Capturing your life cinematically with PureView

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I commented the other day that the Rich Recording in the Nokia 808 PureView has the potential to change the way we capture our lives, digitally - i.e. when no scene, no noise environment is off limits and everything comes out accurately, why be restricted by the technology, why not go for it and shoot anything you really enjoy, anything you love. The same applies just as strongly to the PureView zoom - add the two together and your smartphone becomes the ultimate phone for the Digital Creator, whether now on the Nokia 808 on Symbian, in the near future on Nokia Lumias on Windows Phone 8, or on another manufacturer's implementation of similar technology in a year or two.

From the previous Flow on AAS:

Look, this really isn't just about our feelings for the Nokia 808 PureView and its camera any more. We've all seen by now that the 808 camera is excellent, the best in the world, but most people would argue that the camera in their iPhones or SGS IIIs is quite good enough. However, Nokia's Rich Recording has arguably managed an even bigger leap, a generational shift in audio quality. Given how much we all like capturing events, parties, gigs, etc. around us, see below for the world-shattering difference between Rich Recording on the 808 and a competing 2012 smartphone: the competitor's video might be just good enough, but the gap in audio is massive.

Yes, I'm sure Rich Recording is patented, but the general principle of all device manufacturers now having to work to produce audio capture electronics that do the same job has to be good for all of us in the long run.

For years, phone owners have shot bits of life, events, concerts, and so on, knowing that the audio from their clips will be unusable (and that the video wouldn't be very good either) - we now have a phone that can grab video and audio with near perfection. The Nokia 808 PureView absolutely sets the bar here for everyone else to follow, in my opinion.

The same applies to video too, using the PureView zoom facility, seen in early 2012 on the current Nokia 808 but a sure-fire bet to make its way onto Nokia's Windows Phones later in the year.

Nokia 808

We've become used to the field of view of a phone camera, whether a Nokia N8 or Lumia 800 or Apple iPhone 4S or Samsung Galaxy S III, taking in a whole scene at once - fine if you're shooting a steam train (hey, I do that a lot) but all rather unsatisfactory if you're shooting people. Whether your kids down the park or relatives at a family event, you have to get very close for them to fill the video frame. If you shoot from a sensitive distance, trying not to get in the way, you end up with small figures in the centre of an otherwise mainly empty video frame. Adults won't appreciate you sticking a video camera (or, in this case, a phone) in their faces, while kids will become self conscious and you'll lose the moment you were trying to capture.

It's a bit like quantum mechanics - the very act of trying to observe something closely enough disturbs what you're trying to observe. It's the same with butterflies or kids - get too close and suddenly you're a problem and the moment's gone.

In short, you're stuffed, which is why anyone serious about capturing their family life on video will previously have always recommended a proper camcorder, armed with a big lens and optical zoom. Being able to zoom means getting cinematic, it means getting 'closer' to your subjects without physically moving, so that you can see people's expressions, the small details that make all the difference. 

This was all brought home to me while sneaking a day away on the beach with extended family yesterday. I was seated about 30 metres from the waterline while the younger ones were splashing happily in the waves. Short of getting in the water myself (I was tempted), it was somewhat dismaying to realise that my video of the fun was confined to just the inner 1/16th of the frame. All the rest was sand and sea - atmospheric, but what everyone watching the eventual footage would be wanting to see was the people at the centre of the frame.

Of course, I was using the Nokia 808 PureView, so the feeling of dismay only lasted about half a second. The PureView technology, along with the Rich Recording mentioned earlier, has the potential to dramatically change how you approach capturing your life. Above, it was not bothering to shoot video whenever noise levels were even remotely loud, here it's not bothering to shoot video with a phone when you're not close enough to satisfactorily capture the action. But with lossless 6x zoom (in 720p mode on the 808), I was able to film the fun from 30 metres away and the footage turned out to be beautifully lit, very crisp and with the splashers large in the frame. A huge success for PureView, in my eyes.

Surfs up(Promo grab/illustration from Broulee Surf School. For obvious privacy reasons I couldn't use my own family beach footage!)

Perfect for those like me who see themselves as 'digital creators', many of Nokia's smartphones since 2006 have enabled converged functions like photography and videography - but the convergence was only token. Even on the 2010 N8 and the 2011 Lumia 800, video capture at 720p was little more than grabbing what was happening in the wider scene in front of you. Just as you'd get from any other phone camera. 

But put in lossless zoom and suddenly you're up close with your subjects, capturing footage that's not only more interesting, it's positively cinematic. After all, look at people in a film - the vast majority of the time you're seeing them close-up, with a wide shot only used to set a scene.

Then add the Rich Recording for (literally) perfect audio, and play the ace in the hole, the fact that your phone is always on you, and you've got a means of capturing the people and events in your life in a way you've never been able to before.

I'd argue that the technology used in the Nokia 808 PureView and subsequent followups devices will prove as ground breaking as sticking a GPS in a phone for the first time (Nokia N95) or using a multi-touch capacitive touchscreen interface (Apple iPhone). Having lived through both of these devices, I'm now enjoying the leap forwards brought in by PureView, and hopefully you can too.