Having recently removed "Live" from the names of its free downloadable consumer apps, Windows Movie Maker and Windows Photo Gallery, Microsoft is making up for the loss by adding useful new features.
The updated media-editing and -organising apps, which are part of Windows Essentials, work with Windows 7 and Windows 8. But they will see a bigger boost in Microsoft's new OS, Brad Weed, a group program manager at Microsoft, wrote in a blog post.
In Windows 8, Windows Movie Maker (formerly Windows Live Movie Maker), will add a new Video Stabilization button, with options for anti-shake and wobble corrections. With the proliferation of handheld cell phone videos, this can only be a good thing, but even professional video-editing software on powerful computers can take a long time to effectively stabilise shaky footage. Microsoft claims that the feature takes advantage of Windows 8's graphics hardware acceleration to speed up the task, and has posted a video demonstrating the stabilisation of a mountain biker's head-mounted camera.
Movie Maker also gets new sound capabilities. It now lets you record voice-over narrations, and Microsoft has partnered with AudioMicro, Free Music Archive, and the Vimeo Music Store to offer licensed background music for your video projects. The editor also now shows audio waveforms beneath clips so you can see the patterns of the music and narration. Narration can either be recorded as a new track on your PC, or taken from a previously recorded video or audio file. Mixing tools let you emphasise the video's original sound, the narration, or the background music.
Finally, among Movie Maker's new tools is the ability to outline text (or in Photoshop terms, "stroke" it) so that it stands out from the background.
Output and sharing options have been changed and augmented in the new version of Movie Maker, too. Now, the default output file is an MP4 using the H.264 codec. This is a far more popular format than the WMV files that Movie Maker used to output. For sharing it online, you can now publish your video directly to Vimeo with one click. Vimeo was one of the first video-sharing sites to offer HD, and has cache as a venue for serious videographers.
The blog post only noted one new feature for Windows Photo Gallery—an auto-collage effect that artistically arranges seven or more photos. Rival Picasa has had collage creation for years, and boasts built-in geo-tagging maps, which are still absent in Windows Photo Gallery. But Microsoft's photo editor includes a surprisingly good panorama creator.
To try out the new versions, you can download them from Windows Essentials 2012 [exe].