Apple's new video-editing app Clips is great. I don't know why it was made

Clips single-screen interface is a refreshing change from complex video editing apps.
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Clips single-screen interface is a refreshing change from complex video editing apps.

REVIEW: Apple are generally thought of as a careful company. It doesn't just spurt out products because it feels like it, it creates refined solutions when it's ready.

Of course, that's mostly just good PR. "Ping" was not a solution for anything. The native Podcasts app is anything but refined.

Clips is a bit like that. It's a fun and simple video editing app - out today! -  that utilises the absurd amount of power on modern smartphones well. I'm happy to have it on my phone but I have no idea why Apple built it. I also don't know when I will next remember to use it.

Clips lets customers take videos and add animated captions and titles, complete with colourful emojis.

Clips lets customers take videos and add animated captions and titles, complete with colourful emojis.

Let's take a step back.

READ MORE: Apple drives further into Facebook, Snap territory with video app 

Clips is basically iMovie-lite. It lets you film and edit videos on your iPhone or iPad. There's no social network attached - you're supposed to use it for clips that you then iMessage on or upload on another network. It has some nifty features that fit completely in with 2017 and some others that feel imported from 2007. 

The design of the app is much more friendly than iMovie, the video editing app Apple already make for the iPhone. You press a button to record and let it go to stop - kind of like Vine. (You can also lock it on to record for longer.)

Importing videos and then clipping them up is done with the same motion. The precision you can get cutting up different video clips with something like iMovie is lost, but most of us don't need that precision - we just want to order some clips together. (Or do we? I honestly can't remember the last non-work-related video I made from multiple clips, but I shoot videos on Snapchat and Instagram all the time.)

Needless to say, you can learn the app in a few minutes, tops. If you open it in a hurry and need a video made right away you might have a few frustrating missteps, but video editing is fairly complicated - Clips does a great job boiling it down.

But there's more than just clipping and reordering clips.

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First we have the basics: title screens, stickers, filters, and soundtracks. Apple takes all of these standard video features and makes them work just a little bit better in clips.

The title screens are kind of hokey, sure, but you can edit them to any length you want and change a lot about them easily.

The stickers work exactly as stickers do in Snapchat - you can plop them right there on top of a video and move them around or resize them - but there are more options than just emojis.

The speech bubbles are particularly well done. Most of the filters are extremely ugly and overdone but the few ones that aren't look pretty good, and you can even look at them live while you film! And on the soundtrack front Apple have outdone themselves, organising a large library of royalty-free songs that can automatically fit themselves the length of the video.

They even got Hans Zimmer - of The Dark Knight and many other movies' fame - to record one. Seriously. You can put Hans Zimmer music over your little video for free and it's legal.

Then there's the feature Clips has that other apps don't - live titles. With live titles Clips can automatically caption your videos - in 36 different languages! - saving you the hassle of typing out your speech but making them accessible in places where most videos are muted, like Facebook.

Live titles look great. The fonts work well and when it works it feels magic. The problem is that with Kiwi accents - or at least mine - it doesn't always work. If I speak slowly and clearly, like the app is a child, it mostly works fine. If I talk like I regularly do, it gets about two words in ten. (I should note here that I was using a pre-release version of the app and Siri has never liked my voice. If Siri likes yours you might be fine.)

I've used Clips four or five times over the past week and I've always had fun with it. Once you are in the app there is plenty to do within it, all contained in a single-screen user interface that makes a lot more sense to me than something like Snapchat or Vine (RIP.)

My issue is that I don't know why I would open it up if I wasn't reviewing it. Most of the video I shoot on my phone goes straight into a messaging app like Snapchat, Messenger, or increasingly Instagram. While you can export video from Clips into any of these apps (easily with Messenger or Instagram, awkwardly with Snapchat), they all have video recorders built into them already. They may have far fewer features but they also require far less steps.

Which brings us back to the "why does this exist" question. The live titles makes you think for vlogging - but professional YouTubers require way more advanced features than this, and amateurs are generally trying to compensate and use professional software too.

There's the proverbial "putting together a holiday video" use case, but I'm not a 64-year-old man so I don't really understand if this is good for that. 

Then, maybe it's okay for Apple to just make a well-done video app and leave it at that. Maybe we all needed something with more features than Instagram but less than iMovie. Plenty of apps reveal how useful they are over time, and with all the technology and design baked into Clips, that could well be the case.

Plus, it's free. Live a little.

 - Stuff

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