Apple's Clips app hits iOS today to make video creation a cinch

Well, mostly a cinch, anyway


Remember that time Apple launched an iOS app called Clips so people could go forth and pepper their social networks with cleverly edited videos? Well, you probably don't, because it hasn't happened yet. Soon, though! If everything goes according to plan, you'll be able to grab it from the App Store at around 1 PM (Eastern) this afternoon. In the meantime, we've spent a little more time with Apple's new video-editing app. Despite its dead-simple interface, Clips is capable of some pretty impressive feats.

The broad strokes are as we explained them the first time: Hold down a big, red record button to shoot a clip, plop it into your project's timeline, and load it up with symbols, filters and emoji for good measure. If that sounds simple, well, it is. Mostly. After all, it's meant to sit in between the pure automation of iOS' photo memories and the more in-depth work that comes with using mobile iMovie. And sure, you could piece together a similar video project in an app like Instagram or a similar Snapchat store.

Yet Clips' surprisingly handy list of features sets it apart. It almost feels like Apple baked extra bells and whistles into the app to give it a leg up on other social platforms without having to build a social network of its own. While you'll be able to piece together something interesting before long, some of the finer points take a little more time to figure out. Fortunately, you'll be able to access a handy Help section in the app that wasn't ready for me to look at yet.

So yeah, after you factor in time recording clips, massaging them into the right order, adding the right effects and rendering the project into a shareable form, your first project will probably take a few minutes to complete. As it turns out, you can make things pretty damned complex: A single project can contain over 300 clips and run for up 60 minutes. I wasn't about to be the first person to shoot a full-length documentary with this thing, but I wouldn't be surprised if someone took up that challenge soon. As enjoyable as the app can be, though, it definitely still feels like a first attempt.

Consider one of Clips' most useful features: Live Titles. I loved these auto captions when Apple first showed them off, but Live Titles' shortcomings became more apparent the more I used it. Don't get me wrong: It usually nails most of what people on camera say. Funny misinterpretations became less funny the more they happened though, which detracted a bit from the magic of the experience. You can still jump in and edit those captions when needed; I just wish Siri was a little better at this. (The captions in my example video? They had to be heavily massaged.)

There are other spots where workflow breaks down a little bit. Despite being able to drag a clip around a project's timeline, there's no way to drag it into another project. Instead, you have to save that clip to your Camera Roll and then re-add it to the other project. In the process, you'll lose any of your live subtitles. You'll also have to hold down the record button for the full duration to add those clips, which can be tedious. (It allows you to record new audio over the track that was already there, which is nice I guess, but sometimes you just want to plop a clip into place.) I get that Apple wanted to use that big red button everywhere for consistency, but I sometimes wondered if the designers didn't make things a little obtuse in their search for simplicity.

Some things, however, work as elegantly as advertised. Adding comic book and black-and-white Prisma-style filters to a clip took a single touch, and the live view was especially helpful as I framed up shots in our office. And as far as I'm concerned, the coolest thing about Clips is still how it tailors music to fit your specific creation. Remember, they're cobbled together on the fly from a collection of intros, middle bits and closers. I bounced between a couple options before choosing the jaunty, slightly inappropriate tune for my Clips opus, and it came together perfectly. Well played, Apple.

After fiddling with Clips for a week, I'm still not the type of person to go out and make videos to blast at friends, family and the internet at large. Despite its early shortcomings though, Clips makes me feel like I could go out and craft something actually worth watching if I weren't so stuffy.