Google has released yet another iOS app.

The unique thing about this app is that it can convert Live Photos into shareable GIFs and movie montages. The app is called Motion Stills, and it essentially gives iPhone owners new ways to play with and share Live Photos. It also uses video stabilisation magic to make your photos less shaky. Here's everything you need to know about this new app, including how it works.

First, let's cover what a Live Photo isn't... A Live Photo isn't a video but rather a 12-megapixel photograph. When you snap a Live Photo, your camera actually captures motion 1.5 seconds before and after the still, which results in a brief animation of sorts. You can take them with an iPhone 6S or iPhone 6S Plus, iPhone SE, or 9.7-inch iPad Pro, and you can play them back with 3D Touch or a long-press on any iOS device. 

Motion Stills is a new iOS app from Google Research. Google has described the app as a "virtual camera operator" for your Live Photos. Google basically added its video stabilisation technology to the app to "freeze the background into a still photo or create sweeping cinematic pans".

Check out this Motion Stills example provided by Google:


Download the Motion Stills app from the Apple App Store. It's free, but because it uses Live Photos, you need Apple's newest iPhones to run the app. Once you download the app, you will see options to convert a Live Photo into a GIF or video clip. You must first create the Live Photo using your device's native camera app. After Motion Stills does its thing, you can share your creation via SMS, social media, etc.

The idea is that, with Motion Stills, you can turn your photos into GIFs that loop forever, or you can stitch them together into movies. Apart from letting you create GIFs and combine multiple clips into a movie montage, Motion Stills also allows you to share your GIFs in any messaging app and browse through your Live Photos stream. And all this doesn't require an internet connection.

Motion Stills will also stabilise the camera movement of a Live Photo for a steadier shot with less visible shakiness. Google basically said it perfected its stabilisation technology after stabilising hundreds of millions of videos and creating GIF animations via Google Photos, an app we reviewed and highly recommend to anyone looking for new ways to discover their photos. 

Here's how Google explained the stabilisation technology behind Motion Stills:

"Our algorithm uses linear programming to compute a virtual camera path that is optimized to recast videos and bursts as if they were filmed using stabilization equipment, yielding a still background or creating cinematic pans to remove shakiness. 

Our challenge was to take technology designed to run distributed in a data center and shrink it down to run even faster on your mobile phone. We achieved a 40x speedup by using techniques such as temporal subsampling, decoupling of motion parameters, and using Google Research’s custom linear solver, GLOP. We obtain further speedup and conserve storage by computing low-resolution warp textures to perform real-time GPU rendering, just like in a videogame.

Short videos are perfect for creating loops, so we added loop optimization to bring out the best in your captures. Our approach identifies optimal start and end points, and also discards blurry frames. This fixes “pocket shots” (footage of the phone being put back into the pocket). 

To keep the background steady while looping, Motion Stills has to separate the background from the rest of the scene. This is a difficult task when foreground elements occlude significant portions of the video. Our novel method classifies motion vectors into foreground (red) and background (green) in a temporally consistent manner. We use a cascade of motion models, moving our motion estimation from simple to more complex models and biasing our results along the way."

Check out Google's blog post for more details.