The walkthrough camera is easily one of the best new features in macOS Ventura. Starting with macOS 13 and iOS 16, you can instantly turn your iPhone into a super high-quality webcam for video calls and more. How and why you should do this is explained below.
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What is a walkthrough camera?
With the pass-through camera in macOS Ventura, you can use your iPhone’s rear camera as a video camera for FaceTime, Zoom, and any other app that needs a webcam. The feature also works in apps that aren’t designed for video calling, like QuickTime and Photo Booth.
The advantage is enormous; Just compare the quality of your Mac’s webcam with the quality of your iPhone for video recording. Continuity Camera adds video features like Studio Lighting to enhance your surroundings and Center Stage to make you the center of attention from anywhere in view.
Apple previously integrated macOS features under the Continuity Camera name, such as: B. Using your iPhone camera to take a photo to insert into a Keynote slide on your Mac. In the future, I think using your iPhone as a webcam will be so useful that this is what people mean when they talk about Continuity Camera.
How to use the walkthrough camera
First, make sure your Mac is running macOS 13 (Ventura) or later. You’ll also need your iPhone to run iOS 16 or later. Both devices should use the same iCloud account to allow the connection.
The walkthrough camera works wirelessly, so you don’t need to connect your iPhone to your Mac with a cable. You can use a charging cable if your battery is low or you prefer a wired connection, but I’ve found the cordless performance to be excellent.
If your devices are up to date, you’re almost done with the setup. For best results, Apple strongly recommends mounting your iPhone to your Mac’s display. Your iPhone must be locked with the rear camera facing you – select your iPhone as the video source. How to do this varies by app, so you may need to dig into the app’s settings screen. Learn more about using the pass-through camera with FaceTime.
QuickTime is the default video player for many file types on Mac and can also be used to create videos. You can do this by launching QuickTime, selecting File from the menu bar, and choosing New Movie Recording.
If your Mac has a webcam, it’s likely launching a live video preview from the built-in camera. Move the cursor and the record/playback controls will appear. The large red circle initiates video capture and a down arrow indicates input and quality options.
When your iPhone is mounted and positioned correctly, you should be able to select your iPhone from the camera list. In almost all cases, this will increase the quality of your video exponentially.
Speaking of quality, here you can also choose between high and maximum quality when recording video. High is usually fine as it uses standard compression (H.264 video and 44100Hz AAC audio) to control file size. Maximum created uncompressed files (Apple ProRes 422 video and Linear PCM audio) that are much larger.
Now you can click the red record button and start filming. The benefit of using QuickTime on your Mac with Continuity Camera from iPhone is that you’re using the best video camera on your phone and You can see what you are recording in real time. The short setup process is worth it compared to the lower video quality of the selfie cam or the hope that the back cam will get you framed and focused without seeing yourself in real time.
After you finish recording, QuickTime will prompt you to save your video and choose where to save it. You have now created a video whose quality far exceeds what you could do with the built-in webcam.
Want to use the pass-through camera on your Mac to take photos? Photo Booth on Mac can do that. This can be especially useful if you have your Mac and iPhone on hand when trying to take group photos for the holidays or special occasions.
That’s because everyone can see clearly what they look like before the photo is taken, and Photo Booth provides a countdown before the photo is taken. Photo Booth also has a bunch of fun camera effects, and the video capture supports those effects as well as the walkthrough camera. You can also quickly snap four photos in a row to create a 4×4 grid of snapshots.
Photo Booth uses the built-in webcam by default. You can change the camera source for Photo Booth in the Camera section of the menu bar. You should see your iPhone as a camera option if properly mounted or positioned for the pass-through camera.
Once you’ve chosen your iPhone as the camera source for Photo Booth, you’ll immediately notice that the quality of photos and videos improves dramatically. Just take a picture or record a video in Photo Booth just like you would with the built-in webcam and it works.
Photo Booth images and videos are stored within the app (and in the Photo Booth library file in Finder). You can use the share sheet or drag and drop selected photos and videos to your iCloud Photo Library or elsewhere.
By using Continuity Camera with Photo Booth, you can also add camera effects such as portrait and studio lighting to achieve a different look than the built-in webcam can provide. Using your Mac display as a viewfinder without compromising on quality is awesome.
What happens when you get a call?
Good question, thanks for asking. Luckily, a spammer called me during a FaceTime call while I was using the continuity camera.
In all other cases, including video recording, the call takes over and the camera stops. The pass-through camera anticipates this and handles it elegantly. There are no interruptions to your video call, and your phone doesn’t vibrate or ring your ringtone. Instead, macOS plays a single alert tone and displays a notification for the call until the caller hangs up.
I’ll add a phone-related tip: if you’re looking for your iPhone and can’t ping it with Find My or the Apple Watch, check the top of your Mac display. Did this happen to me during a video call telling everyone to hold on while I look for my iPhone? Absolutely, and it could happen to you! So using your iPhone as a webcam becomes second nature.
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