Getting The Most From Cinematic Mode On Your iPhone 13 Pro

by Steve Petyo October 10, 2021

Getting The Most From Cinematic Mode On Your iPhone 13 Pro

 Credit: Apple, YouTube- https://youtu.be/8Tl1RL8MRCA

Credit: Apple, YouTube- https://youtu.be/8Tl1RL8MRCA

If you were lucky enough to catch the multimedia extravaganza that was this year’s Apple Event, you might have seen the video above that highlights one of the iPhone 13’s coolest new features—Cinematic Mode. (The video, titled “Whodunnit,” is now viewable on YouTube in case you missed it.) 

In the 01:27 video that was shot entirely on the iPhone 13, you’re guided through scene after scene that reveals just how well this feature works. And, for all but the most discerning of cinematography buffs, it’s nearly impossible to tell this was filmed on a phone—and that AI-enabled software is what controlled the camera focus with such accuracy!

While the very purpose of the feature is to make it as simple as point-and-shoot to get the intended effect, it does take a little getting used to. Also, there are numerous ways that you can leverage Cinematic Mode, both using zoom, focus-lock, and more. In this article, we’ll cover some of the ways that you can get the most out of this awesome new camera capability!

What Is Cinematic Mode On iPhone 13?

Cinematic Mode uses artificial intelligence combined with Dolby Vision HDR to reproduce a cinematography technique called "rack focus" while simply pointing the camera at the scene—no extra tapping or zooming is necessary to achieve this effect.

The software seamlessly shifts the focus from one subject to another while you're recording your video by tracking faces and moving objects automatically. It then locks the focus on the most prominent subject in a scene while blurring the background to achieve a depth of field camera effect.

How Does The Rack Focus Technique Work?

Implementing the rack focus filmmaking technique involves changing the focused-on subjects during a continuous shot from one to the other, creating a depth-of-field effect in the process.

When a shot is said to “rack,” it’s when the focal plane shifts from one subject in the frame to another. This is also known in filmmaking as a "focus pull" or "pulling focus." The rack focus technique can include small or large changes in the focus, and the more shallow the depth of the field produced, the more noticeable the transition between focal subjects is.

The end result is the viewer being led by the focus from one subject to the next without changing the position of the camera, which is a subtle yet powerful way to create a very specific mood for the shot.

Tips For Getting The Most From Cinematic Mode

Using Cinematic Mode While Zooming In

One of the few drawbacks to Cinematic Mode is that it only allows you to use standard 1x or 3x views with no zooming in between. This means you’ll need to carefully set up the framing of your shot from start to finish in either zoom setting—you can’t pan in or out while recording.

When filming in 3x mode, it’s best to get as much stability as possible by using a tripod or hand-held gimbal device. This simple step will help the AI do a better job of recognizing what to keep focused on or shift focus to.

Leveraging The Auto Focus Lock

As good as Cinematic Mode is at tracking subjects, sometimes, if there is a lot of other movement going on in a scene, it can struggle. To prevent the focus from being shifted away from the foreground to the background, just tap and hold the foreground subject and the camera will lock the focus until you tap somewhere else.

Using The Auto-Tracking Lock Box

Sometimes in Cinematic Mode, you may want to switch the subject that the camera is auto-tracking. To do this, you just need to tap and hold the screen on the subject you want that has an Auto-Tracking rectangular box around it. This is a little different from the Auto-Focus lock, which will hold the focus at the specific foreground or background focal plane you lock it at, rather than tracking the desired subject as it moves.

Adjusting Depth-Of-Field With ƒ-Stop Settings

Another way you can achieve deeper levels of control while using Cinematic mode is by adjusting the ƒ-stop, or aperture settings. So how do ƒ-stop settings work? The lower the ƒ-stop setting, the lower the aperture, and the more light that’s allowed into the camera. Higher ƒ-stops, or higher apertures, actually allow less light into the camera. This may seem counter-intuitive, but with a little practice, you’ll get the hang of it.

The most important aspect of changing the aperture while using Cinematic Mode isn’t the lighting—it’s the change in depth of field effect. The lower the ƒ-stop, the less depth of field and the blurrier the background. Increase the ƒ-stop, and you’ll get a greater depth of field and sharper background as a result.

With the new iPhone 13 Pro camera, you have the ability to drop the ƒ-stop all the way down to ƒ1.5, just a click lower compared to the 12 Pro’s ƒ1.6 on the main camera. While the ultra-wide aperture saw an even more considerable drop on the 13 Pro over the 12 Pro, reducing to a ƒ1.8 from a ƒ2.4, this camera isn’t able to be used with Cinematic Mode.

Let’s say you want more focus on the foreground subject. In this case, you’d start by tapping the little ƒ icon at the top right of the screen while in Cinematic Mode. This will bring up a ƒ-stop scale at the bottom of the screen, with “depth” labeled at the far right, indicating a higher ƒ-stop will bring more of the background into focus. You can swipe back and forth with your main subject in the frame to see how much the background will be blurred before you begin recording.

Get Safer Cinematic Mode Shooting

When you’re shooting in Cinematic Mode, it can be a totally engrossing experience, watching the little tracking boxes moving around on the screen and the focus shifting. If you’re moving while recording, keep your phone safe from potential drops or bumps if you happen to trip while watching your screen and walking. Rokform’s Rugged Case for the iPhone 13 Pro will keep your phone working perfectly and looking its best no matter what goes down while you’re filming. So get out there and start making some cinema-quality video on your iPhone!





Steve Petyo
Steve Petyo

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