Google is rolling out a powerful upgrade that will give users full control over one of Google Photos’ stand-out features.
As revealed in a recent post on the unofficial Google Photos Telegram group, some users have gained the ability to create Cinematic photos on demand. The Cinematic photos feature, introduced back in 2020 and later updated in 2022, adds a cinematic 3D-like zoom effect to your photos which can really make the subject stand out from the background. However, it’s always been Google’s decision which photos should receive the effect.
Now, the newly enhanced version of the feature allows users to convert any photo in their library into a Cinematic photo, which is saved as a short video clip alongside the original image. This change should have a major impact on engagement with the feature as, in my experience, Google Photos rarely chooses to apply the effect, and hardly ever to the photos I would have chosen for myself.
Following this update, the feature becomes a useful tool rather than an occasional curiosity, opening up new creative options to users who will be able to shoot specifically with Cinematic photos in mind when taking new pictures. The ability to choose the photos for yourself further allows you to tell a story by integrating selected Cinematic photos into longer video sequences.
Another advantage is that, these ‘new’ Cinematic photos, tend to retain their original crop and aspect ratio, unlike the original versions which would usually crop in quite tightly on the subject. They are also presented at up to 4K resolution rather than 1080p.
How to create a Cinematic Photo
To find out if the feature is enabled on your Google Photos account, open the app and go to the Library tab, then tap the Utilities button. The option to create a Cinematic photo will then show up in the section called Create New.
To create one for yourself, tap on Cinematic photo, select a single picture and adjust the slider below to choose how long you want the animation to last. Then tape Save and you’re done.
Note that a separate 30MB download is initiated the first time the feature is used, indicating that it works as a new plug-in component of the Google Photos app. This suggests to me that at least some of the processing required to create Cinematic photos has been moved off of Google’s servers and onto the local device. It also indicates that the speed of the feature is likely to vary considerably according to the processing power of your device. One annoying quirk is that new Cinematic photos are tagged with the date they were created, not the date the original photo was taken. This means they won’t appear together in your Google Photos timeline.
Who will be able to create Cinematic photos?
At the moment, the feature appears to be limited to a small test group of Google One subscribers with Pixel devices, Pixel 5 and newer, and at least Android 12. I would expect a wider roll-out to start soon, although it remains to be seen whether hope for an eventual roll-out beyond Pixel smartphones, although performance may become a limiting factor in some cases.
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