For those with the iPhone 3GS, the new iPhone 3.1 software adds a much-requested option to its video recording and trimming capabilities.
Whereas iPhone 3.0 would permanently trim a clip (the "trim original" option) and erase the portions of the clip that were outside of the parameters of the trim bar, which made for some harrying moments if one weren't paying close attention to the trimmed clip, iPhone 3.1 adds a "save as new clip" option that creates a separate file while leaving the original video file intact.
We tested the feature on a 32GB iPhone 3GS, using clips shot both before and after the upgrade to iPhone 3.1, to see what surprises were in store.
First, let's start with trimming. The ability to trim video within the iPhone 3GS window is very intuitive: select either end of the clip and begin to dragging the trim bar towards the center. The bar will turn from gray to yellow to emphasize the fact that you've chosen to trim. Lift a finger and the trim bar stays where you placed it, and the process can then be repeated for the other end of the clip (assuming you want to trim both the beginning and the end of the clip).
Keeping a finger on the trim bar, anywhere other than the beginning or end of the clip, will result in the video automatically lengthening out beyond the end of the screen. Don't be frightened, as this is intentional: the lengthening is Apple's way of allowing fine-tuned trimming, especially handy for long clips that may be trimmed to 10-20% of their original length.
A note for those frustrated users: 9 times out of 10 during our tests, when we chose to start trimming from the in point, the positioning slider was selected instead of the trim bar, due to the fact that they're both in the same location. The 10th time we actually ended up hitting the "camera roll" button. We suggest turning the iPhone sideways, although this still resulted in numerous touches to the positioning slider, so we also suggest starting the trim from the end of the clip, which makes the positioning slider disappear.
Once the clip is trimmed to your liking, choose the yellow "trim" button to access the two saving options. Choose "trim original" to discard all the remaining video (both before and after your trim points) or "save as new clip" to just save a copy of the trimmed portion while leaving the original clip intact.
It's also worth noting that the new clip will be saved with the current time and date, while the "trim original" clips are saved with the original time and date. While this is understandable, it makes using the iPhone 3GS less effective for multi-shot recordings (such as a short film or news reporting) since one has to search for the original and new clips in different areas (especially if iPhoto, Apple's program of choice for importing still images and video clips from the iPhone, has the "auto split events after import" box checked for splitting imports by different dates).
Finally, while we assume this workflow also works for the new iPod nano's video recording capabilities, we've been unable to test with the new nano and don't yet know which version of the iPod software it uses.