When we heard about Cinemagram, the first thing we thought was, "Instagram meets animated GIF." The free app for iOS lets users create 2- to 3-second videos, or "cines," as Cinemagram calls them, then apply a filter to that video and share it on a social network. However, we had a few questions: Could a cool video really be constructed in just a few seconds? Are the filters any good? We went hands-on to answer these questions and more.
After downloading Cinemagram from the App Store (sorry, no Android version yet), we opened the app, which showed a feed of users' recently uploaded videos. We're fans of the overall interface. If you've ever used Instagram, Cinemagram is very similar. You can view other users' cines, and like or comment on a video.
After tapping Get Started, we could log in using our Facebook, Twitter or email accounts. Then a menu bar appeared at the bottom with several icons. Friends act as your News Feed; Explore let us search for cines; Capture let us create videos; Activity shows what cines your friends have liked or reposted; and You shows your profile.
The You tab takes your default photo and name from whichever social network you linked to, but you can modify this information if you like. However, you don't have the option to make your profile private. Here, we also saw that 15 of our friends had recently joined Cinemagram. The app presented a screen that showed our friends, along with the option to follow them.
At the bottom of our profile, we could view all the cines we had liked or reposted, and in the My Creations tab we could see cines we had created.
In the Friends tab, you can like a cine, repost to your followers, comment or share on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, email or iMessage.
Within Explore, there were Trending, Inspire, Entertainment and Stumble sub-categories. However, it wasn't clear to us what these different categories meant, and some cines had only one Like. When we asked Cinemagram for the method behind its organization, the company said that it couldn't divulge that information.
The Entertainment feed exists to see what celebrities are on the social network and view their Cines. We didn't recognize any celebrities, but perhaps this will improve once more celebs join Cinemagram.
How Cinemagram Works
When you press the Capture tab, you can either create a new video or choose from your existing videos. However, if your video is longer than 2 to 3 seconds, you must identify the part you'd like to use by moving two yellow bars within the clip.
After we selected the clip, a Mask tab appeared. We could select a region within the frame to animate, while the rest of the video remained frozen. For example, we used a video of a light show we took at a concert and applied the Mask feature to the center of the clip, where the lights all came together. When we were finished, the part of the cine that we had selected moved, while the rest remained frozen. It's a neat effect, and lets you focus on one element and eliminate the background noise.
We could then apply one of 18 filters, including Black and White and Sepia, but most are named after popular cities such as New York and Bangkok. Most filters were pretty similar; we would like to have seen a bit more variation.
Remix lets users create cines using studio-produced clips. We could choose videos from Red Bull, PinksPage, TMZ, One Direction or ParamountPics. The brands using Remix ask that you tag their name, so they can see the cine you've created.
The total length it took to create a cine depended on whether or not we used the Mask feature, but generally it was no longer than a few minutes. Cines can be uploaded via 3G and Wi-Fi.
We had little problem creating our own cines. However, we wish you could draw straight lines or perfect shapes with the paintbrush in the Mask feature; it was impossible to highlight exactly what we wanted to animate, which resulted in a somewhat sloppy cine.
One thing to note: Cinemagram only works in portrait mode, but most videos taken (including those in the Remix feature) are in landscape mode, which makes for a somewhat awkward editing experience.
Cinemagram lets you automatically upload cines to Facebook, Tumblr or Twitter. You can also share cines on these social networks after you've posted them, simply by tapping the Share button in the bottom right below the cine. We like that Cinemagram lets you share your cines with so many social networks, as well as via email and iMessage.
We enjoyed looking at users' cines, but were increasingly frustrated with how long it took some cines to load. Some loaded in a matter of seconds, but most of the time it took several minutes and some simply never loaded.
We're huge fans of Instagram, and we think Cinemagram has the potential to be big, too. To be sure, Cinemagram has a few kinks to work out, such as its organization, speed (or lack thereof) and privacy options. However, its novel approach to editing and enhancing video clips makes it worthy of a spin.