New Google app turns Live Photos into animated GIFs and movies with cinematic backgrounds

By , Jun 7, 2016

Google Motion Stills 1.0 for iOS teaser 001

Google today announced it’s launching a brand new iPhone application aimed at those who wish to turn their Live Photos into animated GIFs. Aptly named Motion Stills, the app turns Live Photos into Motion Stills with Google’s stabilization technology and cinematic backgrounds.

These Motion Stills can then be shared as looping GIFs on social media. Motion Stills is available free in the App Store.

Virtual cameraman for your Live Photos

A Google Research project, the new Motion Stills app acts as a virtual cameraman for your Live Photos. You can browse through your Live Photos stream, flip through one-by-one, watch them auto-play or, as mentioned, turn them into movies or even combine multiple Motion Stills together with a swipe.

“We use our video stabilization technology to freeze the background into a still photo or create sweeping cinematic pans,” Google explains.

Google Motion Stills 1.0 for iOS example 001

This advanced stabilization and rendering technology reminds me a lot about the Google Photos app, which has a similar feature that automatically picks best shots in your library and turns them into compelling movies.

Google says that all of this works right on your iPhone, no Internet connection needed.

Cinematic backgrounds and stabilization

Based on linear programming, Google’s algorithm computes a virtual camera path so that Live Photos and bursts look as if filmed using stabilization equipment.

According to Google:

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 video game.

The app uses loop optimization to figure out optimal start and end points and discard blurry frames in order to fix the problem when taking Live Photos when you forget to hold your iPhone still for 1.5 seconds after pressing the shutter button.

Google Motion Stills 1.0 for iOS example 003
A Live Photo before and after stabilization with Motion Stills

Technical trickery

But how do they separate the background from the rest of the scene?

Basically, Google classifies motion vectors into foreground and background 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,” the post reads.

Google Motion Stills 1.0 for iOS example 002
Left: Original with virtual camera path (red rectangle) and motion classification; foreground(red) vs. background(green) Right: Motion Stills results

All that technical jargon shouldn’t concern non-techies who only need to know they have yet another free option when it comes to converting Live Photos into GIFs.

And if enough people like Google’s new technology for short video creation, they will consider integrating it into other products like Google Photos.

Pricing and availability

Motion Stills requires an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad with iOS 9.0 or later.

The app is localized in English, Catalan, Chinese (Hong Kong), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Norwegian Bokmål, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Traditional Chinese, Turkish, Ukrainian and Vietnamese.

Grab Motion Stills for free from the App Store.

Source: Google

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  • Jayy

    Finally an app centered around Live Photos that doesn’t require iOS 9.1

    • leart

      meh, used ios 9.0 for a week, then used my old back up from 8.3 and the iphone bricked itself.. anyway not a big loos … 9.3.2 is 300% more stable and smoother… ok no jb, but the device feels finally a iphone

      • Jayy

        Ah so you ended up going to 9.3.2. When iOS 10 comes out I’ll be upgrading though.

      • leart

        had no choice, the device failed to start after restore from backup.. so far feels like a another device

      • Jayy

        Oh I see, I see. That’s weird that your iOS 8 backup disabled the phone. But who knows maybe a surprise 9.3 jailbreak will appear !

      • leart

        not sure what it was, when the process ended and the device started to do the finals things, failed to fill that progress line,, just restarted and got stuck again.. had a research on internet and it was a known problem with 9.0.. it was alive just 5-6 days after the launch

      • Jayy

        Yeah now that I think about it, I do believe that as soon as I picked up my 6s plus maybe a week later a .2 update was released

  • Yujin

    I guess quality is not a big concern.

    • Jayy

      Yeah I just tried it out, it compresses the quality a lot! I was also going to post it on here in the comments but the file size is to big!

  • Archer

    It won’t work on iPhone 4S tho. lol

    • Because 4S doesn’t support Live Photos, I guess? 😉

      • Archer

        yeah, selling my phone either way since ios10 it’s arriving

  • leart

    hem.. iphone 6

  • Mallouk Malek

    VERY lame to browse for photos, specially if you have kids like me and have to scroll 100s of photos one by one to get to the one you want to edit

  • ravinigga

    Forgot the most important part Google made this to get information.