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Hands on with Windows 10’s Story Remix, the new tool to make your photos pop

Microsoft’s Story Remix was expected to be one of the highlights of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, and it lives up to that promise, combining the existing, excellent Photos app with a video and slideshow editor that adds transitions, music, and even fantastic 3D animations.

Remember how Paint 3D brought Paint into a new dimension, with stamped textures and 3D objects? Story Remix adds the same creative element to Windows 10’s Photos app. Unfortunately, it’s not quite the cohesive experience you might hope for, as Photos now has two different interfaces—the traditional app and Story Remix—and you may need to bounce back and forth between the two.

We tested Story Remix as a special beta update of the Photos app for Windows Insiders, complete with an odd Photos Add-on app that unexpectedly tagged along. Microsoft has promised Story Remix will be part of a Photos update released with the Fall Creators Update. (Though we tested a “final build” of the Fall Creators Update supplied by Microsoft, that build lacked the 3D effects. We’ve instead based this story on our previous work with the Insider builds, which included them.)

photos story remix Mark Hachman / IDG

The new Story Remix interface, found within the Photos app.

Story Remix, or Windows Photos? How to tell

How do you know if you have access to Story Remix? The tipoff is the new tab names at the top of the app: Collection, Creations, and Folders, which replace the older Collections, Albums, Folders hierarchy. “Collection” is where your camera roll of photos are stored, and “Creations” is where your new slideshows and video projects will live.

traditional photos app story remix Mark Hachman / IDG

The more traditional “Photos” interface, which supports inking and automatic image enhancing, among other adjustments. Story Remix does neither, at the moment.

It’s worth noting, though, that Story Remix and Photos exist (for now) within a sort of odd, yin-yang duality where both apps co-exist. If you choose to open or edit a file within Photos via File Explorer, Windows will open the “traditional” Photos interface. But if you simply launch the Photos app, the Story Remix interface will open. Interestingly, there also seems to be no way to transition between the two interfaces within the app itself. For the purposes of this evaluation, though, we’ll concentrate almost exclusively on Story Remix.

Microsoft story remix Microsoft

I really love the search feature, which automatically pulls out faces of people that appear in your photos, even kids without a Microsoft account.

Once you launch Photos (Story Remix), don’t jump past the search box—this is one of its better features. Once Story Remix is enabled, Photos will slowly index (about one image per second, according to a progress bar on my machine) each of the photos stored on your PC and OneDrive. The search bar allows you to search by location and topic using Microsoft’s own machine learning—when I searched for “snow,” for example, it pulled up pictures of a recent ski trip.

Side note: I back up my photos to both Google Photos and OneDrive, and both services are somewhat equally matched. Google found many more “snow” photos, but Microsoft unearthed more “beach” photos. Where Google excels, though, is its ability to search by face, and even name those faces. It makes it immeasurably easier to hunt down photos of your sister Christina. Microsoft also offers this feature—just click on the blank search box—but it pulled up far fewer pictures than Google.

In the current Windows 10 Creators Update, you may notice Photos occasionally sending you notifications that it has “created a story” for you, based on Photos you took on a certain date. That “story” was originally just a page of photos. Story Remix goes a step further, with  “Made for You” collections at the top of your Collection page. Inside you’ll find an algorithmically created slideshow made of photos Story Remix finds interesting, each with a bit of variation: a slight pan across, a bit of motion. This is where Story Remix really kicks off.

story remix options Mark Hachman / IDG

The options for what to do with video appear under the Story Remix “Create” menu.

How to get started with Story Remix for Photos

Basically, the point of the new Photos app, aka Story Remix, is to create a “story” of photos and video, enlivened by filters, transitions, music, and 3D objects. Story Remix collects relevant photos and puts them into a short slideshow which you can play, edit, and share. Click the highlighted “Create” button at the top of the screen and you’ll be able to select from three options: “Video remix,” “Video Project,” and “Album.”

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