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Windows Movie Maker

Music, Narration and Other Audio

I consider the sounds of a video as being at least 1/2 of the overall viewing experience, unless it's a music video... in which case it's more.

Classic versions of Movie Maker provide minimal features for editing audio... but Movie Maker 2012 provides more. The audio editing features of Movie Maker are sufficient for 99% of my needs and I rarely use other audio editing apps.

The sounds of the video clips come into a project with the visual. Let's look at the menu sections and choices used to add and edit additional music, narration and other sounds.

Adding and Editing Music

Here's the menu feature to add music to a project.

Using the 'Add music' choice gets you an audio file that starts immediately after the last music file in the project. Using 'Add music at the current point' does that... starting the new audio clip at the selected point, even if it has to trim part of an existing audio clip already in place.

Add Music

The audio added can be a music clip, a narration file or a sound effect... it can also be the audio channel of an existing video file not used in the project for visual purposes. You can mix and match any kind of sound using the music and narration tracks of Movie Maker 2012. Don't feel limited by the names.... if you want to add a sound effect in an existing file, use the music or narration feature.

Here are the menu options that show when you double-click a music file already in a project. You can adjust the volume, the time taken to fade in or out, split the audio clip at the current position, change the starting posiition of the selected clip... or the starting and ending points of the audio (as it relates to the file it's in... use these settings to get a 3 minute tune from a one hour video)

Music Options

Practice changing these settings to get a good feel for how they work. You'll use the same kind of tweaks for music, narration and sound effects... any type of audio.

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Adding and Editing Narration and other audio

And here's the menu feature to add narration (or other sounds) to a project.

Add Narration

And the menu options when you double-click a narration file already in a project.

Narration Options

Classic versions of Movie Maker support a project made entirely of audio clips with overlapping tunes and volume controls to mix the clips on the audio track. You can save the project to a high quality .wma audio file. On Windows 7 and 8 computers I use MM2.6 to make audio tracks the same way.

Movie Maker 2012 took a step forward by being the first version to support multiple audio tracks with music and narration files on different tracks. And as I noted above, the audio tracks can use various types of audio files.

Windows Movie Maker requires at least one visual clip to start a project. Add a still picture or title to get started and change its duration to 6000 seconds and you'll quickly have a 10 minute project to work with. The duration of a single clip can be up to 24 hours (you need to enter the setting in seconds... 26,400 for a full day).

The default file type when saving an audio-only file is .m4a but you can also choose .wma.

Let's take a closer look at the audio editing options.

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To illustrate how the audio files work in Movie Maker 2012 look at this project with sounds in the video clips, added music and narration.

Some WMM users and support people are saying the app doesn't include a timeline. That's true if you're looking for a long one with hours, minutes and seconds marked like a straight-edge ruler, the kind you're familiar with in classic versions of Movie Maker.

But the tune in the project shows there is a timeline... I selected the tune, split it and moved the 2nd part a bit to the right, leaving a visual gap between the tune's two parts. Isn't that a timeline? Not what you might expect, but it's a graphical depiction of the length of the tune or its segments.

Music on Storyboard

If you select an audio clip (by clicking on it with your mouse cursor) and right click you'll get a dropdown list of options as shown above. Note the options include splitting and setting start and end points (trimming).

The Music Tools > Options tab provides additional options... or alternate ways of doing the same things. The clip splitting is obviously something you can do from either the menu or the drop-down option. Less obvious is the ability to trim it. Going through the menu options from left to right:

some tips about audio...

... in no particular order

Project Audio Settings

Many users ask how to lower or raise the volume of the video clips relative to the background music, or how to change the volume of a video clip without changing the overall project.

It's important to understand the optional settings on the Project tab that effect audio.

Project Audio Settings

The Audio mix is a slider... move it all the way to the left to have only the sounds of the video clips play while muting the music and narration tracks. Move it all the way to the right to mute the video clips while hearing the music and narration clips. It does it for the full project, not just for one clip.

The Audio mix setting can't be used to change the relative mix of one specific video or music clip.

The Emphasize narration, video and music settings make the selected sounds louder relative to the others. Use the 'No emphasis' choice if you want them all equally weighted.

The Fit to music option adjust the durations of all of the still pictures so the project ends at the same time as the music. It works if you have one or more tunes in the project.