Google Presents --- Motion Stills
Written by David Conrad   
Wednesday, 08 June 2016

Following in the footsteps of Microsoft's Cliplets, Google has a new app that will create an auto-stabilized looping gif that is supposed to be more impressive than a simple still image - try telling that to an Ansel Adams fan.


The idea of trying to go beyond the still image but not all the way to a movie is not new. Microsoft Research produced Cliplets back in 2012, but so far they haven't really caught on as a mainstream medium. Google's new "Motion Stills" app hopes to change this by making the idea more widely available and perhaps even better. 

The first strange thing is that it is only available as an iOS app - yes no Android. Part of the reason is that it uses Apple's Live Photos as input and at the moment there is no default equivalent on Android. A Live Photo records a short video before and after the moment the still image is taken. The problem with Live Photos is that sometimes they are just blurry messes, even though the still image is fine. 

Google has taken some of the technology it uses to stabilize You Tube videos and have applied it to creating stabilized looping gifs.

It works by computing a virtual camera track through the video that stabilizes it. The video frames are then warped and rendered to represent what they would have looked like from the stabilized camera path.  This creates a still background and a moving foreground - which is usually what you want.  This is a big computation and it is obvious that a lot of work has had to be put into the implementation to allow it to run on a smartphone. 



The second part of the trick is converting the stabilized video into a looping gif. The app scans the video, throwing away blurry frames, until it finds suitable start and end points where the frames are sufficiently close to avoid a jump when the video loops. Again this is a computationally intensive task. 

What you are left with is, hopefully, a stabilized looping gif that repeats without too jarring a jump at the repeat.  

The samples that Google has supplied certainly look fun. How it will work in real use is another matter. The really good news is that it makes it very easy to share animated gifs. 



More Information

Motion Stills – Create beautiful GIFs from Live Photos

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 08 June 2016 )