MovieWorks Deluxe 6.0
Thomas Edison gazes stoically from the front of Interactive Solutions’ MovieWorks Deluxe 6.0.2 software box. Although the great inventor wasn’t known for writing code, he would probably have approved of this multimedia-authoring package. MovieWorks is a powerful, versatile tool for creating Web movies, slide shows, and interactive presentations. Factor in its attractive price, and MovieWorks is worthy of a hearty “Eureka!” from creative beginners who want to release their inner Edison.
MovieWorks Deluxe can import most graphic, audio, animation, and video file formats. It encompasses five applications; four of these – Paint, Sound, Video, and Animator – help you prepare media for use in Author, the master application. The fifth application, Player, lets you view MovieWorks’ interactive projects; it’s freely distributed for Mac and Windows.
The most full-featured of the helper applications, Paint provides a variety of tools for creating graphics. Its large toolbox can be daunting, but the Tool Tips palette identifies each tool as you pass the cursor over it and gives usage suggestions. Strangely, painting is its weakest function; brushstrokes made with its Brush tool aren’t antialiased, resulting in blocky edges, and there’s no easy way to make small adjustments in brush size. Paint would also benefit from tools for enhancing imported photos.
The Sound application (above) can record audio from a Mac’s built-in microphone or audio-input port, and it can import tracks from CDs. You can apply effects such as echo and flange, shift pitch, and adjust overall volume. There’s also a waveform editor that lets you zoom in to make minute edits to the audio waveform; unfortunately, you can’t resize the small application window horizontally, so you can’t see much of the waveform at any one time.
The Video application can capture video from a DV camcorder. While the capturing function works fine, its editing capability is very crude; you’ll be better off if you do your DV digitizing and editing in iMovie and then import the result into MovieWorks.
Animator is the least impressive of the bunch. The program is useful mainly for assembling existing frames so that you can import them as an animation into MovieWorks. A robust application that creates animated GIFs, such as Adobe Photoshop Elements 3.0 (mmmmh; November 2004), is a necessary adjunct to Animator (and Elements’ excellent image-enhancing and painting tools could give Paint a boost, too; a review of Elements 4 will appear in a forthcoming issue).
While the supporting cast may have limited talents, the Author application is a virtuoso. The interface consists of a project window, where you visually position graphic elements in space, and the Sequencer window, a timeline for working out the duration and sequence of your media clips. This interface makes creating a slide show of photos a painless process: just drag-&-drop a folder of pictures into the project window, select all of them, click on the Auto-Sequence button in the Sequencer, and choose a transition style, and you’re done. Even niftier, Author offers a slick editing trick: you can lay down markers from the keyboard in real time as you listen to an audio track, and then you can automatically fill the gaps between markers with video clips, creating a sequence of exciting, rhythmic jump cuts.
For animating elements on screen, Author offers a fairly sophisticated path-based system complete with naturalistic eases in and out of motion. It’s even possible to animate the stacking order of elements, letting an object appear first in front of and then behind another object.
Unfortunately, Author’s white-keying system usually leaves a white fringe around the edges of irregularly shaped objects; something like a tolerance slider or alpha-channel support would be a welcome improvement. The scrolling-text feature makes it easy to animate rolling credits, and you can either type your text into Author or import it from an outside document; it stays editable either way.
You can distribute interactive projects viewable with Player on CD, on DVD (data or DVD-ROM), or online, while you can export linear scenes to QuickTime and AVI formats or out to your DV camcorder.
The boxed version comes with a printed tutorial booklet to get you started, though this is currently unavailable in the UK. While this is helpful, the thorough and well-written 80-page PDF reference guide included on the CD is required reading if you really want to master the program. A printed version of this PDF would be nice.
Despite the lacklustre performance of its supporting applications, MovieWorks Deluxe is an excellent tool for creating interactive audiovisual presentations on a limited budget. The main application’s powerful animation and interactivity features would be a bargain even without the helper apps. Professionals with larger budgets will want to look to programs such as Macromedia Director, but MovieWorks is ideal for schools or casual users looking for an economical introduction to the world of multimedia authoring.