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iPad Pro now a video call king with Apple's new feature. Here's how it works

FaceTime's new Center Stage camera feature takes video chats to the next level on iPad Pro.

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Apple's new iPad Pro transforms video calls. 

Scott Stein/CNET

The iPad Pro models for 2021 are fully loaded with plenty of features and processing power. In fact, both of the tablets use the same M1 Apple Silicon processor that's being used in the latest MacBooks and iMacs. This processor helps power Center Stage, a feature that's sure to change the way you use FaceTime on the iPad Pro for video calls.

The first time you place a FaceTime call on a 2021 iPad Pro, you'll almost certainly notice that the front camera follows you around as you shift in your chair, zooming in on your face and keeping you in the middle of the frame. You can even get up and walk around the room and the camera will follow you. If someone else walks into the camera's view, it will even zoom out to add them to the video call so you don't have to squeeze together.

When I first started using the new iPad Pro, I was a little confused about when Center Stage would work and how to find its settings. Below I'll break down everything you need to know.

How Center Stage works with FaceTime on iPad Pro

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Brett Pearce/CNET

The easiest way to test out Center Stage is to open the FaceTime app. You don't have to make a call; the feature starts working the moment you open the app and can see a preview of what the front-facing camera sees. 

Move around to see how it follows you. Get up and walk around to find the limit of where it stops following you -- the iPad Pro doesn't come on wheels, after all. Have people walk into the shot, then leave. It's fun, if not downright interesting, to see how quickly the iPad Pro adjusts to something as small as shifting your weight in a seat. 

For fun, you can place a FaceTime call and see how long it takes for the person on the other end to notice the camera moving around. 

What about Center Stage outside of FaceTime?

There's good news and bad news. Let's start with the bad news: Center Stage won't work in Apple's Camera app. That means you can't use it to record videos that keep you in the shot. It's something Apple should consider adding -- a small toggle in the Camera app to turn Center Stage on and off would suffice. 

OK, now for the good news. Center Stage should work without any work on a developer's part in all video-calling apps. I say should because there are always outliers that, for some reason or other, it won't work with. 

I've personally tested and confirmed that Center Stage works in the WebEx, Zoom and Google Meet apps. I didn't have to do anything to turn it on -- I simply joined the calls as I normally do, and the camera immediately started following me around. 

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The setting to turn off Center Stage isn't where you'd think it is. 

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Not a fan of iPad Pro's Center Stage? You can turn it off

Whether you find Center Stage distracting or just don't like using it, you have the option to turn it off. But you'll have to do it on an app-by-app basis: There isn't a single toggle or switch in the Camera settings to disable it. 

Zoom recently updated its iPad app with support for Center Stage, adding a button to turn the feature on or off whenever you're in a video call. Even if you've used the Zoom app and Center Stage worked prior to the update, you'll find that you need to enable it before it starts working. When in a video call, tap on the Center Stage button in the top-left corner of your screen. You'll be asked to confirm you do, indeed, want to turn on the auto-following feature. After the initial setup, you can turn it on or off as you please. 

Not every video-calling app has updated with official Center Stage support yet, but that doesn't mean you're without options. Instead of a setting or switch inside your preferred app, you can control Center Stage by opening the Settings app and scrolling down to the list of apps installed on your iPad. Tap the listed app you want to stop using Center Stage in, where you should find a Center Stage option. Slide the switch to the Off position. 

For example, for Microsoft Teams you'd go to Settings > Microsoft Teams > Center Stage. For FaceTime you'd go to Settings > FaceTime > Center Stage. Again, you'll need to do this for every app. 

The new iPad Pro comes with iPadOS 14.5, of which we've covered plenty of features that add to its utility. There are even hidden features that help you take it to the next level. We're certainly looking forward to what Apple has in store for it with iPadOS 15, but we won't know more about it until WWDC kicks off on June 7.