Live voice-generated text captions. Prisma-like video effects. Soundtracks. Clip trimming. Easy sharing.
Only square videos, no widescreen. Limited sticker and filter selection. Occasionally crashed during testing. Not built into a social app.
- Bottom Line
You can find each of the video tricks in Apple Clips in other apps, but combining them all in one place makes for truly fun video creativity.
You may be wondering: Why did Apple publish Clips, a fun video editing and sharing app? That seems more like the domain of Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook. But Apple has the video software technology, thanks to its excellent iMovie and Final Cut Pro applications, so why not? The flexible, capable Clips app offers a unique combination of video effects, and it really is fun to use.
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The free app requires iOS 10.3 or later, meaning it runs on models back to the iPhone 5. Clips is a slim 49MB download, so it won't eat up your iPhone storage like the company's fuller iMovie app, which weighs in at 668MB. I tested it on an iPhone 6s. Happily, you don't need to sign into any accounts to get going with the app. When you first run Clips, you see a promo video that attempts to show how fun it is to use the app. You can hit Get Started to get past this.
Using Apple Clips
In these days of Snapchat and musical.ly, Clips' interface is notably self-explanatory. In fact, with 11 on-screen controls, Clips interface is busier than most of today's trendy apps, but that means its functions are out in the open rather than hidden.
The app starts up in Selfie mode—after all, the idea is to send clever video messages to your contacts and the world. To start shooting, you do what the big button at the bottom of the screen says: Hold to Record. There's a mic button to the left of this for muting, and a camera-switching button to the right. You can also switch to Photo mode to include a still in your movie.
Clips doesn't restrict you to only using videos shot live from the app, the way some social video apps such as Moodelizer do. Nor does it restrict recording time: You can record as long as you like, unlike Instagram's strict limits. One restriction it does share with some other apps is that videos can only be square, so forget about widescreen footage filling the whole screen like you get with Instagram.
After you shoot your first take, which appears as a thumbnail image in the tray along the bottom of the screen, a tooltip suggests adding "animated text using your voice." This is actually pretty cool: You get a choice of seven caption styles, and after tapping one, you can start recording. While you do so, the crawl text appears as you speak. The Giphy Says app does a similar thing, though not in real time, and that app lacks a lot of Clips' other cool editing features and effects.
Like Prisma for Video
Artisto and Prisma itself are actually already capable of working their artistry on videos, as well as still photos, but Apple's inclusion of this cool effect is not unwelcome. Apple calls the most-Prisma-like effect Comic Book, and there are also pencil drawing, black-and-white, and old-film effects that you can apply while shooting. The other two apps, however, offer a greater variety of artistic effects. Having the spoken text scroll across the screen as you shoot with these live filters is truly impressive, and I'm not aware of an app capable of the same.
For more meme-like fun, you can add stickers to any clip in the sequence from the star icon. The choices for these are fairly limited, including phrases like 'Hello' and 'Meanwhile…' along with date and time stickers. But a second page of selections adds emoji as options. Snapchat and mopico offer more stickers, as did the dearly departed Facebook Stickered app. Clips lets you easily move its stickers around the screen with a finger swipe, for optimal placement. Finally, there are also full-screen meme text clips that you can intersperse with your shot video clips and photos.
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What would an appealing short video be without some catchy background music? Apple offers a decent selection of soundtracks from known recording artists, grouped by mood (Playful, Chill, Sentimental). Or you can simply use anything from your music library as background to your mini video.
Once you've got all your clips shot or selected, I'm happy to report that you can trim, delete, or mute them. Just tap on a clip thumbnail, and these choices become obvious.
I'd be remiss not to note an issue I had with the app on my iPhone 6s: Often when I tried a new feature during testing, the app suddenly disappeared. On the next try or two, however, it worked fine. I haven't heard of others with this problem, so you may not experience it.
Sharing and Output
Perhaps the biggest drawback to Clips is that it's another app you have to open before sharing your fun video. Snapchat and Facebook Messenger both let you jazz up videos right in the app you're sharing from. It may have made more sense for Apple to include this functionality in Messages to get the same immediacy. Be that as it may, it's easy enough to share directly from Clips, which naturally supports any video-accepting app in the standard Share Sheet. It even offers a direct share option to your most-recent contact as a choice above the app icons.
Apple's Social Video Bid
You can find apps in the Apple iTunes App Store that do everything Clips does, but it's useful to have them all in one place. And the real-time captioning is impressive and fun. But if you don't mind putting a tad more time and effort in, Clips lets you create more compelling and entertaining mini movies. And unlike Snapchat's, they don't disappear automatically, never to be enjoyed again. For real iPhone video-editing power, though, get our Editors' Choice app, iMovie.
Michael Muchmore is PC Magazine’s lead analyst for software and Web applications. A native New Yorker, he has at various times headed up PC Magazine’s coverage of Web development, enterprise software, and display technologies. Michael cowrote one of the first overviews of Web Services (pretty much the progenitor of Web 2.0) for a general audience. Before that he worked on PC Magazine’s Solutions section, which in those days covered programming techniques as well as tips on using popular office software. Most recently he covered Web… More »
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