Non-linear editing is a tough field to get into these days. Not so much from a user perspective—PCs and Macs are more powerful and speedy and DV-ready than ever, consumer tools are getting cheaper, easier, and more powerful all the time, and for those who enter at a higher level, market-leading tools like Apple Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere are ascending to mind-blowing heights of acuity, versatility, and performance.
Which is exactly why it strikes me as difficult for newer or lesser-known vendors to break into the field. The established players—Apple, Adobe, Pinnacle, Ulead—offer tools that are both popular and powerful, that would seem to leave little reason to wander outside the mainstream, and little opportunity to break into it. Fortunately, the flaw of this theory lies in the rate at which the video editing market is expanding, particularly at the consumer end, with the arrival en masse of home users with no pre-conceived notions of who's who in the field, for whom none of the names listed above are household words. For these new entrants, a relatively unknown vendor is just as likely to get their business as a market mainstay, which means a product like, say, Magix' Movie Edit Pro 2004 can match up with Video Studio 7 or Studio 8 and sink or swim on its own merits—which, incidentally, are legion.
One thing that's cool about Movie Edit Pro 2004 right off the bat is that all you have to do is click the round, white record button (most likely for DV capture) to discover that it's a true multi-media tool, equipped to capture not only digital video but analog video, analog audio, and digital photography. Granted, most consumer NLEs can capture analog video (given the proper hardware), there are plenty of freeware tools and lots of CD recording suites that can digitize vinyl and cassette recordings, and most digital cameras come with their own capture software. But the last thing most entry-level video editors want to do is install a bunch of different software on their machines and learn a bunch of different interfaces, so having nice, graphically appealing access to all these media options is a great advantage. Naturally, you can also import AVI, MPEG, and QuickTime files for video, popular image file types, plus WAV, ripped CD-Audio, MP3, and MIDI files to populate your project.
I captured roughly 15 minutes of DV using a JVC DVL-315 miniDV camera, which Movie Edit Pro accomplished in real time with minimal artifacting and only a couple of dropped frames, which is par for the course considering I had other apps running during part of the capture. Once you've got your video clips to work with, everything is essentially drag and drop within the main editing window, whether in Timeline or Storyboard mode. This is where the fun begins. Movie Edit Pro 2004 is a joy to use and explore, with lots of features (too many to detail here) and plenty of surprises. Click on "Drives" in the upper-left corner of the Explorer-type window next to the preview window to locate your media files and bring them into the Media Pool or simply drop them into the Timeline. The Timeline offers a bounteous 16 tracks into which you can drop video clips, titles, subtitles, stills, or soundtrack music (each time you drag a video into Track 1, the accompanying audio automatically populates the same stretch of Track 2, but you can mute or replace it at will).
Movie Edit Pro will automatically detect scenes and crossfade them; you can modify transitions by clicking "TransFX" in the top panel to open an enormous effects palette (Magix claims there are 170 options; that sounds about right). Drag and drop them into the appropriate spot in an open track. I particularly enjoyed the "Iris" group of strange and spooky black and white transitions. If you don't like the looks of your captured or otherwise imported video, add filters like "Blur" or "Soften" (avoid "Motion;" that one gave me a "No Global Memory" error and crashed the program when I tried it). As many choices abound for audio, including compression options, spatial adjustments (for different types of rooms or halls), and EQ parameters. Users can also avail themselves of the Video Cleaning and Audio Mixing palettes for refining your content; brightness, color, sharpness, and de-interlace are the video options. It could take years to exhaust the possibilities of this tool.
Click on Make CD/DVD to build your DVD menus. Here you can select menu templates, add background video, audio, audio, or bitmaps (for customization), and assemble simple DVD menus. You can also add an "intro video," and do some confusing "Komposition" stuff that may have lost something in translation (from Deutsch). A DVD remote helps you preview navigation. Click Burn DVD to make your disc, and customize MPEG bit rate, encoding quality (speed vs. quality); within "GoMotion Encoding Parameters," choose aspect ratios, set motion estimation, and more. Here, we're pushing into prosumer territory, since these parameters go beyond what most consumer/home users are familiar with (or interested in), and the "pro" in Movie Edit pro seems increasingly justified.
Clearly, Magix means to do it all, as evidenced by a lengthy manual (in English y Espanol) that culminates into a "Quick Film Course" Appendix that takes you through the whole process—Idea, Synopsis and Screenplay, Cinematic Means, Continuity, Camera Operation, and more. Ambitious stuff, obviously included for the ambitious users Magix has in mind. This tool has an immense amount to offer entry-level videographers and first-time filmmakers looking to hit the ground running and produce pro-quality results. Here's hoping Magix' push for mainstream market visibility pays off, and they manage to get Movie Edit Pro into as many users' hands as possible. If that happens--Studio 8 and VideoStudio 7, look out!
Minimum System Requirements: Pentium II 450mHz PC running Windows 98/98SE/ME/2000/XP, 128MB RAM (256MB recommended), 1GB free hard disk space (5GB recommended), 800x600 display resolution, 16-bit SVGA graphics card w/ min. 4MB RAM, 16-bit soundcard, CD-ROM drive for installation, FireWire capture card.
Magix Movie Edit Pro 2004
Magix Computer Products International Corp.