ACD VideoMagic 1.0 review: ACD VideoMagic 1.0

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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Easy to turn home movies into videos; simple interface; fun to use; efficient tech support.

The Bad Conflicts with some software video codecs; can't import video from camcorders; limits your control over output; slightly overpriced.

The Bottom Line Though we wish that VideoMagic 1.0 let you import clips from a camcorder, it's still a good buy for beginners looking for a quick-and-dirty way to edit home movies.

7.0 Overall

Unless you're a video-editing fanatic, we bet that you don't want to give up more than one precious Saturday to edit your home movies. Reclaim your weekend: ACD VideoMagic provides an effortless way to shape your home movies into minifilms that look so good people will think you spent days cutting and refining your footage. Simply select your best clips, pick a soundtrack, select a style for the finished product, and VideoMagic quickly does the rest. However, this program cannot import video from your camcorder. If you need to do that, you'd be better off with Pinnacle Expression. Unless you're a video-editing fanatic, we bet that you don't want to give up more than one precious Saturday to edit your home movies. Reclaim your weekend: ACD VideoMagic provides an effortless way to shape your home movies into minifilms that look so good people will think you spent days cutting and refining your footage. Simply select your best clips, pick a soundtrack, select a style for the finished product, and VideoMagic quickly does the rest. However, this program cannot import video from your camcorder. If you need to do that, you'd be better off with Pinnacle Expression.

Take your pick
Installing VideoMagic is a no-brainer, but we hit a snag when we tried to launch the program. Thanks to ACD's helpful technical support, we discovered that a video codec necessary to run another application on our test machine conflicted with VideoMagic. This type of small hurdle is common in first-generation products, but tech support resolved the issue in a flash.

VideoMagic's interface is easy to understand, even if you're not especially technically inclined. First, select your video or music clips from a Windows Explorer-style box on the top left; you can import AVI, MPEG-1, and QuickTime video files, as well as WAV and MP3 audio. Next, preview them in a pane at the program's top right. Drag your selections down to two storyboard areas along the bottom--one for music and one for video--and rearrange them in the order that you prefer. Finally, choose from the list of cinema styles on the lower right to determine the style of your creation. Voilà--your clip is ready to go.

So many styles
Products such as Ulead DVD MovieFactory offer the same features, but VideoMagic's strength lies in the range of styles that it offers--24 in total. For example, Simple Music Video produces MTV-like clips, with quick transitions that move to the music; Over-the-Top Music Video makes enjoyably garish videos, with loads of eye-popping transitions and effects. Chaplinesque adds a sepia tint like the ones found in old movies, while Fifties TV gives your footage a grainy, black-and-white look.

Don't want to turn your sister's wedding into an VH1-style exposé? You can choose from more practical styles, too. Use Personal to make videos that highlight people's faces, or create a sense of romance with Valentine, which includes heart-shaped transitions. Our favorite style is Velvet, which uses slow motion and long dissolves. VideoMagic can also make slide shows from still images.

Output options
You can press the Preview Video button to get a sense of how your finished video will look. If you don't like the result, click Preview Video again to create a new work consisting of the same clips in a different order or a varying style. When you have a look that you like, click Save Video. You can save files in AVI, AVI-DV, Windows Media, MPEG-1, and RealMedia formats at a variety of resolutions. Want to send your video via e-mail or stream it online? The Save dialog boxes explain which sizes and formats work best, depending on what you want to do with your finished product.

Wish list
VideoMagic does a super job of creating cool results in a hurry but lacks some key features; for instance, it can't import video from external sources such as camcorders. Instead, you have to import files using a separate application. Also, VideoMagic doesn't provide much control over which sections of your movie make the cut--we'd like to be able to highlight sections that we don't want left on the cutting-room floor.

Despite those quibbles, VideoMagic is a pleasure to use, and in each of our tests, we came out with high-quality, entertaining videos. But for $49.95, we wish that this program had more features. Even so, if you don't want to spend a whole lot of time putting together your video collection, buying VideoMagic is money well spent.

VideoMagic's interface makes it easy: You edit your video or choose music, then drag selections to the storyboard panes along the bottom.

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