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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