Google Motion App Turns iPhone Live Photos Into Animated GIFs

Posted on June 8, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in iOS, Music + Videos with 0 Comments

Google Motion App Turns iPhone Live Photos Into Animated GIFs

This week, Google released an interesting app called Motion Stills … for iOS. It turns an iPhone’s live photos into animated GIFs and short movies that can easily be shared.

This is interesting on a number of levels, the most obvious being that “live photos” taken with an iPhone are proprietary, which makes them hard to share. There are a few services that support iPhone live photos already—notably Facebook—but they’re still largely an Apple-only solution, like iMessage.

For you Lumia fans, I’ll point out yet again that Apple has once again popularized a feature that debuted first elsewhere, most notably with the Living Images feature from Nokia/Lumia Camera app. Which, by the way, used standard movie files that were easily shared, unlike what Apple is doing.

But live photos are interesting on iPhone for the same reason that Living Images were interesting on Lumia devices a few years ago: Though automatic and requiring no work on the part of the photo taker, they result in surprisingly compelling peeks at the “living” moment that is occurring as you take a photo. The trick is getting them out of the Apple prison.

So Google Motion does this. It comes from Google Research, which makes the app a Google equivalent to Microsoft’s Garage apps, meaning that it is an experiment of sorts and not necessarily up to the stringent testing that higher profile apps receive. That said, Google says it will incorporate this technology soon into Google Photos too.

“We use our video stabilization technology to freeze the background into a still photo or create sweeping cinematic pans,” Google explains. “The resulting looping GIFs and movies come alive, and can easily be shared via messaging or on social media.”

So in some ways Google Motion doesn’t just let iPhone live photos spring free from Apple, it actually makes them better too. Intrigued by this, I installed the app and was fascinated to discover that it quickly identified several months worth of live photos that could be made into fun animated GIFs or little repeating videos.

Here’s an example, where my son is taking a Christmas gift— a new chair—for a spin.


There’s not much you can do to edit the clip per se, which has image stabilization automatically applied. (You can turn that off if you like.) But you do have a choice between GIF and (video) clip, the latter of which is saved in MOV format for some ungodly reason. Here’s a video clip of the “season” tree I always take pictures of, where you can see that it was a bit windy when I took the photo. (I had to upload it to YouTube for it to display correctly.)

Obviously, some pictures work better than others. But I quickly got lost in my collection, looking for the good ones. For example, this concert shot is pretty good.


And that train is coming into the station.


There’s also a way to stitch separate photos together into an animated photo slideshow that can then be saved to YouTube or elsewhere.

This is a really cool app. You can download Motion Stills for free from the Apple Apps Store.

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