) you want to import and choose Start Video Import.

Once you’ve started importing the video will begin playing automatically. When you get to the end point in the clip you want uploaded just click Stop Video Import and the video imports and saves as an individual clip. Simply repeat hitting Start and Stop Video Import for each of the clips you wish to upload.

How to upload photo and audio files

Importing photo and audio files into Windows Movie Maker is simple and requires just a couple steps. While in the Movie Maker window click Add videos and photos and locate where on your computer the files are you wish to upload. Highlight the files and click Open to upload them in to the program.

Movie Maker Ad Videos

Continue on to see how to edit clips in Windows Movie Maker…

Editing video clips

With the content you wish to edit uploaded to your computer we can begin taking a look at the editing process.

If the uploaded video is not yet in the Movie Maker program navigate to the Add videos and photos button located under the Home tab. Locate the files you wish to import and select Open to add them to your movie’s timeline. The program will automatically break the sequence up in to 10 second segments for easy navigation of the timeline. Your sequence stays as one fluid video so you’ll still need to split any part of the clip you wish to edit singularly or delete.

Splitting clips

To cut up any video imported to Movie Maker first navigate to the Edit tab under Video Tools and locate the Split button. In your video sequence either drag the black cursor or play the video and hit stop where you want to split your clip and click Split. Movie Maker will now split the clip at the exact time you’ve chosen and has created two separate clips. You’ll need to split your clip a second time to create an individual clip you can either move to another part of the sequence, add a transition to, or delete altogether.

Movie Maker Split Button

Trimming clips

Trimming clips in your sequence is a worthwhile tool if you want to get rid of a part of a clip, but not delete it entirely. Movie Maker’s Trim tool allows you to select a clip within your sequence and trim as much out of the middle of the clip as you want and it will join the beginning and end to form a new sequence. The trimmed part of the clip does not delete, rather the program hides what you’ve trimmed and will not show up during playback.

Movie Maker Trim

Adjusting audio levels

You’ll also notice the video levels displayed over the top of your video clips in the timeline. This allows you to match up the audio for each clip to assure the same volume is consistent throughout your video. To change the audio levels of a clip navigate to the Edit tab under Video Tools and select video volume to adjust the sound level. Once adjusted, the specific clip selected is the only one to have its audio adjusted. If you want to adjust only a few seconds of a clip split the clip at the end of the sequence you wish to adjust and change the volume for that clip alone.

Movie Maker Volume Button

Continue on to see how to add transitions and effects to your clips…

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