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Creating a movie with your smartphone footage can be tricky. You might sync the files to your PC and edit with Windows Movie Maker (or iMovie if you’re using a Mac). Linux has its fair share of video editors, too.
But if your smartphone or tablet is already capable of editing movies together, what is the point of a desktop app?
This is the approach taken by the developers of the Google Photos app, which has an excellent movie editor built in. Capable of creating movies while you sleep from the clips in your library, or letting you do the hard work, it’s available absolutely free to iOS and Android users.
Basically, if you have the Google Photos app (available free from your mobile app store), you have the movie editor. Want to find out more?
Make Movies With Google Photos
You probably just thought that the Google Photos app allowed you to manage photos, right? Well, it’s much more than that. You know how it groups photos and videos you’ve recorded by date? That’s a pretty useful feature, one that comes in handy when it comes to putting a video together.
But before you get this far, there’s something important that you need to do. Adopt a consistent method for recording videos. Because there’s nothing worse than watching a movie made on a smartphone that switches between portrait and landscape formats.
In short, if you’re planning to make movies with Google Photos, ensure you keep your shots’ orientation consistent. Otherwise, you can end up with some very jarring cuts. For the best results overall, however, stick with a landscape orientation.
iOS vs. Android
While the Google Photos movie editor tool is available for both iOS and Android (but not for any Windows 10 devices), you’ll find that there are some marked operational differences between the two.
As a result, we’re going to look at each app in turn, and demonstrate how you can create awesome home movies (and more) on both platforms.
To be clear, the end results are indistinguishable. The only difference is how you edit the clips together in your respective app. To minimize the confusion, we’ll look at the process first in Android, and then in iOS.
Make Movies on Android With Google Photos
Getting started making movies in Google Photos in Android is simple. Just open the app, long tap to select the first video clip (or photo, even) in your gallery, then select the others you want to use. With your selection made (up to 50 clips can be selected), click the + button, then choose Movie from the menu.
Wait while the files are uploaded, and the initial movie made. You’ll get the option to give the movie a title, and preview it.
Notice that a theme (or style) for the video will have been preselected by the app. Additionally, music will have been assigned, and the clips you selected used. However, there is no guarantee that any of this will be to your satisfaction.
So what can you do?
Manually Edit the Movie
Automated movie creation is useful, and can occasionally deliver great results. For the best results, however, you will need to manually edit your clips. Do this by selecting the film strip icon during playback.
From here, select the individual clip you wish to edit. For instance, you might want to adjust when the clip begins so you can capture the subject entering the frame. Conversely, you may want the clip to end when the subject goes out of shot. Both can be achieved by tapping the scissors Trim icon and dragging the placeholders to trim the clip to your requirements.
Clips can also be rearranged (long-press and drag) or discarded entirely (tap and press the trashcan icon). Tap + to find the original clip in your library if you want to restore it.
Each of the clips can be edited, but note that they must be downloaded first, then re-uploaded, so this can prove to be a time-consuming exercise. You’ll probably have more success on a tablet than on a phone. Ultimately, however, you’ll have the edit that you want.
On to this, you can tweak the music via the note icon, and change the style using the clapperboard button. Various tunes are available in the Google library, a collection of royalty-free clips grouped by category. You can also select music from your device library, but if you’re sharing the clip, it’s best to make sure that you have permission to use the tunes.
Meanwhile, the styles you can apply to your video range from 8mm-style movie filters, to black and white, or documentary themes.
When you’re done, click the checkmark to confirm your changes. Wait for the new version to be uploaded, and you’ll soon be able to share it via your usual Android apps!
Create Awesome Movies on iOS With Google Photos
If you’re using an iPhone or iPad, the principle is the same for the creation of movies, but there are some notable differences.
Begin by selecting your video clips (and photos, perhaps). A long tap will enable selection. Dragging your finger diagonally will enable the selection of additional files. When you’re happy with the selection, click the + button, then select Movie in the Create new menu.
The is where the iOS app begins to differ from the Android offering. You’ll notice that the files are downloaded from your Google Photos unlimited cloud storage. Here, however, they’re displayed in a timeline. Movie editing apps have long used timelines — they make it easy to see what’s going on.
In this app, you can tap each clip in the timeline (on the left-hand preview) to see what is selected.
If you’re happy with the automatically-created movie, you can click Save. You’ll then be able to share finished video via your favorite social apps on your iPhone or iPad. Information (i) can also be seen for the edited file. If you’re not happy with the movie, however, you might opt to Delete it. The menu in the top-right will let you Download the finished movie to your phone or tablet, or Add to album in your Google Photos cloud storage.
And if you’re not happy with the automated edit and want to change it, there’s the Edit button.
Edit and Trim Your Movie Clips
Trimming, discarding, or adding a new clip in Google Photos movie editor on iOS is simple. Review the video first, and make a note of what you want to change. You’ll notice as the video plays that the clips are highlighted in turn, and the portion of footage used in the compiled video is highlighted with start and finish placeholders.
To alter the trim, simply drag the placeholders so that the footage you want to see in the movie is selected. Want to delete the clip entirely? You can tap the three dots at the end of each row and display the menu, where you’ll find the option to Remove.
Also in this menu are the options to Hide trimmed portions, Mute audio (this is done by default, but disable if you want your video audio to play along with the chosen soundtrack) and Insert clips. You can also Duplicate a clip.
This last option is useful if you have a five-second portion of a clip selected in the timeline, but want to add another portion from the same clip. Simply duplicate the clip, and select the additional footage!
Edit Audio and Styles (or Not)
If you were dissatisfied with the preselected audio, you can click the note icon to choose music from your device (My Music) or from the royalty-free library (Theme music). Also, an option is No music, to hear only the audio in your clips (useful if you’re an amateur movie maker, perhaps).
Unlike the Android version, however, it isn’t possible to apply a theme or Instagram-style filter to your movie. This seems a striking omission, one that will hopefully be resolved in future updates.
Great Movie Results With Google Photos!
As you can see, while both apps appear to be the same, the Android and iOS versions of Google Photos offer quite different tools for creating movies. Indeed, each has features that the other doesn’t — it’s odd that the Android version doesn’t have the same flexible timeline as the iPhone app. Similarly, the absence of Styles is notable in iOS. Perhaps a future update will add these absent highlights into each version, for the good of the end user!
Whichever version you’re using, the end result is a great movie, complete with musical soundtrack and perhaps even an Instagram-style filter. Once created, these can be shared on Facebook or Instagram, or whatever other social networks you might have installed on your device.
And if you like that kind of thing, the app might even work in the background, using Google’s immense cloud hardware to create a surprise movie for you to enjoy next time you unlock your device.
Have you used Google Photos to make movies? Perhaps there are other tools you prefer for editing smartphone footage? Is Google Photos more useful than the mobile version of iMovie? Tell us more in the comments.