Sun. Oct 17th, 2021
iPhone 13 Cinematic Mode video shot on the street with no extra equipment


Cinematic Mode video is one of the headline new features of the iPhone 13. The big question has been what performance would be like in real life. Apple’s own demo was incredibly impressive, but that of course relied on professional lighting and as many takes as were needed to get a great result.

We’ve already had one answer, from the WSJ’s Joanna Stern, who shot a music video in a studio, again with professional lighting and mounting equipment. But a new music video shot with nothing more than the iPhone 13 itself gives a much more realistic idea …

Cinematic Mode is effectively Portrait mode for video, adding artificial blur to the background – but also allowing selective focus, and some AI-driven automatic selection of focus points.

Stern wasn’t very impressed with her own experience.

The software struggles to know where objects begin and end. It’s a lot like the early days of Portrait Mode, but it’s worse because now the blur moves and warps. I shot footage where the software lost parts of noses and fingers, and struggled with items such as a phone or camera.

But while studio conditions give you optimum control, they also increase our expectations.

Videographer Jonathan Morrison took a very different approach when he created a music video for singer Julia Wolf. It was shot on the street using the iPhone 13 Pro – and absolutely nothing else, not even a gimbal.

Went hands on with the iPhone 13 Pro and immediately wanted to test out the camera and cinematic mode. It’s limited to 1080p 30fps but I was surprised to see how sharp it was AND that it retained Dolby Vision.

The result? It’s not perfect, for sure. Some of the artefacts Stern complained about are visible, especially around Wolf’s hair as she turns her head. Then there are the same issues we saw with the early iterations of Portrait mode – look at the gap in her right arm, for example, where the chairs in the background have been left in focus.

Any professional videographer watching it will be cringing at that.

But honestly, for a smartphone video, it really is stunning. I doubt that many of Wolf’s fans will be obsessing about the imperfections in the AI processing. It’s a fantastic example of what can be achieved with a single device and an ordinary location if you have enough talent.

Plus, of course, this is the first generation of the technology. Like Portrait mode, it will improve significantly over time as Apple works on the algorithms.

For me, the most exciting thing about this capability is that it’s going to inspire a new generation of filmmakers, who can begin creating videos with a truly cinematic look using nothing more than their phone. I really can’t wait to see more examples.

And personally, I love the idea of being able to create more cinematic-looking travel videos without having to carry any other kit with me.

Check out the video below – but note that it has explicit lyrics.

What’s your take? Let us know in the comments.

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