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Google Pixel Cinematic Blur: What is it and how does it work?

Cinematic Blur is like your smartphone's portrait mode, but for video instead.
By
October 17, 2022
pixel 7 series cinematic blur
Google

The Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro feature a host of new camera features and modes, thanks to the upgraded AI capabilities of Google’s Tensor G2 SoC. One of those is Cinematic Blur, which adds a shallow depth of field to your video recordings. If you’re looking to shoot professional-looking videos with just your smartphone, here’s how to use Cinematic Blur on the Pixel 7 series.

Related: Everything you need to know about the Pixel 7’s cameras

What is Cinematic Blur on the Google Pixel?

As the name suggests, Cinematic Blur tracks a subject in the frame and creates a blurry, out-of-focus background behind it. This look, also known as bokeh, is often associated with expensive lenses that can produce natural subject-background separation. However, the Pixel 7 series uses software to simulate this cinematic style. The feature works on both animals and humans – you can check out Google’s sample album for some examples.

You may have already used your smartphone’s Portrait Mode to add a blurry background behind your subject. Cinematic Blur brings the same effect to video recordings instead. Since a video is essentially a series of 30 or 60 images recorded each second, the feature likely requires much more computational power. This may explain why we’ve had to wait so long for it even though Portrait Mode is already available on many budget smartphones.

How does the feature work?

While smartphone cameras produce natural bokeh just like a film camera, the effect is usually much more subtle due to their smaller sensor sizes.

To help overcome this limitation, smartphones like the Pixel 7 use machine learning and computational photography to separate the foreground from the background. From there, the phone adds a blur effect exclusively to the background and leaves the subject in the foreground unchanged. It’s effectively a post-processing effect added in real-time as you record.

Related: The best Pixel-only features explained

How to use Cinematic Blur on the Google Pixel 7 and 7 Pro?

google pixel 7 camera app
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

First off, the Cinematic Blur mode is only available on the Google Pixel 7 and 7 Pro. Assuming you own one of these two smartphones, here’s how to use the feature:

  • Open the Camera app on a Pixel 7 or Pixel 7 Pro
  • Towards the bottom of the screen right below the shutter button, swipe through the various camera modes until you land on Cinematic.
  • Tap the shutter button to begin recording. You’ll need a subject in the frame for the foreground-background separation effect to work.
  • To turn off Cinematic Blur, simply use a different camera mode.

See also: What is Face Unblur and Photo Unblur?


FAQs

For now, Cinematic Blur is exclusively available on the Pixel 7 series.

No, Cinematic Blur is currently exclusively available on the Pixel 7 series. This may be because of the upgraded AI capabilities of the Tensor G2 chipset.

Yes, Cinematic Blur is limited to 1080p 24fps on the Pixel 7 series.