Ever since the dawn of home video back in the 1980s, there's been a largely unspoken problem for most camcorder owners: editing. That's the reason behind Muvee Reveal X. Claimed to be a PC video editing program that does "creative decision-making" automatically, Muvee Reveal can act as a godsend to many home users.
Sure, there have been tons of video editing products available, even going back to the earliest days of camcorders when you’d have to copy segments from one tape to another. Yet the issue with most editing software packages is that, in order to use them, you need to know how to decide "which shot to put where" in a sequence.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of precisely what Muvee Reveal does, let me first make one thing clear. Hollywood movies and the like are “shot to edit,” meaning they are shot as a series of wide shots, medium shots and close-ups intentionally devised to be assembled together later in the editing room.
This comes as a surprise to many beginner camcorder users, who soon discover that no amount of editing can take unplanned, randomly shot footage of a vacation trip or birthday party and turn it into something resembling a professional-looking film.
How can Muvee Reveal help? Muvee does NOT analyze professionally shot video and assemble a scene from the best “takes” of each shot, the way a professional video editing program would.
Rather, Muvee is expressly intended to work with home video. You come home from a trip to France with 40 minutes of video, and you want to send your sister a short five-minute video displaying the highlights.
That’s the main need that Muvee Reveal is meant to fill. Muvee is geared to eliminating the necessity for manual editing through the use of pre-designed "styles" which integrate special effects, music, and transitions. These videos can then be easily shared through Youtube, Facebook, or the company's own Muvee Cloud.
In putting the software to the test, though, I also encountered a number of customization options that might come in handy for more advanced users. Read on for the details on Muvee's performance.
Software Functionality Depends on Your PC Hardware
Before playing around with Muvee, I first tried installing the software on an older Microsoft Windows XP machine, because I already had a lot of video and photos on the hard drive there. However, I was soon told by Muvee that the graphics driver needed updating. I could have updated the driver, but figured this alone might be daunting to some users. So I switched instead to a Windows 7 mini notebook computer.
The program installed smoothly on the Win7 PC, except for a warning that unless I had 2GB of RAM and 256MB of dedicated video memory, high definition (HD) material would run sluggishly (this recommended configuration is common nowadays, but it would require a separate video card on older PC). Well, I mostly have SD footage to play with, anyway, so that turned out to be OK.
The program also installed two versions of Visual C++, I had no problem with that, but it does seem a bit techie for a software program tailored for ultra ease-of-use.
Next, I was warned that Reveal X requires a minimum monitor resolution of 1280 x 960. My humble Acer Aspire is merely 1366 x 768, but the program launched anyway and there was no need to vertically scroll (except in one instance, near the end of the process, when I had to move my task bar to see the buttons at the bottom of the screen.)
Truly Easy To Use
Easy is indeed the feeling you get when the program launches. Three big green block areas appear, labeled as (1) Add photos and video; (2) Choose a style, and (3) View your movie.
When you click on step one, a drop down list appears, with choices to add files from either your computer, your camcorder, a still camera or some other portable device, Muvee’s cloud storage service, or the cryptically labeled “Intertitle” (which turned out to be a quick and easy title generator).
I have an external drive for my PC loaded with video and photo files, so I hooked up the drive and selected a few items using the “from computer” option. As soon as soon as I started adding material, another drop down Arrange menu appeared, this one with choices of "by filename," "by date," or "random shuffle." I went with "random" for my first run.
Lots of Choices
Next I moved on to Step 2, where I chose a style. The choices here are Cube Twist, Kinetic, Lifebook, Strips, Ultra Plain, and Uncle Oscar. The subtitle for Uncle Oscar -- Lights! Camera! Action! -- drew me in, so I selected that one.
Uncle Oscar came with a recommended music selection: Robin Stine’s “Don’t I Know." A button lets you change the music. Another optional drop menu, known as Style Settings, lets you adjust such factors as the overall pacing, film look (grunge or standard), color saturation, and color effect level. I left everything at default setting and went onto the next step.
The “Play Muvee” button was a bit deceptive (at least if you’re the type of person who thinks that within a few seconds after clicking “play” you’re going to start watching something). After I clicked the play button I was first alerted that it was downloading the recommended music. This took about a minute.
Then the software started “analyzing media.” (Presumably this is where the brainpower of the program comes in, Muveee examines the video you’ve given it in various ways to find what it considers to be the highlights.)
I gave Muvee eight photos and seven minutes forty-nine seconds of video. Muvee then spent approximately ten minutes analyzing. I walked away from the project and then, without any further prompting, Muvee suddenly started playing a shorter, automatically edited video.
'Personalizing' Your Movie
I next clicked on the Personalize button and discovered that this is where most of the more advanced features appear. You can add your own titles and credits here (and these can be more sophisticated than the “Intertitle” feature at the beginning). What's really interesting, though, is that you can customize the automated editing.
You can manually adjust the amount of time the entire piece lasts, for example. Best of all, you can tell Muvee where the highlights are in your video clips. You can do this in two ways. With “Magic Moments” you play each clip and click on thumbs up or thumbs down buttons to tell it what to use. With “Summarization,” a more automated system, you tell it to concentrate on faces, movement, or brightness.
The Save menu is another area where Reveal excels. There are ten basic choices here. You can save to your computer; save in high definition (HD); save as an iPhone playlist; save and burn a DVD; save for export to either a mobile phone or a tablet; or save and upload to Muvee Cloud, Google's YouTube, or Facebook, There's also an "advanced" choice, which lets you save in eight different file formats: .wmv, .mov, .avi, DV-AVI, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, or H.264. Within each of these file formats, many advanced options are available, too.
I chose “save for the computer,” and a menu came up with some basic choices: to save in Windows Media File (wmv), .mov, or MPEG-1. The wmv format is the default, and that's what I used. Another nice feature here is that Muvee shows you how much disk space each choice will occupy.
Quality of 'Analysis' Depends on the Raw Footage
How well does Muvee do at analyzing video? The short movies that are automatically produced do look and sound very slick. The movies are brilliant at moments, and really stupid at other times. It all depends on the raw material that the software is given.
For the photos, as long as the subject matter is reasonably centered, the movie incorporates great Ken Burns-style zooms. With the video, the results are less predictable. The music, which is also automatically selected by the software, was a bit sentimental for my taste.
Even worse, some of the audio from the original video material got mixed in with the music. This sounded absolutely terrible because Robin was singing while people in the video were talking. However, the entire video was three minutes and forty-nine seconds long, which timed perfectly to the song.
The special effects -- also automatically selected by the software -- were dazzling, On the other hand, I was a bit surprised by the simplicity of the editing plan. This is to say that the video material is never intercut. It is simply shown in the sequence you've selected (by date/time, filename or shuffle.)
Improving on Muvee's 'Creative Decisions'
However, I was able to improve on Muvee's creative decisions once I got to the "Personalization" menu. I used both the "Magic Moments" and "Summarization" techniques on various clips and then selected a new style, Kinetic. Muvee then downloaded Five Star Fall’s “Mercurial Girl” as my recommended music.
The advanced techniques produced distinct differences over the earlier version. When I chose a one-minute duration, I found that the program eliminated all the video and used the photos. When I changed it to two minutes, Muvee used only one of the video clips. So I changed the duration to three minutes, and this enabled Muvee to use all five clips.
While you're viewing a movie, a warning appears at the bottom of the screen that the preview version may appear jerky, but the final saved version will not. Indeed my preview version did appear jerky, whereas the final file did not.
It took about ten minutes to render the finished three-minute video. Playback in the Windows Media Player turned out to be very smooth.
The music in Muvee Reveal is very dominant, however. Even the Ultra Plain style incorporates strong background music. So if your video clips contain a lot of dialog, this product probably isn't for you.
Muvee Reveal X is so different from any other video editing program I’ve worked with that it belongs in a category by itself. By definition, it 's intended for beginners who haven't learned the ins-and-outs of video editing with a traditional program. So the most important question is whether MuVee is accessible. That is, could just about anyone install Muvee Reveal on a PC and figure out how to use it? I think the answer is "yes".
However, the product also provides some surprisingly advanced features. I was frankly pleased with how much manual control is available to take over the production. The styles selection could get a bit stale over time, but that’s where Muvee’s upsell comes in. Muvee offers approximately two dozen additional “Style Packs” for about ten dollars each.
Muvee Reveal's wide range of choices extends to pricing, too. Regardless of your level of video editing expertise, the program itself is a good value at $59.95. Alternatively, for $79.95 you can install the software on three computers and get a one-year subscription to the optional Muvee Cloud service. There’s also a $19.95 “Express” version with only three styles and fewer features. If you'd like to try out the software for free, you can download a trial version. You should be aware, though, that the 15-day free trial version will limit you to an output length of only one minute.