Apple patent filing involves beefed-up ‘virtual camera’ features for iMovie, Final Cut Pro X

Apple has filed for a patent (number 20170270704) for “depth of field for a camera in a media-editing application field of the invention.” It hints at beefed up features, such as an enhanced “virtual camera,” in iMovie and Final Cut Pro X.

In the patent filing, Apple notes that digital graphic design, video editing, and media editing apps provide designers and artists with tools to create much of the media seen today through various media outlets (television, movies, Internet content, etc.). These tools allow designers the ability to generate, compose, composite, and animate images and videos in a virtual three-dimensional space. 

A computer simulating the three-dimensional space is able to produce (i.e., render) an image of the space as seen from a particular point in the space, looking in a particular direction, with a particular field of view. Some apps define a virtual camera at the particular point that is oriented in the particular direction and has properties that define the particular field of view. 

Such a virtual camera can be moved around the three-dimensional space, re-oriented, and may have various other properties that can be adjusted. The virtual camera is a user-interface tool that collectively represents the set of properties that define the direction, angle of view, and other attributes for rendering a scene from a particular point of view in a particular direction. 

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Virtual cameras have generally been defined as having a particular focal plane, a distance at which objects will appear in focus when the view from the camera is rendered. However, users may desire the ability to move the apparent focal plane of the virtual camera closer to or further from the camera in the context of a scene laid out in a three-dimensional space within an application. 

Users may also want to be able to render in focus a range of distances and expand or contract this range within the context of a scene. Apple says there’s a need in the art for virtual cameras with highly modifiable focal properties. What’s more, the company adds that there’s a need for user interface tools to enable easy modification of these focal properties. 

Here’s Apple’s summary of the invention: “Some embodiments provide a method that provides tools for defining a scene including media objects in a multi-dimensional space. The method provides a set of user interface tools for adjusting a region of focus for rendering the space from a particular location within a particular field of view. In some embodiments, the region of focus is a first region in the space within the particular field of view and the space further includes a second region outside of the region of focus within the particular field of view. In some embodiments, the method also provides a set of effects for applying to the second region but not the first region to visually indicate the first region as the region of focus within the space and the second region as a region outside of the region of focus within the space.”

Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.