When Apple announced Portrait Mode for iPhone Plus, it meant I didn't have to carry around a bunch of heavy, expensive, DSLR glass anywhere nearly as often. When Apple announced Portrait Lighting, I started to be able to simulate studio setups anywhere I went. The advances in computational photography were startling and it made me wonder — what's next?
Going through a mental list of studio gear, one thing that occured to me were backgrounds, both physical and composited through greenscreen. Portrait Backgrounds sounded like something Apple could introduce next. But I was wrong. With Clips 2.0, it's already here.
Clips 2.0 is the second big update to Apple's social video creation app. The original app let you shoot, assemble, and share social video at the speed of life. The first updated simplified the process and added more content, including licensed characters from Disney. This update makes things even simpler and more coherent still, and adds about the biggest property in the industry right now — Star Wars.
Right up front you can 3D Touch now to go straight to a new video, saving you not only a few taps but a few seconds if you want to start capturing right away.
The interface is also faster. Several of the previous features have been collapsed together into a new Effects browser, so there's only one star-shaped button to tap to access them all.
You get access to all the iOS 11 filters, including my beloved Silvertone, Clips classics like Comic Book, and four new filters: Watercolor, Charcoal, Sienna, and Indigo. These are especially cool because Apple used machine learning to "teach" Clips about those art styles so it could remain faithful to them under the wide range of conditions video capture introduces. Yeah, SkyNet knows art now. Maybe that'll mellow its harsh out?
There are new stickers and new poster art as well. In addition to Apple-created content, here's where Star Wars comes in. Yes, you can sticker animate Chewie, Threepio, Leia, Luke, and more all over your clips. And, of course, the Force is strong now with Star Wars posters.
iPhone X and its TrueDepth camera, which can not only capture Portrait Selfies but the depth data behind them, gets in on even more fun: Precisely those Portrait Backgrounds I was talking about up top.
They're called Scenes and there are a few to choose from:
- Metropolis, which looks like an Asian Fusion Future straight out of Blade Runner.
- Riverfront, which has a posterized bridge in New York to sell you.
- Millenium Falcon, which projects your hologram into the fastest hunk-of-junk in the galaxy, Droids included.
- Mega Destroyer, which lets you peek at the Last Jedi's First Order Star Fortress today.
- Sketchbook, which provides for line art with a Parisian flare.
- 8-Bit, which drops you in the middle of a video-game inspired monster rampage.
- Tea Garden, which is deco-style cherry blossoms all the way down (and up).
- City scape, which is all half-tone and heat map.
- Galactic, which gives you all of time and space — and just watch you run!
- Stickers, which looks like you let the Emojipedia dude decorate your white room. (Hi Jeremy!)
- Graffiti, which is neon crayon on the blackest of black worlds.
- Brushstrokes, which makes you the start of your own oil and stucco Clipscape.
They're all completely 3D-rendered environments so you can tilt up, down, and all the way around and never run out of background. And they're especially great if you don't have dazzling set or natural background of your own to record with. Like any new media, they'll be over used and feel super repetitive fast, but if you keep things cool and consistent, it will really level up your clips.
There's new music for you and your audience to groove to as well, and a super-great new record lock feature where, if you slide the record button up, it'll switch from press-and-hold to standard shoot/stop and let you really get creative without worrying you might take your finger off the shutter.
You can also copy and paste clips between projects so you can mix and remix without worrying about wrecking what came before. And Clips will also sync with iCloud now so, if you switch between devices or upgrade, you'll leave no creation behind.
I still have the same concern about Clips as I've had since it launched: Apple treating it as software rather than service means all these updates, as cool as they are, come in spurts and stops. That's a sharp contrast to the social expectations of a constant drip of new filters and effects set by Snapchat and copied by Instagram.
Still, the ability to create in a powerful app and share to any service you want — and, more importantly, directly to any of your contacts without having to go through a data harvesting service — keeps Clips compelling.
Of course, I want all the same things anybody seeing Clips would want: Custom Scenes and stickers, and Animoji support. (Stop it, you know you want it.)
But as is, Clips 2.0 is impressive. Most impressive. And I'm going to be having a lot of fun with it for a long time to come.
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