Rank Focus is an often overlooked feature of Apple’s Pro and Pro Max iPhones inside Cinematic Mode. Here’s what it does and how to use it…

Apple sells more high-end phones than its nearest rival, Samsung, and while there isn’t really a solid, one-size-fits-all reason for this, besides the obvious, Apple’s brand is more popular, one area where Apple has made huge gains is with content creators.

Specifically, YouTubers and/or anyone else that shoots video for a living. Not so long ago, you needed a DSLR to shoot decent-looking video content. But more and more content creators are now switching over to Apple’s Pro and Pro Max models.

Why? Because Apple has A) invested billions in imaging technology that is tightly integrated with its A-Series chipsets, and B) it has spent the time and money courting content creators, persuading them to switch from the DSLRs to Pro and Pro Max iPhones.

Pro and Pro Max iPhones – from the iPhone 13 Pro Max, and up – can now even do Rack Mode filming which, up until recently, was the sole reserve of film makers working with proper cameras for cinema.

Not sure what Rack Mode is or why it is important? Read on…

What is Rack Focus on iPhone?

Rack focus, often referred to as a focus pull, is a cinematographic technique that involves changing the focus of the lens during a continuous shot.

When a shot “racks,” it moves the focus from one subject to another in the same shot. This technique is used to direct the audience’s attention from one subject to another.

In the context of the iPhone 13 Pro Max, “Rack Mode” is likely a reference to the device’s ability to simulate this technique digitally in its Cinematic Mode.

When you’re recording a video in Cinematic Mode, you can tap on different subjects to change the focus smoothly, mimicking the rack focus effect seen in professional cinematography. This feature allows users to create more dynamic and visually interesting videos.

How To Use Rack Focus on iPhone

  1. Open the Camera App: Start by opening the Camera app on your iPhone 13 Pro Max. You can do this by tapping on the Camera icon on your home screen.
  2. Select Cinematic Mode: Once you’re in the Camera app, swipe through the modes at the bottom of the screen until you reach ‘Cinematic’. This is the mode that allows you to use the Rack Focus feature.
  3. Frame Your Shot: Next, frame your shot. The Cinematic Mode allows you to create a depth-of-field effect, meaning it can blur the background while keeping the subject in sharp focus. You can have one or more subjects in your shot.
  4. Select Your Primary Subject: Tap on the subject on your screen that you want to be in focus. A yellow square will appear around them, indicating that they are the primary focus. The background will automatically blur.
  5. Adjust the Level of Bokeh: You can adjust the level of background blur, or bokeh, in your shot. To do this, tap on the ‘f’ icon at the top right of your screen. This will bring up a slider that allows you to adjust the aperture. A lower ‘f’ number will create more blur, while a higher ‘f’ number will create less.
  6. Start Recording: Once you’re happy with your shot, press the red record button to start recording.
  7. Change Focus While Recording: While you’re recording, you can change the focus to a different subject by simply tapping on them. The focus will smoothly shift, or ‘rack’, from the current subject to the new one, creating a professional-looking focus change effect.
  8. Stop Recording: When you’re finished recording, press the red button again to stop.

BONUS TIP: You Can Also Edit Focus After Recording

One of the great things about Cinematic Mode is that you can change the focus even after you’ve finished recording.

  • To do this, go to your Photos app and select the video you just recorded.
  • Next, tap ‘Edit’, and then tap on the part of the video where you want to change the focus. You can then tap on a different subject to shift the focus to them.

Famous Examples of Rack Focus In Films

  • “Jaws” (1975): In a famous scene from this Steven Spielberg film, Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) is watching beachgoers from his chair. When he sees a shark attack, the camera performs a rack focus combined with a dolly zoom, shifting focus from Brody in the foreground to the beach in the background.
  • “The Godfather” (1972): In one scene, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) is sitting in a restaurant with two men. The focus shifts from the men in the foreground to the bathroom in the background, where a gun is hidden.
  • “Pulp Fiction” (1994): In Quentin Tarantino’s film, there’s a scene where the character Butch (Bruce Willis) is in a pawn shop. The camera racks focus from Butch in the foreground to a katana sword in the background, revealing his weapon of choice.
  • “The Social Network” (2010): In a scene where Mark (Jesse Eisenberg) and Eduardo (Andrew Garfield) are in a meeting with lawyers, the camera racks focus between the characters as they exchange dialogue, emphasizing the tension in the room.
  • “Children of Men” (2006): In one long, unbroken shot, the camera racks focus several times, shifting attention between characters and their surroundings in a war-torn landscape.

Check out the additional resources below for more iPhone camera tips and tricks…

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