iPhone 13 (Pro): How to use cinema mode

With iPhone 13 and cinema mode, you shoot videos with a bokeh effect. We explain how you can take beautiful videos with depth of field and then edit them, on the iPhone 13 series and other devices.

You can usually tell immediately from a video whether it was shot with a smartphone or a “real” camera. The big difference is selective sharpening, with which the filmmaker can let the foreground or background flow through to literally direct focus onto the subject.

How does cinema mode work?

In the past, system cameras or professional camcorders with large sensors were required for smooth bokeh, but modern smartphones can also be used to create the blur using software. Yes, some Android smartphones have been shooting with bokeh for years: but the competition just doesn’t work as easy to use and clean as the iPhone 13 series’ cinema mode.

The great trick is that the iPhone 13 records a depth map along with the videos. Raw videos recorded by the smartphone are sharp from foreground to background. If the iPhone itself or the user sets the focus on the video, Cinema mode smooths out the areas of the image in front of and behind it.

After the iPhone saves the raw videos, the depth map and the defined focus point separately, the focus of the video can also be edited afterwards, on the iPhone 13 itself, but also on other devices.

As for the recording itself, Cinematic mode is currently available for the wide-angle and telephoto cameras on the back, as well as the selfie camera. The following iPhones support Theater mode:

Cinema mode: This is how video recording works

You’ll find cinema mode prominently displayed in the camera app on new iPhones between “Video” and “Slow Motion” modes. A touch of your finger activates the mode, the record button starts, surprise, the recording.

By default, the camera app marks all recognized faces during recording, and by the way, animals too. While the recording is running, cinema mode tries to determine the most active person and set the focus accordingly. However, you can also manually change the focus with a touch of your finger on the screen. In the video below, you can see that the focus only automatically changes when Ben is speaking to the camera in the foreground; otherwise, cinema mode keeps the focus on Fabi until we switch manually with a touch of a finger.

By the way, “manual focus” works not only with people, but also with objects. Cinema mode tracks them and keeps them in focus. With a long touch, you lock “virtual autofocus” at a certain distance and, for example, keep a person or object in the foreground in focus, no matter what’s happening in the background.

cinematic af lock mode

Hold your finger on a point on the screen for a long time to activate “AF Lock” in cinema mode. Ben can now talk into the camera for as long as he wants – the focus remains on Fabi. / © NextPit

Cinema mode offers the following setting options:

  • The “f” curve at the top left represents the aperture ratio. The lower the number, the stronger the bokeh effect. With iPhone 13, “f2.0” ensures the most background blur, with “f16” the effect is the lowest.
  • Using the lightning bolt icon in the bottom right, set the video LED to “always off” or “auto.” With this last configuration, the iPhone tells you before the recording if the LED is about to activate or not.
  • The little “<" arrow also brings the two aforementioned settings to the right of the screen, as well as a "±" symbol to correct exposure when shooting in cinema mode.
  • With a tap on “1x,” switch between the wide-angle and telephoto cameras on iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max. The double arrow at the top right changes to the selfie camera. Ultrawide cameras do not (currently) support cinema mode.

Please note that the resolution in cinema mode is limited to Full HD with 1920 x 1080 pixels at 30 frames per second. However, Dolby Vision HDR is also available here.

Cinema mode: This is how videos are edited

Cinema Mode’s biggest advantage over current competing solutions: You can still adjust focus on videos after recording. So you can perfectly adjust the focus transitions to what is happening. By the way, post editing works not only on iPhone 13 models, but also on the following Apple devices in the Photos app:

Apple has already announced an update for macOS that allows you to edit on your computer. As soon as the feature is available, we will update this article here.

Edit videos in cinema mode on iOS

Editing videos on iOS is very easy. Simply open the clip in the Photos app and click “Edit”. Then you will see the video with the thumbnail timeline below. New at this point is an additional timeline that shows when cinema mode changes focus automatically and manually. Here you can now add new focus changes or remove existing ones as you wish. In the following clip you can see how this works:

Important: If you want to edit the videos on another device, you must send the clips through iCloud Photos or AirDrop. Otherwise, the depth information stored by the iPhone in cinema mode will be lost.

conclusion

In the 1990s and 2000s, amateur videographers were still making DoF adapters for videos with bokeh. Then, in the 1910s, DSLRs and DSLMs democratized depth-of-field filming. And now it is the turn of smartphones. Sure, Huawei has had the feature on board since the Mate 20 and Samsung since the Galaxy S20 series. But honestly: Did you notice much?

I dare to predict: cinema mode on iPhone 13 will ensure that your Facebook, Instagram and TikTok feeds contain more and more videos in the coming weeks, and more and more videos with depth of field. And not only from professional creators, but also from friends and family.