With Time-Of-Flight, the iPhone Looks Set to Rule the Content World

With Time-Of-Flight, the iPhone Looks Set to Rule the Content World

For Mixed Media

The Next Evolution of Mobile Video Production.

With Time-Of-Flight, the iPhone
Looks Set to Rule the Content World

August 4, 2020
With Time-Of-Flight, the iPhone Looks Set to Rule the Content World
For Mixed Media

The Next Evolution of Mobile Video Production.

With Time-Of-Flight,
the iPhone Looks
Set to Rule the
Content World

August 4, 2020

If these articles about the awesomeness of Apple’s iPhone are getting a little repetitive, there’s a reason for that. Apple keeps on making the iPhone better and better, and if you’re in the content creation business, you need to know about it. 


The current innovation heading our way is called Time-of-Flight (ToF). Once again, it’s not that Apple’s brightest minds have spent years locked away in labs creating this technology. It’s existed for many years now. What Apple has done, like they always do, is seize on the opportunity to put this incredible technology into a consumer product. And it is going to once again put Apple’s iPhone way ahead of the pack for years to come. 


So, what exactly is Time-of-Flight?


Let’s break it down in layman’s terms, because this technology is going to be in the hands of millions of people soon. And the best place to start is with the way current smartphone cameras operate. 


Right now, the camera in your smartphone measures distance using something called stereovision, which actually mimics the way you use your two eyes for depth perception. Two cameras are used to view/film the object at the same time, and by doing some quick calculations using a known baseline, the disparity between the two images enables the phone to know the object’s distance. It’s worked great for years, but it suffers from inaccuracies in low-light environments. You’ll know this yourself when you get out-of-focus shots in dim lighting. 


Time-of-Flight is different. The cameras use infrared to determine the distance of the objects, shining a flood of infrared light onto whatever is being filmed and measuring the depth of EVERY single pixel that’s been captured. It’s essentially the same technology that self-driving cars use – LIDAR sends pulses of infrared light instead of sound (sonar) – and it’s available in the latest iPad.


This is how Simon Hill of Digital Trends sums it up: “Time-of-flight (ToF) cameras are comprised of a sensor that uses a tiny laser to fire out infrared light. This light bounces off anything or anyone in front of the camera and back into the sensor. The length of time the light takes to bounce back is measured and that translates to distance information that can be used to create a depth map.”



Not only does this increase the camera’s depth resolution and accuracy, but infrared is not affected by low light levels. If you are keeping up on current trends, you’ll know some smartphones already have TOF tech. However, they tend to be very low resolution. The latest iPhones, as we all know, shoot in 4k; even the entry level models.


The bigger question: Why is Time-of-Flight a big deal?


Well, it’s basically a game-changer that will enable anyone with a ToF iPhone to shoot even higher-quality footage than they can right now (and it’s already seriously impressive), and they won’t be restricted by typical lighting issues. 


Now couple that technology with what’s coming in the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Max and you can soon see the leaps and bounds content creation will take. Apple’s revolutionary capture technology, which includes easy lens switching, multi-capture, and image stabilization, are seriously impressive. With TOF, the iPhone becomes one of the most powerful handheld devices available for film and image capture. Whether it’s long range, low-light filming, or content for virtual and augmented reality, Apple will be at the center of content creation by amateurs and pros alike. 



Will the future of content creation really be iPhone-centric?


For the foreseeable future, no other smartphone on the market is going to come close to the iPhone when it comes to shooting video and imagery. And as the demand for AR and VR content grows, the iPhone’s popularity is only going to grow along with it. 


The technology in the next iPhone will not only increase performance for capturing AR and VR content, but it will also seriously enhance your editing abilities. Consider this: rather than rotoscoping frame-by-frame, TOF defines precisely what the background of a video is, what is in the foreground, and would subsequently allow layers to be placed between them. 


And of course, as data is the new oil, there will also be incredible value in the data captured through the consumers’ use of TOF. In turn, that will enable Apple to continually enhance and improve the software, again giving the iPhone a significant advantage over its competitors. 


In a nutshell, Apple’s got this on lock with the iPhone. And as the pandemic has illustrated, there will also be a shift in the future towards more mobile video production content that can be gathered through crowdsourcing. With fans and brand ambassadors now carrying a film crew in their pockets, the future of content could very well be founded on what the next iPhone can do. If UGC is the strategy, you can bet your bottom dollar the iPhone is the tool to apply it.