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Serif MoviePlus X3: Windows video-editing software that doesn't reek of fail

If you've got a camcorder, you'll probably want some computer software to turn your garbled shots into something you can be proud of. Serif MoviePlus X3 can help

Video editing can be an impenetrable business for the casual user. Both Windows and Mac OS X try to make it easy for normal folk to edit videos, with Windows Movie Maker and iMovie respectively. The former is a painful disaster in every way, although iMovie is a much more useful application, capable of producing some pretty decent results. With Windows feeling left out, then, Serif has decided to step in and introduce MoviePlus X3.

The problem with most video-editing packages is that they are either ludicrously expensive or nearly impossible to use, or, in many cases, both. With X3, however, Serif aims to provide something easy to use and cheap, and we think the company might have pulled it off. X3 is available now, costs £60 and is available to buy on a disc or as a download.

X3 uses a familiar format, with a large video window showing you the clip you're currently working with. There are two ways to edit. The first is to simply drag clips into sequence. This is great if you're just putting together a basic video and your footage doesn't need any hard-core editing. The second method is the full-on time-line mode, whereby you bring clips in and trim them as needed.

The simplicity with which X3 operates is excellent. Importing video is dead easy, and, when we were using it, the application didn't crash once in either Vista or the Windows 7 release candidate. Video editing is fairly tricky for computers to handle because of the huge amounts of data being shifted about, so the fact it didn't crash is no mean feat. We were up and running in no time at all, editing video clips copied off our SD card from a JVC camcorder. X3 even preserved our Dolby Digital stereo soundtrack.

We were surprised to learn that X3 can cope with high-definition video too. We took some test material from a Canon EOS 500D and the software seemed more than happy to deal with it. Of course, the more data you're dealing with, the harder it will be for your PC to keep up, so make sure you've got plenty of memory and a decent processor.

As you would expect, there are tonnes of transitions and effects included. Don't use them. There's no better way to make your videos look amateurish than by using a variety of horrendous cross-fades. The only person ever to have successfully pulled off such effects is George Lucas, and, let's be frank, it eventually drove him to produce Jar Jar Binks, so no good can come from it. If becoming George Lucas is something you aspire to, then there's a decent chroma key feature included too, so you can create virtual worlds and then superimpose your actors on them.

Once you've edited all your footage together, you can add titles, which, of course, you'll want to put in yellow, on a black background. Once you're done with that, you can also make DVD menus to tie the whole package together. It's all very slick, and even the most timid technophobe could get to grips with it. If you're in the mood to share your movies, you can upload direct to YouTube -- something that's likely to appeal to pet owners with amusing videos that the world needs to see.