It was the most important week of the year, and perhaps the last few years, for pocket video cameras. On Tuesday, Apple announced the promising “cinematic mode” feature of the iPhone 13 – and, two days later, the GoPro Hero 10 Black jumped into our lives with its powerful new GP2 chip.

But with Apple’s new feature, which we haven’t tried out in the real world yet, potentially bringing shallow depth-of-field video to the mainstream, is the GoPro about to look out of step with the genre? of films that we will be able to create with our phones?

After all, despite its powerful new GP2 processor, the single-lens GoPro Hero 10 Black is unable to produce the kind of depth maps and computational magic seen in Apple’s talk.

The fixing fingers of the GoPro Hero 10 Black

(Image credit: GoPro)

Yet the tough and waterproof GoPro Hero line has already weathered the storms of 4K camera phones – and as we found out in our GoPro Hero 10 Black review, it’s still the undisputed master of action videos where the background blur is usually a downside, and stabilization is everything. .

There’s no doubt, however, that while we’ve seen pro video modes on phones before, the iPhone’s “Cinematic Mode” feature and the ability to shoot in Apple ProRes are the starting whistle for the game. GoPro’s biggest challenge yet …

Truth cinema

The GoPro Hero 10 Black and the Apple iPhone 13 Pro are two very different pocket cameras, but they have the same overall goal: to help people (mostly amateurs, but increasingly professionals) shoot video and video. high quality photos without much hassle.

The Hero 10 Black will still be able to go places (and be mounted in unusual places) that smartphones will never reach. But the problem it might increasingly face is the style of video we are used to shooting on our phones, which is video with shallow, adjustable depth of field.

The name of Apple’s “cinematic mode” has annoyed many videographers, who see it as hyperbole to classify alongside its “Retina” displays and “Lightning” ports. This is because there is much more to being “cinematic” than blurring the backgrounds to grab the viewer’s attention. The filmmakers compete on the color palettes to create a general mood (follow Cinema pallets on Twitter for a good overview), and that’s before you even jump into lighting, scouting, storyboarding, and audio.

But despite the name, there’s no doubt that “Cinematic Mode” holds great promise for everyday movie making and vlogging. Convincing shallow depth of field for video hasn’t been a storytelling tool we’ve had on our phones, as their tiny sensors and lenses don’t produce the kind of ‘natural’ bokeh you’d get when combining a camera. full frame with a bright fixed focal length lens.

Phones started fixing this problem for photos with the HTC One M8 in 2014, which led to the compelling simulated bokeh we see in Portrait modes today. We’ve also seen some phones (the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S10) attempting to do the same for video. But Apple’s speech revealed that there is probably more going on under the hood of “cinematic mode” than we’ve seen in any comparable technology before.

On the one hand, it has a predictive focus system that attempts to automatically choose the type of “focus mount” you need for your scene – for example, focusing on someone’s face. ‘one when entering the scene, or changing the focus when looking at another person in the background. But arguably the biggest novelty is its ability to create depth maps for video.

These are created using the different views of the iPhone 13 series lenses, rather than LiDAR technology, as “cinematic mode” is available on the iPhone 13 Mini and iPhone 13, which lack scanners. LiDAR. The result is that editing software like Photos and iMovie apps, and soon desktop apps, will let you change the focus point (or at least simulate what’s going on) after shooting a video. Interestingly, an Apple software engineer also said that the mode let you do the same for the photos.

Smooth operator

This kind of computer video technology, which we’ve also seen previously on apps like Focos, is simply way beyond the GoPro Hero 10 Black.

The closest thing to GoPro is the GoPro Max, which instead lets you decide where to point the camera in the 360-degree spherical video it shoots in post. Its two lenses could theoretically also create depth maps. But the Hero 10 Black is a more traditional action camera – and it definitely feels old-fashioned compared to the depth-of-field deception that’s about to explode on phones.

Sony ZV-1 camera on blue background

(Image credit: Sony)

Small cameras capable of shooting professional-quality video are a booming market – which is why Sony launched the Sony ZV-1 (above) last year, which we believe is currently the best. vlog camera. But the clock is surely ticking on its time at the top. One of the YouTuber-friendly tricks of the ZV-1, called “Product Showcase” mode, allows the camera to quickly focus from a person’s face to a product held up to the camera. , then return to the presenter’s face. “Cinema mode”, far from helping us become Tarantinos at home, seems perfect for these more everyday purposes.

So where does that leave the GoPro Hero 10 Black? He lives in a world far removed from real computer video, but it is very likely that his world will continue to coexist with the “cinematic” deception of smartphones. After all, not all the photos we take are in “portrait” mode. Additionally, early attempts at portrait-style video, including those from Apple, will continue to have practical limitations – cinematic mode is, for example, limited to a maximum resolution of 1080 / 30p. Apple’s demo also lacked speech.

The Hero 10 Black might only have one lens, but that super wide-angle lens (along with a bunch of software tricks) is the key to what’s still GoPro’s best trick – HyperSmooth stabilization. This is able to reduce stuttering in virtually any situation, and thanks to the Hero 10 Black’s GP2 processor, its most powerful forms now operate in its highest video settings (e.g. 5K / 30p and 4K / 60p).

The GoPro Hero 10 Black on a blue background

(Image credit: GoPro)

HyperSmooth has recently been joined by an increasingly useful “horizon leveling” tool. This keeps your horizon stable, even if your camera is turned side-to-side – and on the Hero 10 Black, it can now correct for turns up to 45 degrees. It works great, and with HyperSmooth lets you capture video that just isn’t possible with a phone.

The advantages of the Hero 10 Black over phones are also reinforced by the limitations of the latter. Phones are just too fragile and important to be exposed in dangerous situations, too difficult to set up in tight spaces, and your video shoots can be interrupted by phone calls and notifications. Still, the question remains: if GoPros are to be the waterproof liners for our phones, do they need to learn new video tricks like “cinematic mode” to stay relevant?

Discussion group

For the traditional GoPro shooting regime, probably not. In sports videos, you usually want everything to stay focused because it’s hard to predict exactly where the action will be at any given time, or who the right person will be to focus on.

This is partly why GoPro’s have a fixed focus lens with a deep, non-adjustable focus that stretches out into the distance. While Apple’s “cinematic mode” can seemingly predict where to focus next, it’s unlikely to be able to cope with a fast-paced action scene.

Interestingly, however, we started to see an equivalent of Apple’s new mode start sweeping live sports coverage. If you’ve watched the NFL or La Liga game lately, you’ve likely seen a field camera with movie-like bokeh infiltrating player celebrations after a touchdown or a goal (like the one below). This comes from a gimbal stabilized mirrorless camera that naturally produces the effect Apple’s “cinematic mode” looks for.

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Yet despite being a relatively specialized use case, the GoPro Hero 10 Black (or perhaps its successors) struggle more when it comes to an area they flirt with. more and more: vlogging. The Hero 9 Black introduced a front LCD display for this purpose, which dramatically improved its appeal with YouTubers looking for a rugged b-cam to use in the field.

If smartphone modes like “Cinematic Mode” allow you to shoot videos with convincingly rendered bokeh, and also create the effect of allowing you to adjust focus afterwards, then GoPro could become less attractive in these less action-based scenarios. Unless, of course, the successors to the Hero 10 Black learn to create their own video depth maps using additional lenses or sensors, with a setup like 360 ​​degrees Max.

Pocket rockets

For now, the reality is that the video powers of the GoPro Hero 10 Black and phones like Apple’s iPhone 13 fit together quite well. Both offer powerful software modes, whether it’s HyperSmooth 4.0 or ‘Cinematic Mode’, to help us create professional-looking videos in situations that would previously have required expensive and grueling camera setups.

We also don’t yet know how good the “cinematic mode” will be. Apple’s demo was far from perfect, and it was with professional lighting, actors, and directors behind the phone. It will likely be flawed and limited to specific situations to begin with. But the core of the promise is there, and given the growing importance of video as a camera function, it will undoubtedly be refined very quickly over the next couple of years.

Cut in cinematic mode on the iPhone 13

(Image credit: Apple)

Gone are the days of GoPro’s striving to be our general purpose cameras long before the Hero 10 Black came along, but it has the features and power to continue to be everyone’s favorite b-cam and tool. convenient for professionals who need to obtain a specific shot under demanding conditions.

At the end of the day, the winners of all this fierce competition are us. Over the next few years, we will all be blessed with having an extremely versatile camera in our pockets for virtually any shooting situation or video style. The exciting question is, what will everyone do with this power?



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