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Brian Livingston
Muvee makes movies

EVERY ONCE IN a while, a program comes along that changes the way we use computers. Muvee AutoProducer is one such program. It has a deceptively simple purpose: With the click of a button, it makes a music video out of files you've copied to your PC from a camcorder or digital camera.

That doesn't sound like much of a breakthrough unless you've tried doing it with ordinary video-editing programs. The rule of thumb among media professionals is that it takes an hour to produce one minute of finished video using software called an NLE (non-linear editor).

In less than a minute, by comparison, AutoProducer finds key visual highlights in your video segments and edits them -- in sync with your chosen music track -- into a polished little "muvee" (pronounced MYOO-vee, as in music video).

In case you think I've lost my mind and joined the MTV generation, don't worry. This software has loads of business applications.

Broadcasting. The use of AutoProducer in commercial ways has already begun. Companies such as Xtreme Sport TV harness it to create short montages, combining the latest action on the field with thumping beats. AutoProducer's output is fully editable by NLEs, so producers can try different styles and then polish the result by replacing one shot with another, but only if necessary.

Education. Instructional videos tend to be deadly dull, but they don't have to be. Breaking up the talking heads with a few quick-cut, jazzy bits can make almost any program more bearable.

Fun. Aside from the 9-to-5 implications, the consumer uses of AutoProducer are huge. Millions of households have camcorders, and now many digital cameras can also record short videos. Editing the output, however, has been a drag. At last, AutoProducer makes it a treat.

Other software surely exists to do what AutoProducer does, but not at this price -- free, with Muvee.com credits inserted into each production. The $59.95 personal-use version and $119 pro version remove this and other limitations.

Testing AutoProducer, my only problem involved the .mov files used by some digital cameras. I had to cough up 30 bucks for QuickTime Pro at Apple.com to convert the files to .avi. I also had to download DirectX 8.x from Microsoft.com. But those things aren't really Muvee's fault.

I was impressed by AutoProducer's mysterious ability to pick out focal points in the action and mesh them with music into something more attention-grabbing. In one shot of a little girl rocking back and forth, AutoProducer edited out the middle, segueing the beginning and end of the movements into a single, seamless motion.

Start at www.muvee.com/website/?id=freebies to get 33 free music tracks. Download the software to experiment. And watch out, Steven Spielberg.



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