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Exporting your movie ... which format it best?
Last updated 6-12-03

At last. You’ve sweated and toiled, and have completed your video. You’ve placed all your clips on your timeline, carefully arranged and trimmed them with transitions and video effects … and you may even have added a music track. Now it’s time to export your movie so that you can share it with your friends and family. .

But what format should you export to??

This is a good question and the answer is not exactly obvious. When you first run the “save movie to computer” wizard, you are going to be faced with several exporting movie formats. You’ll have to choose between the native DV-AVI, or one of the huge selection of WMV formats. Each has its advantages and problems.

While you can save your video into many smaller formats appropriate for emailing and web viewing, you should export at least one copy of your movie into a high-quality format (either DV-AVI or the highest WMV format). You may need this high-quality video in the future for recording to CD or making a DVD, and it’s always nice to have a high quality copy of your movie available in case you accidentally destroy or delete your project. For the highest quality, I generally recommend two settings:

  1. The DV-AVI format
    MovieMaker can encode your final movie into standard DV-AVI format. This is the compression format that the digital video on your camcorder is recorded. The format is great, as the quality is outstanding and it can go through many generations of editing before degrading. However, videos saved in this format are very large … every minute of video takes up 200 megs of space. That’s some pretty big file sizes and you can fill your hard drive quickly. However, if you can spare the space, I highly recommend saving into this format … it is the most compatible video type, and it will give you the best results for burning DVDs.

  2. WMV9 format
    While they aren’t labeled as such, every other export setting in MovieMaker is actually their own WMV9 format. The WMV9 video encoding format is also great format that generates fantastic quality at very small file sizes. Unfortunately, the format is very proprietary, and hardly any programs can open them. You’re going to have a hard time sharing movies in this format with your friends unless they also run Windows XP and are willing to download the latest decompression codecs.

    You might want to save a copy in this format anyway, though , as the compression is so fantastic that you can keep a large collections of video on your computer without swamping your hard drive.

So which format do you choose ….?
It depends upon what you need to do with your video. I generally do the following after completing each video …

  1. Save a DV-AVI copy to my computer
  2. Save a WMP9 copy to my computer at the absolute HIGHEST setting (“high quality” at 720x480)
  3. Backup my entire project folder onto an external hard drive or DVD-R (as data, not DVD video)

If you back up your project properly, it doesn’t matter what format you save into … you can always re-open your project and re-export your movie into whatever format you like.

My opinion on this subject …
It is unfortunate that Movie Maker will only export in these two formats – this is most likely an attempt to dominate the digital video arena with its own WMV9 format. Fortunately, you can save your movie into DV-AVI format, and if you need to encode into other formats (such as MPEG-1, QuickTime, or reel media) you can always re-encode this DV-AVI movie.

Next: Why you should avoid MM2's CD export wizard.
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