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Apple's Clips app makes crafting viral videos in iOS dead-simple

Get ready: You're probably going to see these videos everywhere.
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Crafting a short-form video masterpiece on an iPhone or iPad is possible, but Apple just made it a little easier. This morning, the company announced a new iOS app called Clips that -- long story short – tries to help anyone piece together a polished, well-produced video without a lot of work. After playing with the app earlier this week, I'd say Apple succeeded.

Now, you might be thinking that Apple already has a few video creation and editing tools available for iOS, and you're right. On one end of the spectrum, there are so-called Memories videos, wherein Photos on iOS 10 automatically pieces together slideshow videos from pictures you've taken. Meanwhile, iMovie sits on the other end. It's not too difficult to master, but laying out clips and audio tracks on a timeline can seem daunting to beginners. It's not hard, then, to see how Clips is meant to fill the gap between these two experiences. Indeed, the simplified process of creating and editing video will feel awfully familiar to some.

If you've ever recorded clips and stitched them into a single video in Instagram, congratulations: You already know how this app works. Hold down the record button to capture what you want, let go when you're done, and repeat. Once you're finished with that, you can drag your clips into your desired order and flesh out your micro-films with photos, as well as filters, emoji, titles and animated icons. What would have taken minutes in iMovie takes seconds here, thanks especially to some intelligent algorithms.

You know those short, captioned videos that have invaded all your social networks as of late? For better or worse, they're now dead-simple to create. Step 1: Choose a look for the text you want on-screen. Step 2: Speak. That's it. From there, your words are automatically transcribed and time-coded so the text appears pops up in the video the moment you say them. In my very brief time playing with Clips, this was easily the most impressive trick the app had to offer, though I wouldn't go so far as to call it perfect.

Since the dictation in this so-called Live Titles feature is powered in part by Siri, you'll need a decent data connection for it to work in the field. (If one isn't available, you could always go back and add Live Titles later.) Also, internet connections aside, the app will almost certainly misinterpret your words from time to time. My favorite goof from our testing session: It turned the word "macchiato" into the seemingly Scottish surname "McYaddow". Thankfully, it's easy enough to edit those Live Titles after they've been recorded, and they'll still be correctly time-coded when you're done. iOS is also smart enough to tell when you're talking about a person, so if the app transcribes a name you've spoken in the video, that person appears as a suggested contact when you try to share your creation.

Clips' other hat trick comes in at the end of the process, after you've pieced together your opus. Beyond using your own music as a soundtrack, Clips comes with a handful of pre-recorded tracks that range from cliché hipster-ukelele to a dense, dramatic piece composed by Hans Zimmer. (Seriously.) What's really neat is how these songs can expand and contract; they're pieced together from a selection of intros, middle bits and closers to precisely fit the length of your video. Even in the app's unfinished state, the effect in my demo was near-seamless.

There's a lot of power here behind those simple controls, but Clips doesn't require Apple's latest and greatest hardware to work properly. When it launches next month, it will run on the iPhone 5s and newer models, along with the iPad Air and more recent tablets. (Just make sure your device is running iOS 10.3.) Given Apple's popularity and how pervasive the iPhone seems to be, you should probably spend the next few days or weeks enjoying the world before these slick little videos wind up everywhere.

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