HOW TO – Use Windows MovieMaker for XP/Vista to Compose a CDS-Style Digital Story

MovieMaker for XP and Vista is pretty easy to use as it guides you through the process of adding photos, adding audio, creating title cards, and inserting special effects and transitions. Those same features are available in MovieMaker for Windows 7, but they’re a bit harder to find.


I don’t use Windows myself and generally have very few students who use Windows, so my instructions are not as extensive for MovieMaker as they are for iMovie. Below are some brief step-by-step instructions for using the XP and Vista version of Movie Maker and further down is a screencast I made on a friend’s PC with Windows XP. I will try to post more resources for Windows users soon!

Adding Photos

After you import photos into a collection, drag them down into the project timeline at the bottom.


While viewing the collection of transitions, click on one and drag it to the grayed out box between two photos (which will then become blue, to show that a transition has been aded).

While viewing the collection of special effects (including ones that start by focusing on the center of the image and pan outwards, or the reverse), click on one and drag it onto the grayed out star box on the lower left corner of a photo. To change transitions or special effects, just drag new ones on top of the old ones. To remove them, select them and hit the delete key.

Title Cards

Use the title card maker to create title cards at the beginning, middle, or end of your project, and use the options to customize the font as well as text and background colors.

Adding Audio

Add your audio file last, after you’ve adjusted at least one image to display for longer than the length of time needed by your audio file. (Otherwise only a portion of the audio file will be imported.)

Adjusting “Play” Time for Photos

The above steps are only possible when you’re in the storyboard view. Switch to the timeline view to change adjust how long each photo, title card, or transition appears on the screen. Put your mouse over the edge of one photo until you see a set of red arrows, then click and drag to the right to expand the time the photo displays. You can also adjust the length of title cards and transitions that way. Click the “return to the beginning” button and press play to see a preview of what you’re creating in the preview box.


You can save your project as you work on it, but the saved version is a Movie Maker project file and not the version you would share with others. To make a shareable version, you’ll need to export it in a compressed version.

To do that, go to the File menu and choose “Publish movie” (or something like that). You’ll see a range of file size options that are somewhat incomprehensible. I’m really not sure which one to recommend you choose, but aim for something that looks like it will create a medium sized file.

The file will be exported in wmv format. Navigate to the exported file, double click on it, and it will launch in Windows Media Player. Watch (and listen to) the file and make sure everything seems fine. If so, you’re ready to upload the file to a video hosting site like YouTube or Vimeo.


The screencast video below will show you the basics of making an audiovisual essay in Movie Maker for Windows XP or Vista. The version of Movie Maker that is available for Windows 7 looks pretty different, although it has most of the same features. I don’t have access to that version right now, so you’ll need to look up tutorials on how to use it online (and there are many).

In the video, I demonstrate how to:

  • add photos
  • apply effects to photos
  • create transitions between photos
  • create title cards and scrolling credits
  • adjust how long the title cards and photos display
  • add your audio file
  • make adjustments so that the photos line up with the audio
  • save the “master copy” Movie Maker file, so you can edit it later
  • export an uneditable “movie file” version, in wmv format, which is the version you’ll share with the class

NOTE: When I originally made the screen recording, I didn’t realize that the computer I was using had a broken internal microphone, so the audio wasn’t captured. I added the audio later, so it might not line up precisely with the task I’m demonstrating on the screen.