Dual lens iPhone 7 = Multi-angle QuickTime files

Thursday, 10 March 2016

The day after the announcement of a new iPhone, the speculation starts for what might appear in the next iPhone. This speculation is based on Apple patents, acquisitions, what parts suppliers can produce and what Android phones have had ‘for years.’

This week’s speculation from MacRumors suggests that the next iPhone will have a dual lens camera. Such a camera would be able to capture a normal shot and a close up shot at the same time:

Amid rumors a dual-lens camera will be introduced in the iPhone 7, Apple recently submitted a patent application published in January which gives us rare insight into what Apple thinks a dual-lens camera interface could look like on future iOS devices.

The patent outlines a dual-camera system that consists of one standard wide-angle lens similar to what's in the iPhone today and a second telephoto lens capable of capturing zoomed-in video and photos.

Apple’s iPhone is the combination of hardware and software, the interesting part for me is the software part. As with slow motion recording, there are software implications. Dual lenses means

  • A user interface for capturing two video ‘angles’ at once (with a single shared soundtrack - unless audio from multiple microphones is also captured)
  • Storing more than one video stream in the same QuickTime file
  • A user interface for marking footage at points when playback should switch showing footage recorded with one lens to the other

Multicam for ‘the rest of us’

Consumer-level multicam has implications for the next versions of iMovie for iOS and OS X and Final Cut Pro for OS X (and iOS?). As well as being able to handle multi-video track QuickTime files, they might provide features to ease users into multi-angle production.

iMovie would need a command and shortcut to add metadata to a multilayer clip to say ‘switch to other layer here.’ That would be a useful shortcut to add to Final Cut Pro X as well. Currently editors  working with two-angle multicam clips,  must alternately use ‘Cut and Switch to Viewer Angle 1’ and ‘Cut and Switch to Viewer Angle 2’ depending on which angle is active. 

Multi-track QuickTime is back

Once consumers get used to multi-stream video files, they might start expecting that multiple devices at the same location should be able to contribute to a single QuickTime record of an event. As long as all devices have an iCloud account, Apple could provide the synced file for all to share with each other and others.

More and more professional production uses multiple cameras. Final productions will probably include multiple video assets that are shown depending on playback settings. This means multicam user interfaces for production and playback alongside multiple video layers being stored in single movie files.

Also recording devices will probably encode multiple video angles into movies. Aldready on Convergent Design’s Apollo switcher/recorder product page:

exports separate Apple ProRes files with matching timecode or a single multi-stream QuickTime file that drops directly into the timeline of supporting NLEs such as FCP-X.

How interesting.

Last year’s Apple WWDC had a relevant session on editing movies using AV Foundation for iOS and OS X developers:

There are methods for creating and removing tracks, and you see to create a track, we have to say what type of track we want.

Do we want a video track, do we want an audio track, and so forth…

Features seem to come from Final Cut Pro X:

We can now open these, edit them, and write them back. At the track level, we have a similar setup. As you know, a composition is composed of composition tracks, and at the mutable level, we have AVMutableComposition tracks.

Media doesn't need to be in the same file:

Now, it's possible for the sample data that a track refers to exist in another file altogether, so you can have external sample references. It's even possible for the sample references to refer only to external sample data. Now, when we have this situation, the little movie box and its file type box is called a sample reference movie file.

Coming soon to OS X and iOS applications?