Hands-On with Story Remix Preview

Posted on May 13, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Music + Videos, Windows 10 with 25 Comments

Story Remix was one of the more exciting announcements at Build 2017, and we can now take an early peek at this interesting new functionality that will be included in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update.

To do so, you’ll need a PC in the Fast ring of the Windows 10 Insider Preview, where you’ll find an early version of Story Remix. Not in a standalone app, but rather in an otherwise minor update to the Photos app.

That is, itself, somewhat confusing, as Microsoft described this solution ahead of Build as “a new creative app.”

“Story Remix uses the Microsoft Graph to transform your photos and videos,” Microsoft told press and bloggers a day before the app was revealed publicly. “This new creative app automatically brings your memories, or even your friends’ photos and videos together to create stories with a soundtrack, theme, and cinematic transitions. You can also create mixed reality by adding 3D objects to your photos and videos to tell stories in a whole new way, or turn your photos and videos into your canvas, drawing on them with Windows Ink.”

So at the moment, it’s unclear how Microsoft will deliver Story Remix in the Fall Creators Update. What is clear is how they’re doing it today, in preview form, via the Photos app.

The first thing you’ll notice is that the layout has changed: In the shipping version of the Photos app, you will see three top-level views: Collection, Album, and Folders. But this new version, with Story Remix functionality built-in, features different choices: Explore (which seems to be a combination of Collection and Albums), Create, and Folders.

After signing in so I could gain access to my OneDrive-based photo gallery, I checked out Create, correctly guessing that this was where one would access Story Remix. And sure enough, this view includes a prominent prompt to create a new story, plus some links to previous stories I had created in previous versions of Windows 10.

The New Story wizard is simple enough, and it prompts you to first add some photos and videos.

Naturally, I grabbed some content from my recent trip to Seattle. And Photos created a bland, blank story to start.

From here, I previewed the story just to see what it was (a basic photo slideshow).

Clearly, the title had to change—Seattle 2017 seems about right—and there are some basic items you can add, including music, the duration of each photo display, filters, text, and motion. (There are no video editing features I can see so far.)

Only that last bit is perhaps confusing: Motion lets you determine how any individual photo is panned over, and there are nice selection of choices.

But the big deal here in this first preview is the Remix feature that gives this functionality its name. Unlike linear video editors, but like Microsoft’s Office Sway utility (which was created by some of the same people), Story Remix doesn’t expect you to be an expert video editor, nor does it even provide such tools. Instead, what it does is provide you with a finished product which you can accept—exporting it to various formats—or … remix. You use the big “Remix it for me” button to do that.

When you do, you lose the previous version of the story, and in the case of an all-photo story like mine, the order of the photos is changed, as is the music.

The export options are likewise simple and friendly, and should be obvious even to a novice.

What’s missing, of course, is every single thing that was awesome about Story Remix in the Build 2017 keynote. And that, folks, is my problem with what happened onstage that day: Microsoft showed off a bunch of awesome looking functionality, in this case involving fire and dinosaurs. But none of that is actually available to try. Will it ever be? I would hope so. But experience as far back as 2003 (Longhorn) or as recent as last October (the Creators Update event) leave me nervous about broken promises.

I will say this: I know a lot of people are looking to Microsoft to create a proper Windows Movie Maker replacement. This isn’t it, not even close. But Story Remix, even in its current form, is much closer to what normal people want and can handle. And if you still have more serious needs, maybe it’s time to invest in Adobe Premiere Elements. I would have done so myself by now, but I’m hoping it will show up in Windows Store.

Anyway, I’ll keep my eye on Story Remix, of course. It’s pretty cool as it is, but it has a long way to go before it will provide the functionality Microsoft promised let alone equal Movie Maker. Between those two facts, this should disappoint just about anyone.

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Comments (25)

25 responses to “Hands-On with Story Remix Preview”

  1. dhallman

    Not in Canada? On the newest fast ring build. No update available for photos. No Explore or Create 'tab'...

  2. Ian S.

    Paul, I have to disagree with this being "what normal people want and can handle". Lots and lots and lots of students are getting kids involved with video editing. Not as advanced as Premiere Pro but at the very least for green screen functionality (e.g. create elementary school morning announcement videos) and school projects. In this case iMovie (which is pretty advanced for a free program) is HUGE. Secondly, those "creators" that could really benefit from say a Surface Laptop, Book, or Studio really need a Final Cut Pro X replacement. The majority of these YT Creators that do it for a career stay on Mac for FCPX. Of course, Premiere has Windows covered in the professional landscape.

  3. Ron F

    Did they at least included the face recognition in this build?

    I loved what I've seen this week but I am old enough to have waited too long for Longhorn and even Copland before. I know how easy os to overpromises when you have good ideas.

    • jimchamplin

      In reply to Ron F:

      Oh Christ. Copland. Gil Amelio's crowning achievement at Apple: Throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at a project that really only gave us the visual style for Mac OS 8.

      Longhorn didn't even give us that. Nothing survived of it at all.

  4. Gary Moncrieff

    I don't want to sound overly negative towards you Paul as I enjoy reading your content, but didn't the onenote guy say on WW that Story Remix was built on top of the photos app? IIRC he also stated something like "it will take a lot of work to get it to the stage shown on stage, but we have rolled out the first line of functionality in todays insiders update". To my end they have already explained that this early preview didn't contain all the features demoed.

  5. Jacob Klein

    I was able to add a video into the story timeline, then right-click it, to trim it to my exact specifications. In fact, since I wanted multiple portions of the same video, I was able to drag it multiple times into the timeline, and trim different sections for each instance.

    Worked quite well for me, in fact!

    I exported it (I chose "Large" size, it created an .mp4), and now am going to share it with friends! :)

  6. Rob_Wade

    Ah, yes. Yet another native app that WE HAVE TO SIGN IN ON because Microsoft has pretty much abandoned the integrated ecosystem/sign-in. This is getting old really quick. I will continue to use Nero Video. It does precisely what I need it to do, allows me to export with a lot of control over the rendering, and makes much more sense as far as the interface. For all the pain I experienced trying to use this preview version of Story Remix, the result wasn't worth it. I'm not making a science fiction movie, so I don't need to play with mixed reality stuff. That doesn't interest me in the least. I realize a lot of people were impressed with that stuff at build, but it has no place in the videos I generate.

  7. trevor_chdwck

    Really Paul, ending your review with "this should disappoint just about anyone" when writing about one of the coolest features revealed? You, my friend, are salty.

  8. bbold

    No word on Groove Music Maker?

  9. dcdevito

    Google Photos made me Mother's Day videos that consisted of images and videos and all I had to do was tell it who my mother is. In 2 minutes I had great videos.

    Sorry Microsoft, I'm sure this is a nice tool, but the game has changed.

  10. brettscoast

    And that's too bad as movie maker was indeed excellent combining all elements seamlessly

  11. Maelstrom

    Hum, by now, everyone should be well aware that, in a beta testing process, you don't test all features at once and right away, right? And what is available publicly for testing is different from the versions available privately.

    So, here is the feature you're missing in action, Paul. :)

  12. navarac

    Everything is being dumbed down nowadays, but interesting.

  13. MikeGalos

    Of course the product is long from feature complete and that's the reason Microsoft used to prohibit press reviews of beta software. Guess that's the cost of moving from closed technical and later open marketing betas to a massive public preview program. You can't put something out for feedback without the press lamenting things not in the beta yet.

  14. androido7

    What no meteor crashing into Brad's face then exploding?

  15. janerikSH

    seems like a more automatic version of Microsoft PhotoStory

  16. RedSign

    At least there is something to see and use here. And the demo they gave about Story Remix seem to be real code running. I'm far more concerned about features like Timeline that consisted of demo material only. That really brought back those Longhorn moments.

  17. bbold

    Sure, this is a great "add on" to Photos, but it would be nice if they would just fix one of the issues I've been having with it. When I unlink an account from Photos on my work computer, my personal photos still show up and they won't go away. Seems to be an issue with syncing and such. (I want to access Groove music on my work computer on my personal account, not view my personal photos on my work computer.) Also, we didn't hear anything about Movie Maker or Music Maker (what happened to that? Is it coming to Fall Creators Update?) Thanks for the great reporting guys.

    • dhallman

      In reply to bbold: I have not played with this much, but did you just add your account to Groove (bottom left corner of Groove app) or did you add your account to the PC? If the account is added inside the app it should not be available to other apps or the system as a whole. As I said, I have not done this in a while. It is possible adding the account in an app extends it to the entrre PC. That would be bad.

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