If you use an iPad to FaceTime with friends and family, a feature called Center Stage on the latest models gives you greater freedom to move around while on a call. Let’s take a look at how this useful feature works, as well as how you can disable it.
What Is Center Stage?
Center Stage allows you to move around your environment while on a video call while remaining in the frame so whoever you’re talking to can still see you. It uses a blend of ultra-wide-angle video capture and software wizardry to make it seem like the iPad is following you around the room.
The feature can automatically detect when a new person enters the frame, widening the shot and adjusting the frame to include whoever it can in its 120º field of view.
In reality, the iPad is perfectly still. This is possible thanks to the ultra-wide front-facing cameras on the latest Apple tablets. Apple is able to crop and transform the image to remove most of the perspective distortion associated with an ultra-wide lens to ensure you remain in shot. Nicole Nguyen of the Wall Street Journal demonstrated its functionality on Twitter.
Of course, there’s a natural limitation to the technology. If you stray too far from your iPad, you will walk outside of the camera’s gaze. While the feature has mostly been touted as a FaceTime enhancement, Apple says that Center Stage will work in third-party apps, with an API available for anyone to enable the feature in their own video calling platform.
Zoom has already been updated to take advantage of the feature,
As of this writing in September 2021, Center Stage works in the following iPad models:
- iPad Pro 12.9-inch (5th generation)
- iPad Pro 11-inch (3rd generation)
- iPad (9th generation)
- iPad mini (6th generation)
Apple iPad (9th generation)
As of September 2021, even the least expensive, base-model iPad now come with Center Stage. It's still a great deal.
How to Use or Disable Center Stage
You can toggle Center Stage on or off using Control Center on your iPad. While in a call (FaceTime or otherwise) swipe down from the top-right corner of the screen to reveal Control Center.
From here tap on the Video Effects button (highlighted by a green video icon) then use the Center Stage button to toggle the feature on or off.
Center Stage is most useful when you’re moving around your environment, when you’re on a call where you need to be hands-free, or when multiple people in the room want to be included in the call. The feature could potentially be distracting in the wrong environment though, so turning it off is always an option.
Hands-Free Video Calling
Center Stage was first introduced to the iPad Pro range in mid-2021 and has since been added to Apple’s budget iPad and portable iPad mini. The feature is similar to panning and tracking technology seen in rival devices from the likes of Google, and it’s great to see it become a standard feature of the latest Apple tablets.
Wondering which iPad is the right tablet for yourself or friends and family? Read our guide to the best iPads for drawing, travel, and more.