Fun with photos and videos
Creativity is a shared urge. We all have it, but many stumble on the execution. It’s why we’re not all pro photographers, musicians and movie makers.
If you simplify the tools and put them within easy reach of enough people, that starts to change. We’ve seen it with the proliferation of stories across a wide-range of broadly available social media platforms.
But apps like Instagram and Snapchat have their limits, especially when it comes to permanence. Even the most beautiful snap will be gone in a day.
Tools, like Apple’s iMovie (the free version that runs on iOS) that offer richer tools and more permeance are inscrutable and lack the sense of fun promised by Instagram and Facebook Stories. Whatever you create might look good but will lack that sense of fun and shareability.
Apple’s new video-creation and sharing platform, Clips, is the near-perfect middle ground.
It’s not a social platform or a full-scale video editing platform, though it shares some of the best attributes of both.
Clips — which is free, only on iOS, and available now in the AppStore — lets you create square videos of almost any length using new and existing clips and videos. It offers impressive power but in a simple, drag-and-drop package.
It’s fun and addictive, and I have yet to share a single Clips video I’ve made (and I’ve made a bunch and am sharing for the first time here and on social media).
Clips: Step 1
Clips interface looks a lot like a social sharing app. There’s a square screen that launches in video capture mode, with video filter and special effects options above (Live Titles or captions, Filters, Overlays and Emoji, Posters or titles and Music). Below the capture screen are options for capturing Photo, Video, or importing from your own library of content. Below that is a large record button. On one side is the microphone option and the other lets you swap between the front and back cameras. At the very bottom is your film strip with each captured video represented as a thumbnail. You can play all the clips in order or select any one you want to play and/or edit or drag and drop to reorder.
Image: APPLE/LANCE ULANOFF/COMPOSITE
Clips lets you shoot photos or videos and add from your library. You can edit whatever you add and throw in filters during or after you shoot.
To capture video, you hold down the red button. For hands-free operation, you just hold and slide the red button to the left. Another tap stops recording.
You can capture the video clean. A double tap zooms the video 2x. The app does not use the iPhone 7 Plus’ optical zoom lens, so a zoom in Clips is always a digital one. It’s a disappointment, and I hope Apple changes this in future versions.
The seven filters can be applied while you shoot or after. Two of my favorites are Comic Book and Ink.
There are also 18 different editable, animated stickers that you can add to your clips. To edit any clip you’ve shot, you just tap the thumbnail below. Text stickers let you retype the text and they are all resizable and can be placed anywhere on the video. Same with 30 emoji you have to choose from. Too bad you can’t set exactly at what moment in the clip they will appear.
Image: Apple/lance ulanoff/Composite
Not only can you add labels and emoji, but all are moveable and resizable. Notice how I added a cake slice emoji and then a text bubble.
The way around that limitation is to edit your clip length. When you tap on a clip, you have the option of turning off sound, deleting the clip or trimming it. Trimming only requires dragging in or out the start or end of the video. Any clip you shortened can always be returned to its original length.
There are no editable transitions between clips, but it’s doubtful the Clips target audience will miss them.
Text like the pros
The Live Titles or captioning feature, which lets you add synced text to any clip, is powerful, but a bit buggy. To use Live Titles, you select it and then speak, clearly, while recording video. Each word you say will appear on the video at the exact time you said it. It’s great for explaining what people are seeing, adding rich detail that might otherwise be missed in the video or telling a story with words and visuals, but no audio. It’s kind of silly to have the words appear at the same time as your voice, so Clips lets you mute the audio on these videos without losing the text that sound helped create.
Image: Apple/Lance ulanoff/composite
Live Titles has potential, but it had a hard time capturing everything I said.
The words do not always appear on screen as you are recording them but are usually there when you play back the clip.
My biggest problem with Live Titles, though, is that no matter how clearly I spoke, it often misheard my words or only captured a portion of them. Apple’s Siri does a better job of understanding me than iOS’ built-in dictation, which is what Apple chose to use for the Clips app.
Live Titles is not a bad feature, but it will take some patience to get the most out of it.
Edit it up
Max clip length is 30 minutes and your entire video can be a full hour. But the more you work with Clips, the more you may start to think of relatively short video packages — discrete stories you can easily share on social media. Attention spans on any of these social media platforms can be measured in minutes, not hours.
I had fun shooting each clip with and without filters and then adding overlays and emoji to enhance my story. The editable posters are essentially title cards that you can add to the beginning and end (or any place in between) of your videos. For me, they made each finished clip look like a little movie.
Clips has a wide range of soundtrack choices. You do have to download each one to use it.
But nothing brings together a video like music, and Apple has done an excellent job of providing almost 50 pre-built music clips, which automatically rearrange themselves to perfectly fit the length of your clip. You also have the option of bringing in your own music (though I don’t know if you can share those videos as freely, because of copyright constraints).
Clips lets you store and save an unlimited number of projects, and each of them remains editable unless you delete them.
Image: Apple/Lance Ulanoff/Composite
Titles add a nice professional polish to your videos.
You can also scroll through and play back clips in the library screen, which is also where you share the videos. Clips will let you share to virtually any platform. I wish I could tell you how well this works, but Apple wouldn’t let us share any of our Clips prior to the embargo lift.
It is worth noting though that Clips is designed for life on social media. That’s why it only records square video perfect for Instagram, which also means that it’s not built for full-screen stories on Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook Stories (if you could import these videos into them).
Clips is almost the anti-stories. It encourages, thought, consideration and composition, as well as, perhaps, richer creativity than you can apply in an of-the-moment Snap. Yet it’s just as easy as creating anything in Stories.
But, of course, unlike stories, these beautifully crafted video clips could last a lifetime.
Live Titles didn’t always get the transcription right
Apple Clips brings powerful video creation concepts to everyone in a dead simple package.