on 22 March 2011
The list of features that Serif MoviePlus X5 boasts is very impressive so I was interested to see if this application would enable an amateur at movie editing to produce professional results.
When MoviePlus first loads you are immediately presented with a welcome screen that gives single click access to a whole range of hints and tips. This is reassuring to a newbie like me and is a nice friendly touch to quite a complex piece of software. MoviePlus's user-friendliness is further enhanced by the inclusion of a number of tutorials, which are definitely recommended viewing, plus some demonstrations that show off some of MoviePlus's more advanced features, which is handy for when you're feeling more ambitious.
Another big plus is all the sample projects that Serif includes. Loading these projects allows you to see what can be achieved with MoviePlus's extensive set of effects, and the projects also include explanatory notes, so this is another great way to learn.
Obviously a lot of effort has gone into making this product accessible to all users no matter what their experience level. When using the application there is a How To pane permanently docked next to the main editing window which is very convenient for getting quick access to the help system.
For movie editing, MoviePlus offers a large and at times bewildering array of tools. Serif haven't skimped on features and cram a lot into the box, but unfortunately this is where some of the user-friendliness of the product falls down. Once you start digging down into more advanced features, the interface gets very cluttered and makes finding your way around frustrating at times. Additionally, although the effects provided by MoviePlus are highly configurable, the sheer number of settings available for these effects is a bit overwhelming in the way they're presented and, if anything, will encourage amateurs not to use them.
The performance of MoviePlus X5 is excellent, previews are fast and can be configured to suit the spec of your machine, with preview modes ranging from Draft to Best. Timelines controls are also smooth and responsive. One slight annoyance with the timeline is the lack of vertical zooming, which results in restricting the amount of track attributes that can be displayed on the screen at the same time.
As a newcomer to movie editing I found MoviePlus X5 initially quite friendly and I was up and running editing and enhancing movies relatively quickly. But where I started to struggle was when I wanted to utilise the more advanced functions of the product. The huge amount of parameters you're confronted with when playing with the effects was at times daunting and a little off-putting, and it's a pity the user-friendliness of the application fell down here. So all in all this is a bit of a mixed bag from Serif.
I have to say that for the price this is a pretty good software package. With it's comprehensive and easily accesible help menus it's pretty easy to use straight off the bat, and for the price it's certainly feature-packed, so should keep you busy with new stuff to try out and learn once you've mastered the basics.
The results, I thought, were also good - but I'm no expert. However, I did have fun with it and found this a great piece of software, although I've ever only used Windows movie maker before. I'll certainly be doing more with my films now than just letting them sit on the hardrive.
Having installed the product without problems, I ran the `Registration Wizard'. Although it is possible to register online, the user is pushed towards telephone registration, which I did. Once connected, I was subjected to a concerted sales pitch, with offers of reduced prices on a number of other products. This was despite having said quite firmly on more than one occasion that I wasn't interested in buying any other software. However, I did, eventually manage to complete the product registration.
I have used Adobe Premiere for some time, but my version is now out of date and doesn't have the video sharing functionality of most of the relatively cheap consumer products that are around now. The cost of the latest version is prohibitive for the amount of video that I need to edit, so I decided to try MoviePlus.
I used to use a Panasonic camcorder and output the video to DVD, but it was a long and complicated process using Premiere and Impression, and just too time consuming. I still use the Panasonic, but now use a Flip HD for most of my video and output to Windows Movie or upload to U-Tube. Although the supplied Flipshare software is great, the functionality is limited.
Having previous experience of video editing, I knew what I wanted to do and approached my first project from that point of view. Before starting, I downloaded the manual in pdf format and kept it open while I worked. I would suggest that a beginner would be better off purchasing a hard copy as a reference.
The user interface is well laid out with a large clear `monitor' and the choice of storyboard or timeline editing. Thumbnails of captured or imported clip are displayed in a convenient panel, from where they can be dragged into the editing area. A neat feature is that placing the mouse over a clip thumbnail plays it, very useful if you have a large number of similar clips.
I had little difficulty finding the functions that I wanted, and my first impression was that, for the price, this software is very well featured and easy to use. I captured some video from my Flip on a USB link, edited it, added transitions and titles from the supplied libraries, and uploaded it to U-Tube within about 45 minutes of installing the software. I then attached my DV camcorder on a Firewire link. I accepted the option of using MoviePlus and the programme opened automatically. I captured video using the surprisingly good inbuilt device control.
I then added a DVD top menu to my project and tried to output directly to DVD; but this failed. However, I have had this problem with other software and am pretty sure that my DVD drive is the cause. I then output the project to a file on my hard drive and used Nero to create a playable DVD, which worked perfectly. New users should be aware that rendering video for DVD output is a very long and slow process, so patience is essential.
In summary, within a matter of two or three hours, I managed to do all I wanted to do. The product is well configured, with great functionality, and a very intuitive user interface. I've already seen enough to justify the purchase price and am looking forward to further exploration of the features and creating some interesting movies.
I will start by saying that I'm not so clued up on PC stuff as most, so I was pleased this was easy to install, although the phone registration was hard sell mostly,I know they have a job to do but why can't they take a simple "NO" for an answer,and get on with the job I phoned for and that was to register MY product.I have never edited my videos before and found the "Movieplus X5" just what I've been waiting for, as I said it is very easy to use even for a beginner.When on holiday I took loads of videos and as usual got the stray leg,arm and that man that always walk into the shot then just as quick walks out again,well the movie plus soon takes of all the bits you don't want and leaves you with a beautiful video to show friends and family. If your like me and want something simple to use that gives you that well polished finish then the Movieplus X5 is for you.
When I consider the sheer software power that any of the major players offer it seems unfair to criticise them but as the bar gets higher it is easy to expect more and more. I usually use Pinnacle and tend to see Serif as the economy cousin. I was therefore interested to see where, if anywhere, Serif fell short.
Every software company has their own `in house' approach to creating the user interface and although I didn't find the presentation that intuitive, the on screen step by step guides, tutorials and sample projects are a good way of learning to handle the controls. There is a pdf guide but no printed manual unless you buy it, which makes it difficult to immerse oneself in the architecture.
X5 offers multi format support but is written for 32 bit and although it should run on 64 bit you won't get the advantages of the latter (faster processing, ability to address more RAM).
The software strikes me as good starter/intermediate package and handling the basics is easy. I found it made more of a meal of trickier work but this could be because I am used to Pinnacle. One cosmetic drawback was the slightly cheap feel of the interface and a bit of finesse would have made using the software more enjoyable. For advanced and heavy users the fact this is 32 bit may be a drawback.
Having tried out most of the leading brands I suspect that a lot comes down to what you are familiar with and switching between alternatives is always difficult because there is a fresh learning curve. Any carping I have about X5 is probably because I am accustomed to a slightly different style.
I therefore feel that once you have found a software house you like, it is probably best to stick with them. You will possibly learn more by understanding the approach of one provider than by flitting between competitors.
It is also worth investing in dual monitors. A lot of the frustration I used to direct at all sorts of software was resolved when I added a monitor and was able to spread the interface windows between them.
I happen to like Pinnacle but if you have used previous incarnations of Moviemaker your familiarity may enable you to get far more productivity than switching between brands in what is a hugely competitive market.
If you are new to the subject Serif is competent and you are likely to save a few bob - the key issue is whether the feel is right for you. If you are in doubt, the Serif website has some useful videos and by reading the forums you will get a good idea of what active users think of it. Finally (and as with cars) the fact that X6 has come on the scene gives you a choice between experimenting at half the cost or buying the most up to date model.
Reviewing video editing software is difficult as there are so many products on the market and they all offer similar features. MoviePlus X5 is well worth a look however, as it is generally simple to use, powerful and produces good results.
If you are new to video editing or have only previously used Microsoft Movie Maker, you may find MoviePlus a little overwhelming. After some intitially glitzy dialog boxes which point you in the direction of wizards and other shortcuts to get your movie underway, the standard interface is a little dull and it takes a while to find your way around. It's not drastically different to other suites, but there is a lot crammed in so it feels cluttered.
But for all that, I quickly imported video from my camcorder and was soon able to insert splits, effects, transitions, text, music and so on. Some of the more advanced effects can be fiddly to use but that's a criticism that can be levelled at a lot of similar products. Working through your project and then producing the end result is a fairly painless process overall.
One area where MoviePlus is strong is DVD production. The general disc layout and menus are highly customisable and I have been really impressed with this function.
I can't comment on the HD capabilities of MoviePlus as I haven't gone HD for my video (yet). But with the standard definition video (courtesy of my MiniDV camcorder) I do have, I have found Serif's suite to be powerful enough and easy to use. It's well worth taking a look at.
Video-editing software now routinely includes support for full HD (1920 x 1080) video. This introduces the problem that handling 25 two-megapixel images for every second of video requires a powerful computer, both for editing and for rendering the final video prior to cutting the Blu-Ray disk.
Serif Movie Plus X5 sensibly handles the editing speed problem by creating lower-resolution copies of the files you're editing. You edit using these, and the program then compiles the final product usign the edits you have defined and the high-quality original files. The rendering is fairly quick, unless you choose the highest-quality settings, but for 1920 x 1080 video, it may still take several hours. The program is 32-bit only, so you don't get any benefit from having a 64-bit version of Windows.
The editing screen follows the Serif house style, but the component parts are much the same as other video editing packages. There's a video preview screen, a space for media clips (which you can drag around to help you organise your thoughts) and a timeline/storyboard area, where you drag the clips when you're ready to compose your video. One nice feature is that when you import your first video clip, Movie Plus asks if you'd like to set the project parameters to match those of the first clip. It also shows the resolution at the bottom of the screen, so you don't accidentally end up creating your masterwork at the wrong resolution. You can edit the clips before or after dropping them onto the timeline, which has space for two video tracks (each with audio) and a separate music track. Having two video tracks lets you apply effects like picture-in-picture; you can apply crossfades with just one video track.
When you come to create a DVD or Blu-Ray, you can create a menu using one of the templates provided. Some of them are reasonably acceptable - not as cheesy as those provided by some other packages. You can also choose to export video for YouTube, or for use on portable devices (PSP or iTunes-compatible).
I've looked at a few other video-editing packages, from Nero, Roxio, Cyberlink and Corel. MoviePlus is towards the "easy" end of the usability scale, but none of these packages are intuitive. It has a good range of settings and options if you dig a bit, and as usual with Serif, the on-screen "how-to" is excellent.
One downside is that if you register your software with Serif (and it nags you to), you will get phone calls from Serif salespeople. This is unfortunately the penalty of using Serif's otherwise excellent software.
Note: If you're planning to create Blu-Ray disks, you need a Blu-Ray writer. I have an LG BH10LS30.AUAR10B 10x Internal Blu-Ray BDRW Retail Kit, and it does the job well.
Not quite Hollywood, but it's certainly reasonably priced. Serif Movie Plus X5 is a leap forwards in their video editing software. This new version allows you to import just about any format, be it from a Camcorder, Mobile Phone or other recording device as well as import existing videos from CD. DVD or on your Hard Drive.
Having been a user of Serif products for about 10-15 years now, I decided to try out this new program; or should that be "App"? Installation was a breeze and no trouble at all on my Windows XP sp3 system. Only in recent years has Serif released software that needs updates or patches to be applied later. Sadly Movie Plus X5 is no different here and there are a couple of minor glitches that will, no doubt, get fixed this way soon. The first I discovered whilst trying to import video from my HTC phone; this being HTC's version of 720p HD but "rubbish" quality nevertheless!) Using the Import Media Paine on the right hand side of the editing screen I tried several times to import the video footage. Five times I tried and five times it crashed the programme. Eventually I discovered and tried the alternative Import Button in the top Menu Bar. This worked smoothly and my clips were imported into the right-hand Import Paine.
Next, a simple case of drag and drop the clips onto the Time Line near the bottom of the screen. Then came editing. Serif has made the 'Trim' process quite easy here, but if you use the "Stanley Knife" image a new screen pops up and in it the clip or section that you have selected. Be wary here though, it is too easy to select the "start cut" and "end cut" points and then delete the wrong section! On the main screen, whilst working on the Time line, you can try an alternative approach:
1. Drag a video clip into the Time line.
2. Move the (black vertical line) Marker along to the point you wish to start cutting (by dragging it in the blue measure bar section) and select 'Split' by clicking on the Scissors image when you are sure.
3. Move along the Time line and select the next cut, if there is one and snip it out again.
4. Right Click on the "waste" video part you wish to remove and select 'Cut'.
5. Drag the right-hand video strip along the Time line leftwards and "job done".
The only other problem that I experienced with this public beta version (?) was in "Export" processing. Having created a simple Menu, added titles (both easy) then selected 'Export' the video was processed; first it's prepared, then Rendered and finally written to file or disc. I had a few failed attempts at writing directly to a Disc (DVD or CD). Not being sure whether this was down to my problematic Windows system or the Programme, I finally gave up and stuck to the "tried and true" standards, which is to "write" to an ISO file or 'Create ISO Image', then use the software to make a CD/DVD from the ISO Image. That worked a treat.
Having used Pinnacle Studio in the past, which allows you to "create" customised music tracks to your video and is so easy to use, the lack of in-built music in Serif's Movie Plus is glaring. It will allow you to import music or Rip it, but then you have to fiddle about with the track and apply what ever fades, etcetera, that are needed.
For anyone who is looking to edit and create simple home or school movies, holiday advertising shorts or club reviews the Serif Movie Plus X5 is a real boon. Having access to all types of video files, plus being able to simply export to all formats, including 1060p, 720p, SVCD, You Tube or other popular formats makes it a synch for the modern part-time user who likes to do a bit of everything. Serif's X5 has many plus points including many Title options; scrolling, fade and you name it (though these are not exactly "intuitive" to use!) and will keep the average user happy and active for many months getting family or club video onto their preferred format. At the asking price you can't argue, it's a reasonable deal... but, come on Serif, get those small wrinkles ironed out; I know they are not as bad as some software manufacturers, but annoying nevertheless. Still worth the money in comparison to many dearer packages though.
Update: Feb 2012: Spent hours putting some videos ytogether only to find that the CD or DVD is not readable by either a PC or DVD Player! This seems to be a problem with the inbuilt "Sonic" DVD writing, so have just bought the highly rated Cyberlink Power Director 10!
British based Serif's PhotoPlus X4 [Photoshop Elements 9 style photo editor], Drawplus X4 [vector drawing like Adobe Illustrator] and PagePlus X5 [desktop Publisher, the jewel in their crown] are all pretty good, so how does MoviePlus X5 do compared to Adobe Premier Elements 9? Well Movieplus is quite a powerful video editor, with a lot of useful features like image stabilisation & noise reduction [that both work well], masking, colour correction, and levels. Plus there is full DVD/Blu-ray and AVCHD/HDV support. AVCHD video can usefully be rendered in lower res while you are working on the video prior to hi-res output, which really speeds things up if needed. In fact this program is quite responsive on a decent laptop or PC, which is the exact opposite of lethargic Cyberlink PowerDirector and Adobe Elements Premiere 9. There's no 64-bit version of MoviePlus though, it runs in 32-bit mode only under Windows 7/Vista 64-bit. MoviePlus also offers loads of effects and transitions - two hundred of them in fact, although this wealth of features and palettes does add considerably to the programs complexity. As well as standard PC video/HD-video/DVD/Blu-ray burning [with templates for animated DVD menus], you can also export video for the iPod/iPAD, PSP, and YouTube. One installed MoviePlus X5 slickly updates itself over the internet [Help, Check for Updates] - updates are available even if like me you always click the 'Register Later' button to avoid Serif's telephone registration palava.
There's plenty of in-program help, such as the 'How To pane' next to the Preview pane, and there's load of hints, tutorials and tips, with sample projects showing you how to do stuff, with notes on the video explaining exactly what it is happening. Plus there's a full on-line support section with info, FAQ, patches and 'how to' Flash videos to help you get started. That said for serious video editing there's a steep learning curve before you are fully up to speed and MoviePlus X5 isn't quite as easy to use as it could be, so this programs not so good for casual users who might want to use everything it offers - but there's also a manual as pdf, and you can buy printed versions of the pdf 'user guide' and the larger 'Directors guide' than also covers using your camcorder. My first project was to cut out a video sequence from an avi movie and add some text here and there, for a presentation at work, and although I didn't find all the info via the help, I worked how to split/trim, add text and export to iPod/wmv easily enough. Plus I found it easier to do than I did using my Cyberlink PowerDirector 9 Ultra 64.
There are two editing modes: a simple drag and drop editing mode for beginners, and an Unlimited-track Timeline mode for more advanced users. The time-line itself has been criticised though for being quite small and 'horizontal' which limits how many frames can be viewed on screen in one go. Predictably PCPro preferred their A listed 'Sony Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 10' video editing software to this Serif Movieplus X5 offering, which is also powerful, costs similar money, and is apparently easier to use, so check that software out as well. However there's plenty on offer with MoviePlus X5, and it's a viable alternative that usefully offers a bit more editing responsiveness over it's competitors, and I would [and did] choose it over Premiere Elements 9 and Cyberlink Director 9. Plus Serif's upgrade prices can more reasonable, if you wait until the new version has been around for a while.
MoviePlus X5 system requirements are: a Windows-based PC with DVD drive and mouse, Microsoft Windows XP (32 bit only), Windows Vista, or Windows 7 operating system, 1GB RAM, 1.47GB free hard drive space, 1024 x 768 (1280x1024 native HD) monitor resolution, an Internet account and connection (for Auto Update and export to YouTube). For non-HD and HD video an Intel Pentium 4 Hyper-Threaded processor [AMD Athlon(tm) XP processor for non-HD only], or any Multi-core processor is required. For use with Full HD video (native AVCHD 1080) a Quad-core processor, 7,200 rpm hard drive and 2GB RAM minimum is required. As usual though, the more powerful the Windows PC/laptop & graphics card the better.
The Serif MoviePlus X5 software is a nice bit of editing software enabling users of all experiences to successfully edit their videos. Having had some previous experience editing home videos, I felt able to jump straight in and get to grips with the software quite quickly. For those who are less experienced, there is a lot of help and guidance on the software to help you get going with your editing.
The only downside to this software is that at times the user interface can be slightly confusing due to the large volume of options available. This can put newcomers off a little, but it's a negative coupled with a positive because there really are lots of features you can use to make a great video.
Overall, I'd recommend this as a decent piece of editing software at a great price!