It is common knowledge today that Apple puts good cameras in its iPhones. So it’s probably no surprise to learn that the iPhone 12, 12 mini, 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max have some excellent shooters. What you may not know, however, is that these cameras are literally capable of Hollywood-quality video. So do not be surprised to see one of these record a Netflix series.
The late 2020 models are not the first iPhones that have the term “Hollywood” associated with them. Filmmakers have been experimenting with Apple cameras for several years. Feature films such as “Tangerine” and “Unsane” made their iPhone film part of their marketing campaigns. But Apple̵7;s latest offerings add something completely new to the game – Dolby Vision and 10-bit video.
What is Dolby Vision?
First of all, it will not mean much to you that your new iPhone can record video with Dolby Vision if you do not even know what Dolby Vision is. Simply put, Dolby Vision is a mastering and delivery format applied to videos that give you very greater control over color classification of each frame. And since the new iPhone models can film in HDR or high-dynamic range, that tone mapping is even better.
HDR is a technology that enables videos to capture and display light and darkness in a much more enhanced and dramatic way. If you are filming in a dark room with a light window, HDR takes more of the strong light from the window, in addition to the dark elements in the room. The same scene without HDR looks much flatter, perhaps with minor details in the window and the room’s shadows.
Now, when you record HDR video on any of the iPhone 12 models, you really take a fast series of pictures, called frames. You can take 24, 30 or 60 frames per second. Each video frame goes through your iPhone’s ISP (image signal processor), which then makes a histogram, a map of all the colors in your video. Your iPhone then retrieves the information from the histogram and colors your video with Dolby Vision. It results in enhanced colors, enhanced light and deeper blacks.
In layman’s words? Dolby Vision is a super-smart technology that can read your iPhone’s video and understand the best ways to improve the overall picture quality. And it does everything while the movie is taking place, and you can see it happen right on the screen.
4K vs. HDR10 vs. Dolby Vision
Dolby Vision is not the only HDR format out there. You can see other formats, such as HDR10, pasted over TV models, smartphones and technical reviews. And you might also see 4K everywhere and wonder how it affects the mix.
In the case of 4K, it is a representation of the video resolution or the number of pixels that the video contains. The more pixels, the more details you can fit into an image. 4K is called as such because 4K video contains a horizontal resolution of approximately 4000 pixels. It has nothing to do with the dynamic range of your video, just how much detail you can fit into the frame.
Dolby Vision and HDR10 are just different ways to analyze and improve HDR in digital videos. One main difference is that the format is proprietary; HDR10 is a license-free technology. This means that all camera manufacturers or TV manufacturers can add and use HDR10 with their products in whatever way they see fit. It also means that there is no standard, so you can not trust that HDR10 is the same across devices.
Dolby Vision, on the other hand, is completely created and controlled by Dolby Laboratories. To take advantage of the technology, manufacturers work according to Dolby’s standards and must pay to use the format. It’s a more limiting and expensive trial, which is why you see HDR10 more often technique world than Dolby Vision, but that’s also why Dolby Vision is a Hollywood standard.
Dolby Vision is technically superior. While the HDR10 can display up to 1000 brightness, Dolby Vision can display up to 10,000. The same goes for colors; HDR10 drops to 10 bits, while Dolby Vision goes up to 12 bits. This is certainly not an important consideration for you, as the new iPhones can only shoot up to 10-bit video right now (more on bits below).
Both HDR10 and Dolby Vision video can be 4K, but it does not have to be. You can have HDR10 and Dolby Vision video in 1080p resolution, which is about four times fewer pixels than 4K. Your iPhone can display both HDR and 4K HDR in either format, but you need an Apple TV or AirPlay for a compatible TV to get the full 4K HDR Dolby Vision experience.
Why is Dolby Vision worth it?
So, Dolby Vision is pretty cute and all, but is there a reason to buy the new iPhones? After all, a few iPhone then iPhone 6S can shoot in 4K resolution. So why make the switch?
As any camera buff would say, resolution is not everything. Your iPhone 6S may shoot 4K video just like the Hollywood cameras, but other than that it is nothing like the Hollywood cameras. And pieces play a big role in the difference. The bit rate represents the number of bits of color information that a single camera pixel can store in digital video. The more pieces, the more color. Simple enough, right?
The iPhone 12 series records 10-bit video, while previous iPhones shot in 8-bit. It may not sound like much to the uninitiated, but the two pieces matter. In fact, Apple claims that the new iPhone models record video in the year 700 million colors, 60 times more color than 8-bit video. There is 60 times more color information that a colorist can use to make your images look magical.
In addition to the film
It’s not just the video itself that makes Dolby Vision special – the technology also tells screens like TVs how to present that video. Dolby Vision can instruct a TV to increase the brightness of specific areas of your Dolby Vision video in one scene and enhance the color in another. The LG CX series, Sony A9G series and Vizio P series Quantum X are just a few examples of TVs that have this feature.
This technology drives many professional videos and is found everywhere in different places where you can experience movies and TV. You may notice the Dolby Vision symbol next to your latest Netflix obsession, or you may have participated in a special Dolby Vision screening at a movie theater. It is Dolby Vision – not just 4K – that the industry uses to trust that both the video and the viewing experience are untouched.
There’s a reason Dolby Vision is a standard in Hollywood. The industry relies on technology to ensure that movie or TV movies, from start to finish, can be distributed and viewed as intended. Cinematographers record the video to look a certain way, editors and colorists bring that vision to life and distributors make sure you get the full experience, whether you’re watching a projector, TV or smartphone.
Not happy with what you see? Edit out
While your iPhone color automatically classifies your video when you shoot, you may find that the movie does not look exactly how you want it. This is where editing comes in. Apple proudly announced that apps like iMovie, Photos and even clips could edit Dolby Vision video directly on the iPhone. This means that you can adjust the colors and lighting in your images, directly on phone who shot the film in the first place.
Apple also announced that Final Cut Pro X would also have this capability in an upcoming update, but unfortunately that software is still Mac only. If Apple ever comes with its pro editing software for mobile, your iPhone will truly be an all-in-one Hollywood machine. Until then, it is still receiving Hollywood treatment.
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