Brightness and Soft-Focus Filters Help People Look Their Best During Video Calls
Demonstrating why you should keep an eye on notifications posted to the Microsoft 365 message center, Microsoft posted MC352623 on April 4 to announce new Microsoft Teams filters for video meetings. Some tests reveal that the Teams soft-focus filter appears to reduce facial wrinkles and worry lines while the brightness filter gives faces a little lift. My experience is in line with Microsoft 365 roadmap item 65944, which promises that the filters “subtly adjust lighting levels and smooth out facial features.” MC352623 says that the soft-focus filter “applies a smoothing effect” while the brightness filter “enhances the video quality when lighting is poor.” Your mileage might vary.
Deployment is expected to finish worldwide in mid-April. The filters are available in the Windows desktop client, but don’t seem to be present in the browser client. I haven’t tried the Mac or Linux desktop clients. It’s likely that the processing done to apply the filters to video feeds is workstation-dependent, so these features might or might not appear in other platforms in the future. The new filters are default filters and are unaffected by the Teams policy applied to control other background effects for Teams meetings (blurring and images).
Accessing the New Microsoft Teams Filters
Users can apply the filters before joining a meeting or while the meeting is in progress. To access the filters before a meeting, click the cogwheel in the video pane to expose the settings (Figure 1).
During a meeting, select Device settings from the More ([…]) menu, and then adjust the filter settings under Video settings. The filters are turned off by default, but if you enable them, Teams remembers your settings for future meetings.
The Teams Brightness Filter
You might have noticed that the images Microsoft distributes to illustrate the wonders of Teams video meetings all feature perfectly-lit participants. This is not the real world, especially for people working from home offices but also when people join meetings from dimly-lit conference rooms.
One solution is to use ring lights to improve the quality of video feeds for online meetings. The soft lighting projected by these devices makes faces stand out better. My desk is located at the back of my home office. The lighting is reasonable for video meetings but can become dark on overcast afternoons. In many respects, the brightness filter acted like a basic ring light (one without all the bells and whistles that can be incorporated into these devices). Figure 2 shows the effect of turning the brightness filter on for a Teams meeting (images taken from screen captures of the video output).
I think the brightness filter helps. It certainly made my image appear brighter in the video feed, which is a plus point.
The Teams Soft-Focus Filter
Anyone who’s used photo editing software is used to dealing with filters designed to make the appearance of a subject as attractive as possible. In the case of the soft-focus filter, Teams applies a smoothing effect on the video feed. The Teams soft-focus filter comes with a slider to allow adjustment of how much soft focus should be applied. Figure 3 shows an example where I set the slider to the maximum (left) and minimum (right). Again, these are crops taken from the video in a meeting.
I can’t do much about the appearance of the subject: my face is what it is. However, the soft-focus filter does seem to have made my wrinkle lines less obvious. It’s rather like I received some Botox injections to make me look younger. Not that I know what Botox injections do! Of course, the sad thing is that the effect is transient and only lasts for Teams meetings.
Feature Value Very Subjective
The brightness filter is the more useful of the two filters. It improves the appearance of participants during video calls. I’m less certain about the business benefit of the soft-focus filter, but I might not be the target audience for the feature. In other words, you’ll have to make your own mind up about its usefulness.
It’s a bit like the Mirror my video feature (MC298410, Microsoft 365 roadmap item 89015), which is now generally available everywhere. Some never noticed that video feeds “flipped” their image. Others were driven crazy by the reversal of text or background images. Seeing images in a video feed for online meetings generates very subjective opinions., which is why I guess so much effort goes into creating features to make people happy with the output.
So much change, all the time. It’s a challenge to stay abreast of all the updates Microsoft makes across Office 365. Subscribe to the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook to receive monthly insights into what happens, why it happens, and what new features and capabilities mean for your tenant