Microsoft officially pulled the plug on its free video editor Windows Movie Maker last year, and replaced it with a streamlined but simplified app with a touch-first design that misses some of what made its predecessor so popular. However, a recent patent application suggests that something else could be on the horizon.
Movie Maker was part of the Windows Essentials suite of apps, which also included such classics as Windows Live Mail (replaced by the Mail app in Windows 10) and Photo Gallery (superseded by Photos).
After signing Movie Maker’s death warrant, Microsoft initially vowed to provide a replacement, but those promises vanished from its website until the Windows 10 Fall Creator’s Update finally unveiled a tool called Remix Video (originally Story Remix), which sits tucked away in the Photos app. However, it's quite different to its predecessor – and the changes aren't all for the better.
Remix Video lets you string together video clips, apply themes (preset transitions, titles and effects) and add text and music, but it’s not the evolution of Movie Maker that we’d hoped for.
Although it’s easier to use, that convenience has come at the cost of granular control. Gone are the timeline view, the ability to record video directly from a USB device, the option to split video clips, and full manual control over transitions and filters. Overall, Remix Video is more of a step sideways than an upgrade.
Fun over features
The simplification of Microsoft’s video editor seems to be part of a growing trend. Fully-featured desktop editing software appears to have fallen out of fashion, replaced by quick and easy mobile apps (or mobile-style, in Remix Video’s case). Record a few seconds of footage, add a filter and some quirky stickers, then upload it and watch the likes roll in.
Last year, Google killed off its online YouTube Video Editor – a useful suite of tools for trimming, combining and adding effects to footage before uploading them to your channel. Just a few months later, it announced YouTube Stories – its take on Snapchat and Instagram’s super-short format video clips. YouTube Stories is still in limited beta, but Google is investing in it heavily.
A few days ago it began trialling a new tool (catchily named YouTube Real-Time Mobile Video Segmentation) that replaces video backgrounds on the fly. Rather than isolating a solid-colored backdrop (as with traditional chroma-keying), Google has trained a neural network to identify faces, hair and clothing in selfies, then mask out everything else.
The results are impressive, but it's exclusively for mobile and nowhere near as flexible as true chroma-keying.
A new patent
However, Microsoft might have something more substantial in the works. Last month, it registered the trademark Mixplay, which as Windows Central notes, could well be connected to Microsoft's streaming service Mixer.com.
There's definitely a strong connection to gaming in the patent description:
"Software-as-a-service (SaaS) that allows users to create, view, publish, produce, broadcast, and play animation, video, sound, and graphics; software-as-a-service (SaaS) for personalizing, designing, and updating text and animation; software-as-a-service for playing video games."
Windows Central also speculates that Mixplay might be an evolution of, or replacement for the simple Xbox One video editor Upload Studio, which relied heavily on Kinect and hasn’t seen an update for many months.
However, Microsoft is quite liberal with the prefix 'mix', and the name could equally be a reference to Windows Mixed Reality. Most of the best commercial video editors are now capable of editing 360-degree video, and it would be a great asset if a similar tool was available for Windows users with Mixed Reality headsets to make their own creations.
If Microsoft doesn't deliver a true successor to Windows Movie Maker, there are some fantastic free alternatives. Our favorite free video editor is Lightworks, but if you’re looking for a direct replacement for Windows Movie Maker then open source editor Shotcut should be top of your list.
It’s as slick and well designed as a premium video editor, but it’s completely free to use with no watermarks or time limits. Its design will feel immediately familiar to Movie Maker fans, but it's far more advanced.
Patents don't always lead to anything, but we'll be keeping a close eye on Mixplay and keeping our fingers crossed that it's the powerful Microsoft video editor that we've been hoping for.