As more and more consumers with little or no video editing experience have attempted to turn their PCs into movie-making machines—thanks to exponential growth in digital camcorder sales, and the simultaneous (respective) rise and fall of processor speeds and PC prices—video software vendors have had several decisions to make about how to build tools that will suit this entry-level audience best. This means making some assumptions about how much they can and want to learn about the editing process, what they want to see in an entry-level software tool, and what they expect in terms of output. Most vendors assume (correctly, I'd say) that these video newbies aren't looking to develop any sort of advanced skills set, or even take much control over how the video that goes in becomes the video that goes out. But they do have high expectations for the end-product, and when their home-made DV projects hit their TV screens via VideoCD or DVD, they don't expect to see some minor improvement on those grainy old Super 8 films they used to dim the lights and throw up on the wall. Rather, they bring expectations shaped by what they see on their TV screens every day. They want their consumer video work to resemble familiar consumer entertainment, even if they don't know or care to learn how it gets that way.
VideoWave Movie Creator may not be the tool to match all those expectations, but in fashioning its feature set, Roxio was clearly working with those (correct) assumptions about their audience in mind. Like most competing tools at the video production ground-floor, the Windows-based Movie Creator features simple and straightforward video capture via FireWire. Users can then work with their captured video in three modes: Cinemagic, StoryBuilder, and Storyline Editor.
Cinemagic comes closest to the Platonic ideal for hands-off creation of—as Roxio states Movie Creator's mission—"movies worth watching." Here you just pick a video clip, some music (Movie Creator will instruct you to select music half as long as your video clip), and a style (Nostalgia, Old Film, Action, etc.), and Movie Creator essentially does the rest, creating a preview version of the sync'd and edited video that can either presage your final version or be taken to the Storyline Editor for further (manual) tweaking. I tossed in just over six minutes of sepia-fied wedding footage along with "The Safety Patrol Song" by Clyde Edgerton & the Rank Strangers (www.clydeedgerton.com), and I have no idea how Movie Creator matched those languid dissolves to the music, or trimmed the video to the song's 2:32, but I sure like how it did it.
StoryBuilder gets the user a little more involved in the creative process, picking opening and closing images and music from the program's content library (you can preview all of these) before handing the reins to Movie Creator and leaving it to assemble the pieces along preset storytelling lines. The user can then edit the project further by replacing transitions (in a storyboard view), adding effects, text, overlays, and additional music.
StoryLine Editor moves closer to the traditional basic video editor, allowing clip-trimming, background selection, effects and transition insertions, and essentially leaving the user to map out each part of the movie-in-progress with (for the most part) only the templates present. It's far from the most versatile or powerful editor I've seen, even in the consumer domain, and in a sense less in what seems to be the spirit of Movie Creator than Cinemagic and StoryBuilder (Movie Creator hardly gives you the tools to do this stuff as well as it does it for you). But it gets a simple job done simply, and that's clearly the name of the game here. And it works well in conjunction with the other two movie creation modes.
After you complete your work in one (or more) of the three modes, it's on to the output stage, where you'll render your video and then decide where it will go next: to tape, to a streaming format, or to VideoCD or DVD. For the short and basic stuff to which the product seems geared, VideoCD (playable in most DVD players) would seem to be the most popular choice, but the program is well-equipped to output to DVD-R or DVD+RW if the project demands it.