The best thing about Vine has always been how crazy simple the app makes it to shoot and share a looping six-second video. You press the screen to shoot, lift up your finger to stop shooting, and that's pretty much it. Vine's latest update, which just landed on iOS and will come to Android later, adds some new tools and the long-needed ability to import video shot with other apps. It's more flexible, but without cluttering up Vine's minimal interface.
I downloaded the new version of Vine onto my iPhone. Here's what to expect the first time you launch the updated app.
Launch Vine and its main screen remains a scrollable list of videos by the users you follow, but the buttons are all moved around. The previous version of Vine for iOS had the Record button at the top-right and a home button at the top-left that produced a drop-down menu of the other screens: Explore, Activity, Profile, and Messages. The new version puts a row of buttons at the bottom, with the bright green Record button right at the center, surrounded by Home, Explore, Activity, and Profile. That makes the Record button easier to push with your thumb, especially if (when?) larger-screened iPhones hit the scene, and this update rolls out to Android phones.
The new app also has a Find People button at the top-left, letting you search for new Vine pals from your address book or Twitter contacts. Previously, the Find Contacts screen was hidden on your Profile page, so this change makes it a lot easier to find--and I'm sure that Vine hopes that the more people you follow, the more engaged you'll stay with the app. Messages is moved to the top-right, and both the Find People and Messages buttons stay where they are as you navigate around Vine's various tabs, simplifying navigation.
Yes, you can finally import video into the app! This is long overdue--rival Instagram has had this capability for a year now--and will get me to post way, way more Vines. Lately I've restricted myself to posting Vines from concerts, whereas videos of my friends or my child only ever wind up on Instagram. That's because I prefer to shoot with my iPhone's Camera app, and Instagram had video importing capabilities that Vine lacked up until now.
Anyway, now you can shoot the video for your Vines with whatever app you like. I shot one with Action Movie FX of a fake car being dropped on my office, probably by Godzilla or something.
To import video, just hit the Record button, and then tap the Import button on the far left--it looks like a half a square with an arrow pointing at it. That shows a grid of video clips in your Camera Roll, and you can preview a clip by tapping it. If your clip is longer than six seconds (the running times are helpfully displayed), the preview shows the whole clip, even though you're still limited to six-seconds when producing your Vine.
After choosing a clip, tap the right arrow to advance to the Trim & Crop screen. Here you're able to drag the white slider in from the right to shorten a clip. You can push the timeline itself around inside the orange box if you want to start the Vine a few seconds into the video itself.
Once you click Add, the clip is added to your Vine, and if it doesn't take up the whole six seconds, you can add more (either from your Camera Roll or by shooting them in the app). Once you reach the six-second limit, or you tap the forward arrow again, you get to the Preview screen.
More editing tools
On the Preview screen, you'll see... a preview, of course. Tap the big green checkmark to post the video to Vine, or the little floppy disk button to save it for later, without posting it. (Saving it for later does not export the video to your Camera Roll, it just saves it within Vine.) You'll also see another new Edit button, with a scissors icon.
Tapping that brings you to a new screen, with all the clips that make up your Vine video. Tap a clip to select it, which lets you trim it again with the orange slider. Buttons along the bottom let you duplicate a clip, trash just that clip without affecting the rest of the video, or mute that clip. Muting is a nice touch, but it seems odd that you can't then record a voiceover or otherwise add new sounds--only take all the sound away.
More shooting tools too
If you're shooting part or all of your Vine inside the Vine app, you've got some new tools that can make the process easier. In the toolbar at the bottom of the shooting screen, you'll notice a wrench icon. Tap it for a second toolbar with some extra buttons. The Grid button was in the last version of Vine, but now if you tap it a second time, you get a bubble level designed to help you achieve a perfectly straight horizon--or a perfectly slanted one, if that's how you roll.
The button that looks like a little target is the focus lock. That was in the last version of Vine too. You tap it once, then tap the screen where you want your video to be focused; the icon then changes to a padlock so you know the focus is locked.
The Ghost button was in the last version of Vine too--it can make filming stop-motion Vines easier. When you're filming a little stop-motion with your Lego minifigs, it's handy to see where they were standing in the last clip so you could move them just so before shooting the next clip. Or it could help you shoot a video where your feet stay still and only the background moves.
The bottom line is, Vine's new tools should make it easier for power users to crank out even more creative work, while staying out of the way of amateurs like me who just like to amuse themselves at concerts by looping six seconds of youthful exuberance. Now Vine just needs a feature to let you make each clip in your video a uniform length, so I can stop counting "One, one-thousand, two, one-thousand" when timing my finger-presses.