Working with Windows Live Movie Maker (WLMM)

As the semester begins, I thought I’d share some of my experiences working with students using WLMM.  In doing research for this article there seems to be a consensus that the program is prone to “issues”.  I think this quotation sums it up.  “Once you start splitting videos or putting together multiple clips, WLMM begins choking.  Imported clips become corrupt, preventing you from completing the project.  If all you intend to do is put together a short slideshow or video, WLMM gets the job done without requiring too much knowledge on video editing software. However, the more content you work with, the more unstable the program becomes, making anything slightly more complex a test in patience and frustration.” 

I worked with a couple of students with this exact problem.  They had made a nice video consisting of 6 or 7 original clips, some text screens, and background music.  When they tried to play back the finished sequence there were problems.  The first clip was fine, but after a text screen the dialogue was out of sync with the video.  Later clips were not only out of sync but were repeating the audio from the first clip.  To make it even better, the errors would vary each time we tried to play back and/or export their project – but one thing was consistent – it never did play it back correctly.  The only solution I could suggest was to start over and create the video in steps.  Open a new project and import the video for the introductory sequence.  Trim it and add the first text screen.  Make sure it plays properly and then export it.  Continue with this approach until all the segments have been completed and exported.  Finally open a new project and import all of these segments.  Put them in the correct order, add the music and hold your breath.  Hopefully this little bites approach won’t choke the program (so you won’t try to choke your laptop or project partner).

Another frequently experienced problem involved trying to play the completed projects on a DVD player.  A lot of students ended up having to use their laptops.  I think the problem here is related to how the completed video was saved.  All of the WLMM “SAVE” options produce some kind of .wmv file – (remember, this is a Microsoft product).  This file can be burned on to a DVD, but what you have is still a .wmv file and it won’t play back on most DVD players  Even selecting the “BURN A DVD” option initially creates a .wmv file.  When the file has been created it automatically opens the DVD authoring program.  This is the program that transcodes the .wmv file into some flavor of MPEG2, which is then burned onto the DVD, creating a real, compatible DVD disc.  If you’re not sure what type of file or DVD you have, I have a couple of DVD players in my office to give it a test.  If it plays and looks good, you’re on your way to Hollywood.  If it doesn’t, we can probably take the .wmv file and use that to create a DVD.

Another common issue was “file is missing” – the yellow triangle with the exclamation point!  This had two primary causes.  Several students used the “SAVE PROJECT / SAVE PROJECT AS” when they were finished.  This option creates a .wlmp (Windows Live MovieMaker Project) file.  The file contains all the information about your project with links to the media files (videos, pictures, music, etc.).  If you copy this file and open it on another computer, WLMM will open and display your sequence as a series of yellow triangles.  A similar situation occurs if your original media files were on SD cards or an external hard drive.  WLMM will link to the files on the removable media, and when removable media goes away (SD card gets reused, roommate “borrows” hard drive) yellow triangles appear.  If you want to continue working on the project on a different computer you need both files – the project and the movie files.  First do a “SAVE PROJECT AS” to your flash drive followed by a “SAVE MOVIE” (under the options select “RECOMMENDED FOR THIS PROJECT”).  Depending on the length and number of your video clips you’ll probably need at least a 4GB flash drive.  Try opening it on the other computer to make sure everything is there and working properly.

I hope this has been helpful, and as always please feel free to contact me or stop by if you need some help –, 778-7445, or Room 002 in the Computer Center.

Good luck in all your video projects.


Timothy Hupp
Academic Multimedia Specialist: Video Production