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Enhancing Video Streams with Teams Video Effects (Custom Filters)
Since the introduction of the original Teams background blur filter in September 2018, Microsoft has steadily increased the number of video effects that users can apply in meetings. First, the ability to select from a set of standard background images appeared. Then we could upload and use custom background images. This spawned lots of effort to find nice images to use in Teams meetings, and the generation of scripts such at that to make the Bing daily image available for backgrounds. In April 2022, Microsoft introduced brightness and soft-focus filters. And now, we’re getting a suite of 32 visual effects to enhance the video stream for users during Teams meetings.
In line with the dates given in message center notification MC495330 (updated 10 January 2023, Microsoft 365 roadmap item 86811), the new filters are now available in the public preview version of Teams. According to the roadmap item, the feature should be generally available in February 2023 for both commercial and GCC tenants. Full worldwide deployment will complete in late April 2023.
Consent for Video Processing
According to Microsoft, video (also called custom) filters allow meeting participants to “augment their video stream with visual effects.” Before anyone can use a filter, they must consent to Microsoft processing their video stream (generated by the workstation camera) to add the filters (Figure 1).
Video filters split into styles and frames. presented to users in a gallery (Figure 2). I counted 23 frames and nine styles in the preview..
Like other Teams effects, users can test a visual effect before deciding to apply it within a meeting. This can happen before a meeting (ore-join) and while in a meeting (select Video Effects from the More menu). Figure 2 shows my reaction after selecting the “Animated golden spark” frame imposed. Notice that Teams imposes the effect on top of a selected custom background image. That’s the meaning of “augmenting” a video stream.
Potential for Monetization of Video Effects
Microsoft says that video effects are built on the Teams platform infrastructure and can also come from partners. No partner effects are in the preview: the 32 available are all from Microsoft. In the future, it’s easy to see how partners might sell sets of video effects or custom effects generated specifically for an organization. You can also anticipate giveaway effects generated to publicize or celebrate certain occasions.
Control of Video Effects via the Custom Filters App
Like many Teams components, video filters are implemented as an app. By default, the app is enabled in the Teams admin center for commercial and GCC tenants (Figure 3). It’s disabled in Education tenants. If an organization don’t want its users to “decorate your video effect and make it awesome,” it can either block the app completely or allow selective users to apply video effects with an app permission policy.
The text describing the Custom Filters app mentions stickers in addition to frames and filters (styles). There’s no sign of stickers in the current preview but maybe these will appear in the future.
Hard to Understand the Value of Video Effects
It’s hard to understand the motivation to introduce video effect filters to Teams meetings at this point. It seems like the demand for applying effects to video streams was at its height during the pandemic when applications like Snap camera (no longer available) were popular. I could understand the rationale for including filters like brightness and soft-focus to help user images be as good as they could be, but generating a black and white image or adding a frame is not something I can get excited about.
But others will like the notion of playing with video effects and it will be a popular feature with some groups. I don’t recommend playing with video effects in your next meeting with a senior executive. If you’re going to try the styles and frames out, maybe do so in a meeting with some friends first.
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