Auto-framing has quickly become a standard feature on smart displays and webcams. Here’s what you need to know about the unique functionality and how it can improve your video calls.
In short, auto-framing is a method used to keep the primary subject of a video in focus and at the center of the shot. It functions in different ways for different devices, but no matter what’s going on behind the lens, you can rest assured the camera is putting you front and center.
Aside from tracking a primary subject, auto-framing can also be used to properly focus and center large groups. Some software can even refocus and widen the shot when new people jump into the picture. The feature is incredibly popular on smart displays, as it gives users a way to easily chat with distant friends and family without the need for constant manual adjustments.
Auto-framing does have its limitations, and they, unfortunately, vary by product. Some can pan up to nearly 180 degrees and track vertical movement up to 90 degrees, while others will barely be able to auto-frame if you move away from your original position. Be sure to read the fine print for any device you’re interested in, as auto-framing is usually a big selling point and specifics on its performance should be readily available.
Auto-framing used to be relegated to a few webcams and smart displays. Fast-forward to today, and you’ll find it in dozens of devices, including a variety of premium smartphones. This list is by no means extensive, but here are a few of the most popular products on the market that incorporate auto-framing, as of December 2021:
- Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen)
- Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen)
- Facebook Portal
- Facebook Portal+
- Google Nest Hub Max
- Google Nest Hub (2nd Gen)
There are two primary ways devices accomplish auto-framing. The most common technique used by webcams and smart displays is simply manipulating optical zoom. This allows the camera to zoom in and out as needed, while still offering a wide field of view and crisp image. The software powering the camera will then use facial recognition to track people as they move in and out of the frame and adjust the level of zoom accordingly.
However, some smart displays on the market also employ rotating stands–giving them an added degree of auto-framing ability. Some users love the added functionality, as it lets them freely roam a larger space before the shot loses track of them. Others aren’t too keen on the feature, as the rotating stands often require a larger footprint in your home to work properly and can create a bit of sound as their bases rotate.
Regardless of which technique a device employs, some products will fall prey to lag. That is, fast movements won’t be picked up by the camera, or it’ll take a few seconds for auto-framing to properly get you back to the center of the shot. This tends to be more pronounced on older devices, although it’s something to look out for while shopping around for a webcam or smart display.
Auto-framing can often be toggled on or off in the options menu, and some devices will even give you the chance to optimize their performance with a brief setup process. This will teach you the limitations of your specific camera, including how much horizontal space it can track and how far away you can get before it stops auto-framing.