Jane co-founded Your Story Here Video Biography, a documentary production company that specializes in creating video biographies.
How to Edit Videos on a Computer
One thing about this tech revolution is that we now have more technology than many of us know how to use! And that applies to video and video editing on your PC. I am willing to bet that you have all the gizmos and gadgets you need to turn raw family footage into something snappier.
So in this tutorial, I will show you—step by step—how to spin video straw into video gold by editing your own video on your Windows PC.
Step1: Confirm Video Editing Software
If you Google the words "video editing software," you will see endless video editing programs. It can be very confusing. Ignore them all. For home video editing on a PC, Microsoft gives you Windows Movie Maker for free.
Check your PC right now under programs and see if you have it. If not, download it from Microsoft. You will be ready to edit video on your PC in no time at all!
Step 2: Check Out the Movie Maker Interface
When you double-click the Movie Maker icon, the program opens up right away. It's nice and simple. Here is what it looks like. (Your screen will not look exactly like mine. I have added the red frames and letters as well as imported some media assets into the project.)
It's helpful to think about the interface in its five main sections. At the top is the Main Menu (A) where you have drop-down menus for "file", "edit", "view", "tools", "play" and "help". Click on the items to see what they have underneath. (You will be familiar with the idea from other programs you run our your PC.)
On the left of the interface is a list of Tasks (B). These are pretty much the same as the items on the main menu, but they are nice and handy here. Next along to the right is an Imported Media (C) window showing the media you have imported into the project. (Video files have a film sprocket border.)
On the right of the interface, you see a Preview Screen (D) (currently showing a bear). This is the area you use to preview your movie. You will also drag clips here from your Imported Media and cut them into smaller chunks.
Underneath and running along the bottom is your Timeline (E). This shows you all the clips you have arranged in the order they will appear in your video. You can toggle between a Timeline view and a Storyboard view using the down triangle.
Step 3: Import Media to Your PC
Decide what you want to include in your video. Your options are video footage, photographs, music, and audio. (You can also add narration.)
Then, use the Import command to get it into your project. If you have existing files on your computer, just click on Import > videos/pictures/audio or music, navigate to the file—and stand back!
If the video is in your camera, you will need to connect the camera to your PC. The command is Import > From Digital Video Camera. You may need to rummage through your old video camera packaging to find that cable or the installation disk. (Tip: A host of technology problems can be solved with the right cable or connector.)
Step 4: Create a Rough Cut of Your Movie
Now we are really getting down to business! With your assets imported into your project, it is time to arrange them in the order you want them to appear in your video. And nothing could be simpler. Look at your Imported Media (C) window, choose an "asset" (tech-speak for a video or photo or music track), then drag it down to the Timeline or Storyboard (E). It's all drag and drop!
You place your media in the Timeline/Storyboard just like you would assemble frames in a comic. Once you place one item, go ahead and place another.
And if you want to see how your video plays when the pieces are all connected, just click on the Preview Screen (D) play button.
Well done! You have just edited a "rough cut" of your movie on your own PC. Now read on!
Step 5: Fine-Tune and Fiddle!
The last step when editing video on a PC is to right-size your video clips and to add finishing touches like titles, credits, fade-ins and fade-outs, special effects, and maybe even narration. This is called the "final cut".
The secret here is to play. Poke around the buttons and see what they do! Video editing on a PC is non-destructive, which means that as you fiddle, you are not changing the original video. Oh yeah, like anything you do on the PC, when you edit, save your Movie Maker project from time to time. (Tip: If you want to try something out, save a new version of your project under a different name.)
Make sure you are on Timeline view (click the little down triangle if you are on Storyboard view). Then, click on your video. Two arrows appear at either end of the clip (see picture). Drag the arrows inward to shorten your video at the beginning of the end.
You can also break up a video by dragging it to the Preview Screen, playing the bit you want, then hitting the "Split" button. That creates a new clip. Repeat as many times as you need.
Special Effects, Transitions, Titles
These effects are really simple to add. Just click on the Edit menu and follow the prompts. When you edit video on a PC, you can add effects such as "old film", sepia, mirror effects—you name it. (If you want to create a slide show, just drop all your images into the "Timeline/Storyboard" and use "Effects" to pan across your images—just like Ken Burns!)
You Have Just Edited a Video on Your PC!
Congratulations! You have just edited your first movie on your PC! The final step is to hit the "Publish Movie" button in the Main Menu (A) and choose how you want to watch your movie.
So, what to edit? Well, there is video that you shoot yourself, of course.
Or, you could edit video or film that you have already shot, or that someone else in the family shot. Transferring your 8mm, Hi8 video, or VHS tapes to DVD—or better, to a hard drive—allows you to use your new-found editing skills to turn those old home movies into a family documentary.
Final Tip: Practice! Video editing is a learned skill and the more you do it, the better you get. You will get faster—I promise!
And stay tuned for more tips on editing video on your PC. Video editing really is a blast!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
bob on November 01, 2018:
i like turtles
george from Macedonia which belongs in Greece on July 10, 2018:
georgeaxa on July 10, 2018:
Julio Rivas19090 on December 06, 2017:
Hello Everyone Send me Questions at firstname.lastname@example.org for my youtube channel
Gen Repil on September 13, 2013:
Thanks for this want to start to make movies using photos:)
:) on June 05, 2013:
Your advice JaneA is amazing! thanks so much! :)
JaneA (author) from California on April 04, 2013:
Thanks for the great feedback!
Raven on March 07, 2013:
Thanks for the directions :-) Now I am on my way from being a photo shop dummy to Steven Speilberg...lol
smga22 from Dhaka, Bangladesh on November 06, 2012:
Lots of good information in this article. Voted uP!
samantha on August 01, 2012:
Thanks! This was very clear and helpful! :-)
JaneA (author) from California on January 23, 2012:
Good luck with your editing!
mandy on January 22, 2012:
omg thanks tons....
MANjyot on March 22, 2011:
my comfuter only has movie maker live, will it work just as good
Kelly Kline Burnett from Fontana, WI on May 26, 2010:
You provided the encouragement and simplicity to motivate me. When I first got started I was overwhelmed. Will jump back on the horse now and give it another try. Great Hub!
Micky Dee on April 28, 2010:
Thanks for helping us do this. I've tried to use MM before but it didn't recognize the video or I did it wrong. I'll come back here and try to follow your instructions! I couldn't add music. That was my biggest disappointment. I'll keep plugging away. Thanks Jane!
Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on April 07, 2010:
I'm sure this would hub would qualify as synchronicity. I'd just decided to use Movie Maker to organize a ton of photos, news clippings, passenger manifests, and censuses about a relative who died in 1965.
Since most of these items were already digitized online, it seemed counterproductive to print them out in order to arrange them chronologically. Made more sense to import them into MM, but I have no experience with it. Sounds pretty simple the way you've explained it. Thanks!