I Shot My Own Spatial Video With iPhone 15 Pro and Rewatched It in Apple Vision Pro
Reliving memories will never be the same again.
When the iPhone 15 Pros were announced in September, Apple’s head of worldwide marketing, Greg Joswiak, said there was one big camera feature that wouldn’t be available until later this year: spatial video capture for viewing in an Apple Vision Pro.
Well, it’s November, and Apple has kept its promise. Yesterday, Apple released the second developer beta for iOS 17.2 and included in the software update was the ability to capture spatial video with an iPhone 15 Pro or 15 Pro Max. Today, Apple is releasing the public beta version so anybody can start recording 3D videos before the “spatial computer” launches early next year in the U.S.
I got to record my own spatial video with an iPhone 15 Pro and then rewatch it in an Apple Vision Pro along with other spatial videos captured by Apple. I left my demo with two strong feelings: one, spatial videos in an Apple Vision Pro really is some next-level Minority Report memories sh*t and two, hand and eye-tracking really is a game-changer.
Spatial Video Capture Only Works on iPhone 15 Pros
Sorry, iPhone 15 and 15 Plus users, but you will not be able to record spatial video for Apple Vision Pro with your devices. If you know anything about 3D cameras, the reason is pretty simple: the diagonal orientation of the main and ultrawide lenses on the iPhone 15/15 Plus isn’t suitable for capturing 3D. On an iPhone 15 Pro/15 Pro Max, the main and ultrawide lenses are aligned side-by-side when the devices are held horizontally; this lens arrangement simulates the human eyes, allowing for stereoscopic capture.
What It’s Like Recording a Spatial Video With an iPhone 15 Pro
Unfortunately, photography and video weren’t allowed in my demo, so describing the shooting experience will have to suffice. In typical Apple fashion, recording a spatial video using an iPhone 15 Pro couldn’t be easier. The first thing you’ll need to do is enable spatial video recording by going into the Settings app > Camera > Formats and then flipping on the switch for “Spatial Video for Apple Vision Pro.”
Once that’s done, an Apple Vision Pro icon shows up in the Camera app. Tap it and then record like you would a regular 2D video.
There are some limitations to recording a spatial video as opposed to a 2D one. First, spatial video capture on iPhone 15 Pro is limited to 1080p resolution. (It’s a bummer if you were hoping for 4K.) In the mode, two streams of 1080p are captured at 30 fps and saved together as a single HEVC file. I’m told one minute of spatial video works out to around 130MB so you’re going to eat up storage fast if you record long clips. Second, spatial video is locked, meaning you can’t switch between lenses or zoom. And third, you still get some controls like tap-to-focus and the exposure slider while you’re recording.
In spatial video mode, the Camera app does provide some guidance. There’s a built-in level to help you keep your footage straight and on-screen text suggests moving farther away to better capture depth. I found both helpful.
Obviously, the whole point of recording spatial video on an iPhone is to play them back in an Apple Vision Pro and feel 3D. Otherwise, the spatial video plays in 2D on any other device.
Watching Spatial Video in Apple Vision Pro
In my hands-on with the Apple Vision Pro, I said I was pleasantly surprised by how intimate spatial videos looked. It felt surreal to see a video of a precious memory, magnified larger than life, right in front of me with depth — a level of dimension that didn’t have the kind of holographic fringing that is common in 3D movies.
I’m pleased to report that spatial videos in Apple Vision Pro look really great. You know how sometimes the 3D in a 3D movie feels too strong, like it’s trying too hard to pop off the screen? The depth in spatial videos in Vision Pro is just right. It’s enough to make you feel immersed, but not motion-sick.
I was only allowed to record one video of a chef making sushi rolls, but even so, there was a sense of realism to the spatial video. I swear I could almost feel the texture of the seaweed or smell the orange Tobiko fish pearls. Spatial videos can weirdly trick you into activating your senses. I recall feeling a sense of warmth from the cracking campfire spatial video I saw in June.
When viewed in the Vision Pro’s Photos app, you can turn the digital crown to increase or decrease the amount of “Environment” that you want, meaning how much your real surroundings are blended into the app window. Sure, you could turn the Environment up and feel like you’re in another place like Joshua Tree, but dialing it down makes the spatial videos feel more dream-like. In another pre-loaded spatial video (below), bubbles floated from right to left and I wanted to reach out and poke them.
A few thoughts about the Vision Pro Photos app and some of the other spatial video and photos I got to see: The gestures for Vision Pro really are intuitive. Within seconds, I was swiping and zooming in on content. If you know how to use a touchscreen, the learning curve for the Vision Pro is going to be short. It’s really just look at something and then tap your thumb and index finger together to “click” it.
Start Recording Spatial Video ASAP
Apple Vision Pro doesn’t come out until early next year in the U.S., but if you’re even remotely considering getting one and also have an iPhone 15 Pro/15 Pro Max, you should start recording spatial video ASAP. The more you capture now, the more you’re going to have to experience when the Vision Pro launches.
It’s not just spatial video, panoramas will look great in Vision Pro, too. When viewed in the headset, panos wrap around your peripheral vision in an almost IMAX-like height to them. Really long panoramas can even stretch behind you.
I only had a first glimpse of shooting and viewing my own spatial video, but I can already see myself getting hooked.