We can’t help but admire Apple’s approach to the most complex technology. His goal is always to make it easy, magical, effortless. Regular users shouldn’t be overwhelmed by the onslaught of settings and options. Things should just work.
The problem is that, obviously, sometimes things just don’t work out like that. “Sit back and enjoy,” Apple tells us. “We have everything under control.” But it is not always so. And in many cases, there is no solution.
Apple’s Studio Display, with its puzzling and controversial webcam, has unearthed many of those frustrating feelings. We could start discussing whether to include the Center Framing feature on a screen that is probably intended for the most freakiesbut let’s put that aside.
And what about the audacity that Apple has had to launch it without any interface? And would the Studio Display’s camera have been better received if users had been able to adjust it to produce more visually pleasing images?
a dark gray box
I could accuse Apple of making its webcam like a black box, impervious to any interaction or understanding, but that wouldn’t be fair. It is actually a very dark gray box, but not totally black.
In fact, you can control some functions of the Studio Display’s camera, as well as other Apple devices. This is a new addition to Control Center, and now you can turn Center Framing and Portrait mode on or off.
Apple even lets you adjust settings for each individual app, in case you want to use Portrait mode in FaceTime but not Zoom, for example.
And that’s it. Apart from the Studio Display, all Apple laptops have a front facing camera and there is no official way to adjust its settings.
It is true that there are external tools (which are essentially hacks) to adjust the settings. Our partner Jason Cross from Macworld wrote about them in 2020. Some examples are Ecamm Network’s Webcam Settings and iGlasses, although this one has limited compatibility.
But it shouldn’t be like that. Apple should offer users of any Mac with a webcam tools to make the image look better. With Webcam Settings, you can improve contrast, reduce color saturation, and generally make the image look the way you want. You can also switch back to auto mode and let the camera do it for you.
Many people use chromas and other technology to replace backgrounds and darken them. Some apps allow it; others don’t. Apple has been allowing this for years through the Photo Booth app (which doesn’t support Center Framing, by the way).
Obviously, Portrait mode intelligently defines the foreground and background. It would be nice if Apple allowed users to replace that background (or chroma key) with another image of their choosing, regardless of the app they’re using.
Who has control over the frame?
But that is not all. If you don’t like how Center Framing works in the Studio Display (the image is framed as you move in front of the camera), you can turn it off, but Apple will decide which part of the camera is used as the static version of the image.
Initially, that ratio was incredibly high, but in preliminary versions of the firmware of the Studio Display is a bit lower. Still, we wonder why you can’t manually adjust that frame. And not just for the Studio Display, but for any Apple webcam.
Occasionally I use a chromakey and yet my camera is a bit too wide and as a result it shows the edges of the green screen.
When using the excellent Reincubate Camo app to use my iPhone as a webcam, you can choose to slightly zoom in on the image and make sure you’re centered and the chroma key completely covers the background. It is an option that all users should have.
Although many people complain about the “virtual camera” panning and zooming when using Center Framing because it’s a bit flashy and distracting, other people like it. However, right now that algorithm is an all or nothing.
Why doesn’t Apple let users choose between different types within Center Framing? With a wider frame you might do less panning, while a tighter frame might do more.
Personally I would prefer a softer adjustment to the eye rather than a sudden jerky movement. have several presets or sliders to adjust how it works would allow people to choose which Centered Framing experience they want, rather than being forced to use the only option Apple offers.
The power of interfaces
In this article, I’ve focused on the Studio Display’s camera because it’s a good example of how Apple’s protective instincts towards its users can backfire in incredible ways. Having a good set of defaults doesn’t mean you shouldn’t offer other options!
But to finish, there is another aspect of the Studio Display that I must mention. It is a clear example of Apple’s tendency to oversimplify its design of hardware.
Just think of the iPod Shuffle with no buttons, the third-generation iPod with no scroll wheel, the removal of Touch ID and the headphone jack on the iPhone, and the drastic reduction of ports on MacBooks at the end of the 2010s.
Well, the Studio Display (a complicated piece of hardware which actually runs a version of iOS on an A13 processor inside) has no power button. Or a reset button. Not even any buttons, in fact.
Sounds good, right? Apple has it all under control. Why have a power button if you don’t need one?
But the truth is that Apple does not have everything under control. Users of the Studio Display have reported that occasionally the audio from the Studio Display (either the speakers or the microphones, or both) cuts out a bit.
It is a common problem with hardware Mac’s audio subsystem (and as a podcast host I’d like to suggest to Apple that it should spend some time making the Mac’s audio subsystem more reliable), but it’s fixed the way traditional glitches are fixed: turn it off and back on again. to turn on
Except… the Studio Display doesn’t have any buttons. If the audio from the Studio Display goes bad, your only option is to duck under your desk, unplug it from power, and plug it back in.
It’s too late for the Studio Display to have a button on the back, but it’s not too late for Apple to come up with a solution.
May I suggest including some option in the menu, some preference or another button of software to allow the Studio Display to restart. Sometimes, Apple, adding tweaks isn’t a loss, it’s a win for your customers.
Original article published on Macworld.