Magix Movie Edit Pro 2013 Plus debuts a few interface changes such as combining video and audio tracks, it adds support for the new AVCHD 60p format, enables multi-cam video shoots, and gets a speedup by performing more operations on your PC's graphics processor.
Previously, the software has been a leader in introducing 3D video editing to consumers, but it's fallen behind the competition such as Adobe Premiere Elements, Corel VideoStudio, and CyberLink PowerDirector, in terms of offering any really forward-looking new features like support for 4K footage. Nevertheless, Movie Edit Pro is a capable and mostly intuitive enthusiast-level video editing app.
Movie Edit Pro (not to be confused with Magix's actual pro-level software, Video Pro X5) installs on Windows 8, 7, Vista, and XP. A separate free Windows 8 new-style app called Movie Edit Touch is also available. Mac users, as is the case with many pro-sumer-level video applications, are out of luck. A trial version of the program delivers full functionality for 30 days, after which you can pay for a license and activate the app without having to reinstall.
Three editions of Movie Edit Pro suit different users' needs: The base edition (currently £39.99) is geared toward beginners who want wizards that automatically create their productions. It's limited to 32 tracks, and lacks the higher-end packages multi-cam support and advanced colour correction.
The Plus edition, which we’re reviewing here, adds those capabilities, while also upping the track limit to 99. It retails at £89.99 normally, but is currently on offer at the Magix website for £49.99 (as an anniversary special). The Premium edition (on offer at £79.99 right now) adds advanced effect packs from NewBlue, digieffects, and ProDAD.
I was disappointed to see that the installer added a browser toolbar and a system cleaning utility to my PC by default; you can only deselect these extras if you choose a custom installation, so bear this in mind if you don’t want them (I sure didn’t).
The pleasing dark look of Movie Edit's main window hasn't changed much since I last used the program. The Welcome dialog is less extensive compared to competitors like Corel VideoStudio, with simple options to watch an intro video, create a new project either from scratch or from a template, or open an existing video project. An Options dropdown adds choices for directory location, and video and audio formats.
The standard three panel interface has video preview and source areas on the top, and a timeline area extending along the whole bottom half of the window. It's a flexible interface, in that you can pull out each panel into its own window by dragging its top border, and each can be full-screened. Movie Edit Pro is less modal than Corel and Adobe's competing apps, which take you through the workflow from import to output. Buttons on the far top right, however, do offer Edit, Burn, and Export options.
The timeline area can alternatively display a storyboard of your movie's clips, and this view offers more than most competitors' equivalents: Icons for text, sound volume, and transitions let you perform those actions. Moving around in and zooming the timeline seems natural using the mouse wheel. You can also easily drag-and-drop clips to different tracks and positions. I do wish the video preview pane had a pause button, since hitting stop takes you to the beginning of the clip.
The preview window does show the time value for the playhead position and total clip time along its top border; this took me a while to find, but these programs have to show so much information that I can't mark it down because I was expecting this info to be near the playback controls. A Show Time context menu choice lets you overlay the preview with a big red timecode. Another preview window peeve is that there's no clear way to switch between previewing the current source clip and the movie.
The source panel's Import tab just shows PC folders; to import from a device, you hit the Record button under the video preview panel. Record options include AVCHD, HDV camera, DV camera, analogue TV input, Audio, and even the screen – this last is a nice extra, saving you the cost of a separate screen cam program. You can also just capture a single frame from these sources. One thing I look for in a media editing app like this – since you work with still images and audio as well as video clips – is an easy way to filter the source view to just photos or just video files. The Magix software didn't give me this, unlike the competition such as Adobe Premiere Elements.
Basic video editing
Most trimming in Magix is done right on the timeline, with a razor icon for splitting, which can be switched to "Remove start," "Remove end," or "Split movie" functions. For more precision, the Edit Trimmer lets you fine tune a transition between clips, and the Object Trimmer window lets you do so for the start and end of a single clip. The dialog for both these activities is fairly complex, with three panels and no fewer than 25 control buttons, but I can see how it could be useful once you’re used to it.
In Movie Edit Pro, transitions are called "fades" and there's no search for them. A couple of the groups of fades weren't available to me – Effect, 3D Series, and Movement. But for your 3D projects, 10 Stereo fades are on offer. As with most good software these days, you can drag a clip's corner to produce a cross dissolve transition – the most commonly used kind.
Instant movie making
Choosing "Use movie template" from the welcome screen offered me just one choice, Blockbuster, but you can download 17 more, with themes such as Action, Film Noir, and Winter Wonderland, for free from within the program. This is reminiscent of Apple iMovie's Trailers features, which has you insert clips of certain types of shot (close up, group, action, and so on) into template slots. As with a lot of features in Magix, a dialog asked me to authorise features like H.264 licensing before I could use this. But as with iMovie's trailers, the results are quite fun and engaging.
Two more instant movie making tools are available: The Travel Route Animation wizard, which places your movie on a map, and Slideshow Maker. The latter's templates add transitions and background music, and it lets you use video clips, so really it can be considered as an instant movie making feature. Slideshow Maker let me customise the transitions, effects, title text, and background music, and even save my customisations as a new template.
Here’s a list of the advanced editing features which Movie Edit Pro brings to the table:
Movement effects. Rotation, resizing and repositioning your clips is very simple and quick in the Magix editor. You just click over to the Effects tab of the source panel, and choose the type of effect – brightness, art filter, motion, and so on, and click the desired tool's icon in the right panel. Most of these offer controls for fine-tuning effects.
Chroma Keying. The updated chroma keying effect is indeed impressive. My test green screen footage, although imperfectly lit, was masked beautifully with no effort, and adjustments in the chroma key effect panel let me further perfect it with sliders for threshold and fading range. A cool tool was the green screen quantiser, which produced a psychedelic superimposed effect.
Time stretching. Time stretching is really easy in Magix, too, with its Stretching toolbar button, which can fit a sped-up clip to another track's length, either by slowing it or speeding it up. You can also go to the Speed effect and plug in a value from .25 to 4 times, to slow or speed up respectively. Time stretching speeds up the audio without changing its pitch, while the Resampling option lets you turn your subject into one of the Chipmunks.
Stabilisation. I didn't find the program's new Stabilisation tool in the Effects panel, but rather it's accessible from a menu choice or by hitting Ctrl-L. The tool opens its own three-step window, where you choose the "radius for analysis," "section of analysis," and "temporal maximum displacement." The Help gives you an education on these terms, but I do think the process could be simpler. Of course, you can just ignore all the adjustments and hit the "Perform stabilisation" button.
When I did this, a message warned me that it could take minutes. A preview of the video is then shown, and the top of the window shows the current frame number. My 30 second test clip took 34 seconds to stabilise, which is reasonable. The result was an improvement over my original shaky video, but not perfect, so I cranked up the sliders. Even then, my clip was anything but rock solid, though the result was better than what I've seen in some other apps.
Picture-in-Picture. Under Design elements effects are 25 PiP presets, such as 2/1 left, 4/3 top left – it would be nicer to see visual representations for these as PowerDirector gives you. But like that app, you can also simply adjust the size and position of each track for a custom PiP. I really liked how easy it was to rotate video, from the Rotation/Mirror effect.
Colour. Two video effect panels deal with colour – Colour, and Colour Correction. The first offers a white-point dropper, a colour wheel, and an auto-colour button, along with sliders for each of the primary colours and saturation. This lets you easily correct a shot with, for example, a greenish cast. The Colour Correction tools let you create a mask by clicking on, say, a sky, and then intensifying the blue of just that area. But you don't get an equivalent to Premiere Elements' three-way colour correction, which lets you separately adjust colour for low, high, and mid-tones. Nor is there an external app like CyberLink's ColourDirector, which really lets you go to town with colour adjustments, let alone Apple Final Cut Pro X's ability to match colours between clips.
FX and Transitions. In addition to the motion effects mentioned already, Movie Edit Pro's Effects panel offers an Artistic filter, with controls for Erosion, Dilate, Emboss, Substitution (for colours), Quantise, Colourise, and Contour. You can get some pretty zany looks with these. The Distortion tool offers Whirlpool, Fisheye, Mosaic, and Kaleidoscope effects, among others, all of which can be combined for… well, interesting results.
You can also add objects, such as arrows or a cigar, though these can't automatically follow people or things around in your video using motion tracking as they can in Corel VideoStudio. More effects and objects (and audio samples) are available for download from Magix for free (including a cartooner, a de-interlacer, noise reduction, and a Liquid effect), and from Catooh online media – but the latter have to be paid for. Also, these extra effects aren't as well integrated into the program as PowerDirector's plugins.
Titles and subtitles. Movie Edit Pro lets you simply choose any system font, size, and position, but you can also apply advanced effects. You can drag the text around the preview window and resize it, and in Photoshop-like fashion you can apply dropshadows and outlines, as well as setting the transparency and blurring. For a real cinematic effect, you can choose from 23 motion paths for your titles, like Carousel, Rotation, and even the Star Wars-like 3D scrolling. Speaking of 3D, there are title presets for production that add the extra dimension, with animations and lighting effects like Neon and 3D Shadow.
Multicam. This advanced technique that only made it into the pro-level Final Cut Pro X with an update to the program's initial launch takes some preparation to use in the Magix software. But unlike in Apple's software, there's a big gap in Magix's multicam toolbox – there’s no auto-alignment of clips, and you can only have two angles, unlike FCPX's 64! The help suggests that you look at the audio waveforms to do this, but really, the software should be able to analyse the audio and line it up automatically, as other apps do.
If you do manage to line up your clips, Movie Edit lets you switch angles, showing a three-up view of the two sources and end product in the preview window. Clicking the mouse on the angle you want switches the output. Note that the program’s performance slowed down drastically during my testing of this feature.
Movie Edit Pro can display the waveform for each clip in the timeline, and a full-on mixer pops up when you click its icon on top of the track timeline.
A full-fledged sound editor, Magix Music Editor can clean audio and apply noise reduction, equalising, compression, and stereo FX. It's pretty advanced, letting you choose a noise sample, optimise for voice, de-hiss, and remove camera noise. It also lets you convert older media like LPs to digital.
Another tool lets you add reverb and echo – I got a football game to sound like it was in a swimming hall. I could also raise or lower pitch, or change the tempo of music. The included synthesiser can add a variety of sounds – flowing water, wind, traffic, crowds, applause – pretty fun stuff. A drum and bass synth turns you into your movie's DJ. For slideshows, there are dozens of background tracks included.
3D is not a priority for most consumer video enthusiasts yet, but it's praiseworthy that Magix is already in the game. The app handily converted my side-by-side test 3D footage, and applied a variety of 3D titles. I could also adjust the two images' vertical and horizontal alignment, which actually helped the result. Using the included red-and-blue glasses didn't provide the best 3D experience, but the program also supports interlaced 3D, which should be better, though I didn't have the setup to test it. Consumer 3D still induces some vertigo, so use it sparingly.
Sharing and output
The software lets you save your edited digital movie in a vast array of formats, and its Export wizard helps you choose the best one for your needs. Not only can you export a 3D movie, but it’s possible to output compatible formats for devices such as the iPhone, PSP, Nintendo DS (but not the new 3DS), and iPad. Movie Edit Pro also hosts online albums where you can upload your video creations.
The software lets you burn your movies to disc in Blu-ray, AVCHD, or DVD format: The Burn mode helps you with that, and the Burn tab helps you add chapter markers and format menus and titles. Magix Movie Edit Pro offers all the social sharing options you could want – Facebook, YouTube, and Vimeo, with direct uploading available. You can choose the quality from SD to Full HD, and add your title, description, and keywords from within Movie Edit Pro. Getting this set up wasn't as smooth a process as in competing apps like VideoStudio and Premiere Elements, which simply have you sign into the web account the first time you upload.
When it came to testing the performance of Movie Edit Pro, I used a 3.4GHz quad-core Windows 7 Ultimate PC with 4GB of RAM and an ATI Radeon HD 4290 graphics card
When I first started saving my project for a speed test, the dialog showed no activity. The program seemed to give me no feedback as to how long the encoding would take. But after a few minutes, I noticed that the progress bar was across the bottom of the main window, and did show the time remaining. Magix performed respectably on my test of four different format clips rendered to 720p MPEG-2, with a time of 3 minutes and 54 seconds. This was right in the middle of the pack compared to the competition, as you can see from the table below:
In a more informal but maybe more meaningful measure of performance for some, a four clip picture-in-picture setup previewed with occasional stop-and-go for one of the more action-packed clips, but it was mostly smooth and not the worst in this department by far compared to some rivals. Even so, Movie Edit Pro was still a long way off the super smooth playback of Cyberlink PowerDirector with the same four clip overlay.
There's a lot to like in Magix Movie Edit Pro 2013 Plus. Magix has been in the video editing software game for 20 years, and the experience shows. You can do a lot with the product, and it's pretty easy to find what you need. But other products such as CyberLink PowerDirector and Corel's impressive VideoStudio Pro both beat it out with their inclusion of more advanced tools and capabilities.