The underlying tenet of the Windows Movie Maker team has always been to make an extremely easy-to-use program for editing movies. Movie Maker has been a place where you can quickly bring in your camcorder footage, trim and reorder clips, overlay some music, add some titles (along with captions and credits) then save the results out as a movie file.
From there it has often been hard to get that to the point where it can be shared (a 10MB limitation on e-mailing, a separate step for uploading to a video site like YouTube, extra software for burning the movie onto a DVD). And there's always been an issue with getting certain file types to import and edit correctly. The only types that have consistently worked are the native import types of DV-AVI (mini-DV camcorder) and WMV. When file types didn't work, it required a user to convert them, suffer editing weirdness like green screens, saving that would hang, outright crashes and the like.
Vista Movie Maker made some strides in the areas of real time preview, ability to capture HD video into DVR-MS files for editing, usage of the GPU for high-quality transitions/effects and the ability to create a DVD using DVD Maker. But even now there are issues that arise with file types, occasional crashes, publishing problems, etc.
In response, Microsoft is in the process of creating a new Windows Live Movie Maker (WLMM) as part of the Windows Live Essentials. The program is currently in a "beta" release, but other reviewers, along with myself would really call this more of a placeholder. It's almost like they have gone back to version 1.0 with no titles, a single fade transition, a couple black/white effects, etc. And the most startling missing feature seems to be the lack of a timeline.
So, is this what we should expect? Will there be a timeline in the final version? How will "power" users get control over their project if it all seems to be a storyboard? And will we have the ability to build custom transitions and effects like we could in prior releases to extend the capabilities? Will it handle HD video better? Will it be easy to publish and share my video? Will it handle new file types?
Well, I can't disclose all of what I learned recently in a visit to the Microsoft Campus in Redmond, but I can say I am excited. My concerns about a missing timeline are partially allayed. And I can see that they haven't abandoned customization. In fact, Eric Doerr has hinted that the new rendering engine in WLMM will take advantage of the GPU in ways it hasn't so far. Trust me, I think Windows Live Movie Maker will have the simplicity that we all appreciate for quickly creating movies, but with the fancy features we all love to show off. While it isn't there in the current public beta, stay tuned.