Everyone has grown up watching movies and cinematic classics with intricate focus flips to change their view to another subject on the screen and wondering how they could pull off such a shot. To get the results you see in your favorite movies and TV shows, you need not only specialized tools, but also years of focusing experience.
But today, you can have that capability confined to a device as small as a smartphone thanks to companies like Apple. First available on the iPhone 13 series, iPhone’s Cinematic mode lets you shoot movies with a shallow depth of field and shift focus from one subject to another to give your work a more “cinematic” aesthetic.
Before explaining how to use cinematic mode correctly, make sure your device is compatible. At the moment, only this year’s iPhone 13 series and recently released iPhone 14 series are supported.
- iPhone 14 Pro
- iPhone 14 ProMax
- iPhone 14
- iPhone 14 plus
- iPhone 13 Pro
- iPhone 13 ProMax
- iPhone 13
- iPhone 13 Mini
First of all, everything is good in moderation. Likewise, the background blur, or bokeh, that you can achieve with cinematic mode should be used sparingly. Overdoing it can make your footage look unnatural (more on that later).
To record in Cinematic mode, go to the Camera app on your iPhone and slide to Cinematic mode.
Just like you would with a “real” DSLR or mirrorless camera, you can modify the F-Stop in cinematic mode to modify the depth. Despite not being hardware-based, the software’s ability to give you such fine-grained control over the images you receive is truly remarkable.
Depending on the creative direction and needs of your shot, choose an F-Stop. Now, as I said earlier in this article, don’t overdo the blur/bokeh. At the end of the day it’s all software trying to mimic a hardware solution, ergo make sure your depth of field isn’t too shallow which makes your footage look unnatural.
Depending on the iPhone model you own, you can choose between normal 1X and 3X telephoto lenses to shoot your videos. The 3X lens on iPhone Pros lets you shoot beautiful video with the cinema-like background compression that comes with 50mm and larger lenses.
You can also adjust the exposure by tapping the exposure button and adjusting the slider to make your image darker or brighter.
How to adjust the focus? Well, you can tap your subject in the viewfinder to bring it into focus. If you have multiple subjects in the frame, you can switch between the two depending on your shooting requirements. In addition, you can also set the focus to auto by double-tapping the subject and holding the screen to lock focus from a distance.
Editing footage in cinematic mode
If you make a mistake while shooting, don’t worry because you can adjust the depth of field and focus areas even after taking the video, something you can’t do with professional-grade cameras.
This is how you can edit a video in cinematic mode:
- Open the Photos app > Touch the video you want to edit.
- Tap Edit
- With the depth control button, adjust the depth of field to your preference. Once you’re done with your edits, tap Done.
- Now if you want to change the focus, on the video timeline, you will see yellow dots. These dots indicate the moments in your video when the focus changes between subjects.
- When you navigate to that point, the subject in focus will have a yellow square and subjects that are not in focus will have a white square.
- If you want the focus to change from one to the other, tap the white square to change the focus. And you can do anything from lock focus to setting autofocus.
As good as the editing features are, it’s a good idea to get used to doing the most work while shooting. Leaving everything for post-production is not ideal.
Cinematic mode is ideal for content creators who want to improve the quality of their production. Not only does it create a more professional look for your footage, but it also ensures that you put in the creative effort. Have fun, let your creativity flow!
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