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View from the director’s chair

Those of us with heaps of unseen, unedited, and untouched video tapes have a comprehensive inexpensive solution to the newest digital problem of the century.

Those of us with heaps of unseen, unedited, and untouched video tapes–the digital variety–have a comprehensive inexpensive solution to the newest digital problem of the century: Magix Movie Edit Pro 2004, a $99.99 solution from Magix AG, a decade-old large German software company.

Despite an annoyingly quirky interface, Movie Edit Pro does just about everything more expensive solutions can do–and more. In fact, casual users unfamiliar with the current crop of timeline-based video editing packages, such as Adobe Premiere Pro, Avid xPress, and Pinnacle Studio 8, may find it easier to master Magix than any of those more established video editing tools. That’s not because Magix doesn’t support a timeline view; it just makes it easier to switch among timeline, storyboard, and an overview screen.

Movie Edit Pro defaults to the storyboard view, useless to anyone who loves working in the vastly more powerful timeline view, in which separate editable audio, video, and title tracks are displayed on a screen. As with all timeline-based video editing packages, transitions among the multiple tracks is possible, making it fairly easy to create rich videos.

Where Movie Edit Pro excels is in video and audio cleaning capabilities. For example, cleaning up a murky video that had moderate camera shake is a snap. Magix has tools for automatically adjusting contrast and brightness, and it has an effect for stabilizing jerky video.

Magix, in fact, has dozens of useful real-time effects, including such image-manipulation tools that flip the image, soften or sharpen the picture, and shift the color. Movie Edit Pro also has some oddball effects that are for fun only, including some extremely outrageous 3D effects.

Movie Studio Pro also includes a fast media exporting engine that supports all the main video export formats (MPEG-1, MPEG-2, QuickTime, Windows Media). More important to consumers, Movie Edit Pro has a built-in CD and DVD publishing system.

Overall, Movie Studio Pro has everything most consumers can ask for. The main issue is whether users are willing to spend the time necessary to dig through the menus to get to those features. Compounding the problem is that Magix is a Windows video editing tool that eschews many of the standard Windows menu and dialog boxes.

It should be no problem for most people to get over the quirks, but it’s a tough, competitive field with dozens of video editing solutions competing in the $100 range. My guess is that consumers that want to add lots of sizzle and fun to their otherwise stagnant videos and then publish those videos to the Web or to CD/DVD should add Magix to their lives. More conservative users should opt for other solutions.

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