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First Look at Microsoft’s Story Remix Video App

SEATTLE—A lot of software touts the ability to automatically create polished digital movies from your video and photo collection. But more often than not, the results don't compare to the work of a human editor.

Windows 10 Bug ArtMicrosoft Story Remix may have an edge in this endeavor because of its access to the Microsoft Graph, a cloud-based repository of information about you, your contacts, and reams of general data culled from Bing, Office 365, and other sources.

I tried Story Remix—a highlight of the fall Creators Update—here at the Build developers conference, but was only able to use Microsoft demo content rather than my own video and photos. When the app is released, I'll test it using my own content for a full rated review.

One important aspect of Story Remix is that it will take over the Albums feature in Windows 10's existing Photos app. Story Remix will automatically appear on all Windows 10 Fall Creators Update machines, but some functionality may arrive sooner or later, depending on feedback and other criteria.

The Photos app, meanwhile, will now have a good deal of video-editing tools; previously it could only trim the beginning and end of clips. You'll now get filter effects, face tagging, search, titling, and even pretty impressive motion tracking.

Getting Started With Story Remix

As with the Albums feature in Photos, some Stories will be created automatically based on your content, but you can also start a new project with the "Create a Story" button on the top right.

Microsoft Story Remix "Create a Story"

Then there's the simple matter of adding photos and video, which you can do with the mouse, touch, or pen. All the component assets appear along the bottom, more source content in a window at top left, and the preview of your story at top right. You can drag any of the thumbnails in and out of the story.

Microsoft Story Remix

A couple of new ways to choose what to include will be part of the updated app, like content-aware search and face tagging. These things are notably missing in the current Photos app.

Individual video clips can be trimmed, and you'll see four buttons for effects in the middle: Duration, Filters, Text, and Motion.

Microsoft Story Remix

The last one isn't quite motion tracking, but it offers a repertoire of movement effects, including zooming and stepping.

Text options are limited at the moment, though they do include motion. I wasn't able to determine whether you could anchor text to a video object, but will address that in my full review later. It's also not WYSIWYG; you have to type into a text box separate from the image.

Adding 3D Objects to Your Story

Now it's time for one of the cooler possibilities offered by Story Remix: Adding 3D objects.

Access this from the Special Effects menu; objects come from an online sharing community, Remix3D.com, which was introduced with Paint 3D in the original Creators Update. Once you choose a 3D object, you can pin it to something in the video, like the ground. This makes for a much more realistic effect in case the video camera wasn't completely still. The objects can also have actions; the dragon object I tried included threatening and cowering actions.

Microsoft Story Remix

Coolest of all, to me anyway, is that you can pin the object to another moving object in the video and track its motion. I've seen this type of tool in many a video-editing app, but the Story Remix version follows objects better than most. Motion-tracking tools are notorious for getting fooled by similar-looking backgrounds and losing track of the object being followed.

Musical Backgrounds

No digital movie would be complete without a soundtrack, and Story Remix proposes background music automatically. The tracks come from the vast Groove Music service, but you don't need a subscription to tap into it. Background songs have descriptive names like Happy Beat and Reflecting Pool, and transitions are timed to match its beats and high points.

Really Remixing

Once your video is all gussied up, you still may not be pleased with it. No worries, just hit the Remix button to switch it up. If you change your mind about that, you can go back.

A few more tools are coming to the app, including the ability to draw on top of videos, adding slo-mo, and snapping still photos from video. The drawing feature is also capable of motion tracking. Something I didn't see in the app was the ability to choose what type of transitions you want to use between clips.

If you can't wait to try out Story Remix, sign up for the Windows Insiders program to see a preliminary version. Keep in mind that it's a work in progress; what you see now will likely vary from the final Creators Update coming this fall. At first glance, though, it's a pretty impressive app; if it can pull off all the features teased by Microsoft at Build, it will be a winner.

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