How Apple Developed Cinematic Mode

iPhone 13 Cinematic mode Credit: Apple
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Apple is continuously tweaking the camera in the iPhone, improving the lenses and adding cool new features – and the new iPhone 13 is no exception. One of the showcase features added to the iPhone 13 lineup is the Cinematic mode. Cinematic mode intelligently adjusts the focus of a video from object to object based on the context of the scene.

In an interview with TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino, Apple’s VP Kaiann Drance and Human Interface Team designer Johnnie Manzari talks about this Cinematic mode and how the company developed the idea and integrated it into the latest iPhone model.

According to Drance and Manzari, Apple didn’t choose Cinematic mode as its core feature – the idea actually developed organically as the team explored the craft of filmmaking.

“When you look at the design process,” says Manzari, “we begin with a deep reverence and respect for image and filmmaking through history. We’re fascinated with questions like what principles of image and filmmaking are timeless? What craft has endured culturally and why?”

After speaking with cinematographers, camera operators, and other video professionals, Apple realized that depth of focus was a crucial story-telling tool. A shift in focus draws the eye from one object to another, leading the viewer to focus on elements the artist wants them to see.

Apple’s goal in adding it to the iPhone was to make it easy for owners to use this technique in their videos without professional-level training.

Cinematic mode A
Cinematic mode B

Not surprisingly, the task of manipulating the depth of field relies heavily on the A15 Bionic and its neural engine to do the heavy lifting.

Unlike photos, video is constantly moving and requires the phone to capture this high-quality depth of field data continually. This process also must work with various subjects, including people, pets, and even inanimate objects. Rendering all this data and interpreting it requires significant processing power.

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