Thursday, 8 September 2016

☴ ANALYSIS: iPhone 7 binaural videography

iPhone 7 not available in blue.
There's a saying in the film industry: "nobody gives a f5ck about sound". Although that's not strictly true, it is one of the first areas to be compromised in a tight spot during production.

Apple does give a f5ck about sound having employed the likes of Tom Holman to consult on audio direction.

Whilst I believe the iPhone 7 lack of headphone jack is no big deal considering a wired connection remains possible with an adapter, and everything else like dual lenses, stereo speakers, and fast f1.8 lenses is playing catch-up with Android and Windows 10 Mobile Lumia, there remains a glaring omission in the contemporary iPhone spec sheet.

After nearly 10 years the iPhone does not record binaural video (I say binaural video because saying stereo video could mean a stereoscopic 3D effect, but I mean the two-channel sound with video).

The iPhone certainly has enough microphones to have a binaural recording capability. From what I've seen of mic positioning there has been no major changes with iPhone 7 - it has three - one on the front, one on the back, and one on the bottom edge.

This is precisely the same mic positioning as the HTC 10 which does record binaural video. So this is a choice being made by Apple to not record binaural video, not a technical limitation.

Now it might be that Apple are waiting for another design iteration to "do it right" (the HTC mic positioning records mildly biased stereo because left and right channels are not capturing vibrating air molecules equally and it is applying algorithmic compensation and noise cancellation DSP which increases the noise floor with digital uglies in certain scenarios).

Tom Holman's initials form THX (Tom Holman Crossover).
But when? It's been almost 10 years since iPhone dropped and we are in a vibrantly sounding 21st century that would be lovely to capture binaurally with all that hosing of iPhone video.

Clearly, binaural video recording is not important to corporate Apple since Sony Xperia have been offering high end models with binaural video recording for years, and very good it is too. Again it is clearly a choice by Apple not to offer the function because they see it as not important enough to make their list of priorities.

But here's the thing. If you're someone who appreciates sound and making your own recordings, once you've experienced the depth and breadth of decent binaural recording you just don't want to go back to monaural.

There are third party mics that record stereo (the Shure MV88 comes to mind - very good it is too but ultimately creates a biased stage due to it being on the other end to the lens) but the Airninja Movie Method is about less - less to carry, less to remember, less technicalities, just record your damned movie and be assured of decent results by default with a device straight out-of-the-box.

I appreciate that the telephone is a monaural device but an iPhone is so much more than that. It's a pity that out-of-the-box iPhone only creates monaural content. Proof, if any were needed, that binaural sound remains a niche interest - and therefore, opportunity.

The iPhone 7 is also 'water resistant'. The top end Sony Xperia are essentially waterproof in freshwater shallows (IP68) as demonstrated in the following binaural video which ends up fully submerged underwater.

There's just zero reasons for current iPhone to be the airninja's first choice.


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