The 3rd post inÂ a series focused on free tools for recording, editing, and publishing video tutorials.
I've been working this month to findÂ a set of free toolsÂ that can enable me toÂ produce and distributeÂ video tutorials.Â Picking up where I left off last week, this weekend I pursued the idea of using Windows Movie Maker asÂ a free editing tool to pair with a free video captureÂ tool like Debut Lite.
There's so many good free apps available on the web these days (that's the right price for me as a blogger, and a great price for many cash-strapped Ed Tech budgets too!). I started out on a good track with this effort by trialing tools like Jing and Debut Lite, that make it easy to capture screen video and audio to create video content. The next step is to get the video editing capabilities I need for effective and efficient production.
Why do I need editing software?
If I'm going toÂ try to create a number of tutorials,Â I'll really need to be able to do some simple editing, like combining clips, trimming them, adjusting audio, maybe use some fade-out and fade-in effects. Otherwise, theÂ tutorials I can create will be limited to the one best continuous video clip I can record, and I will often have to record repeatedly in order to get a complete, acceptable quality “performance”. It's just so muchÂ easier to produce an audio and video recording if you can create smaller clips and assemble them, and haveÂ some control over flow from one video clip to the next.
My goalÂ in this exampleÂ scenarioÂ wasÂ to append a briefÂ clipÂ thatÂ I created, to show what a Google Alert email looks like, to last week's tutorialÂ video (which shows how to create a Google Alert, which sends automated Google search results to your email), to create a more complete tutorial presentation.
Video Editing with Windows Movie Maker
I used Windows Movie Maker a lot last year to create my own amateur music videos, so I know it works, and I know how to use it. I combinedÂ pictures and audio in this musical montage (recorded over a song I wrote many years ago,Â inspired by the beauty ofÂ the island of Antigua). I combined video clips in the song video I've embedded below. I got a bit more sophisticated, combining pics and video and using a variety of effects in the Christmas song video I had posted on the site here last month, so I know WMM does this stuff well, and for free. Unfortunately, it didn't go so smooth with my efforts to do similar editing with clips I recorded with Debut and Jing.
The mysterious loss of video quality
The main issue I had trying to use Windows Movie Maker (WMM) was that as soon as I pulledÂ the source video into it, the resolution of the clips (as they appeared in WMM) were diminished, and you could no longer read the text on the menu screensÂ in the video. I never noticed any similar loss of quality when creating the other videos I've made with WMM, but theyÂ did not includeÂ text in screen images like these. I'm a bit baffled though, as the original video files were clearly better, so why wouldn't a .wmvÂ file come into Movie Maker at the same resolution it was createdÂ with?
I tried a number of things to work around this. I normally work with theÂ Windows Movie Maker app (Ver. 6) that came with my Windows Vista operating system, but I know that Microsoft recently added a Windows Movie Maker Live app to it's expanding suite of Windows Live tools. I fired this up, andÂ pulled in the MP4 versions of the files I had, but still ended up with the same loss of quality.Â
To illustrate, if you look at thisÂ original video clip (created in Debut as one continuous ‘performance') in full screen mode, you can make out the text in the menu options (especially if you enhance the resolution to 720P). In the new video I made (embedded below) by combining two clips in WMM,Â youÂ simply cannotÂ readÂ the menu text (and it only lets me slide resolution up to 480p).
I have to mention that theÂ WMM LiveÂ version drove me a little nuts because they've changed it quite a bit from the Op System included version that I've been used to, butÂ IÂ did like theÂ “Auto Movie” feature andÂ the easy upload to YouTube. Nevertheless, the loss of video quality in contrast to the original clip is unacceptable (I also lost the audio along the way, as I struggled with the Movie Maker Live interface). Am I just doing something wrong, or is this video resolution problem inherent in the application?
I did some searching for information about this type of problem on the Internet,Â poked around in various help screens fromÂ NCH Software and Microsoft, and tried a few different things but got nowhere fast. IfÂ any readersÂ know ofÂ any tips or techniques that will allow me to use Debut and/or Movie Maker without suffering this loss of quality, please comment and pass them on.
The next logical step was to search for some alternative free video editing software. This lead me to the Aiseesoft MP4 Video Converter, which promised to let me trim and combine video clips, which it did. I still ended up with the same resolution issue though! I have a list of other free video editing apps to check out as well, starting with the many tools listed in this great post I found, so it looks like that's the next step in this process. I sure hope I don't keep hitting up against the same resolution issue. If anyone wants to suggest their favorite free video editing tool, that hopefully won't result in this kind of loss of resolution, I'd love to hear about it (as long asÂ resultingÂ presentations canÂ be saved as stand alone files, as opposed to only being publishable on a proprietary web site).
I do realize that I might have to just cough up the cash and go with Camtasia or a Pro version of one of these other apps to get the functionality I need. If that is the case I can live with it, but first I will spend a little more time taking a shot at what can be done from the frugal perspective (and learn plenty along the way).
Related post(s) (if the above topic is of interest, you might wish to check outÂ â€¦):
Screencasting with Debutâ€™s Lite Version
Comparing 12 Free Screencasting Tools
Creating brief instructional videos (and more) with Jing
Using Internet story telling tools in education