Cloudinary Blog

Automatically Crop Videos Without Losing Focus

Content-Aware Automatic Cropping for Video

Delivering videos according to the aspect ratios defined by social media for multiple devices and platforms is a growing challenge. The continuously rising volume of vertical videos and the corresponding increase in video traffic on mobile devices (now up to 57% of online videos watched) have only exacerbated the situation, with no letup in sight.

Reality is, smartphone users hold their phone vertically while scrolling or browsing online content, including videos that are not optimized for mobile devices. It simply doesn’t occur to those users to switch to horizontal mode for an enhanced view, or it doesn't feel worth their effort. This means that providers of online content must make sure their videos accommodate all viewing devices, ideally through automation.


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Cloudinary, which for years has been performing automated cropping of images for size economy and compliance with aspect ratios, can now do the same for videos, adding to its already powerful video solution. Impressively, Cloudinary’s content-aware cropping capability identifies the must-keep sections by analyzing videos through advanced AI and machine-learning techniques, churning out intelligently downsized videos in any aspect ratio. It’s as simple as setting the crop mode to fill and the gravity to auto.

Ruby:
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cl_video_tag("ship", :width=>300, :gravity=>"auto", :aspect_ratio=>"1:1", :crop=>"fill")
PHP v1:
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cl_video_tag("ship", array("width"=>300, "gravity"=>"auto", "aspect_ratio"=>"1:1", "crop"=>"fill"))
PHP v2:
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(new VideoTag('ship.mp4'))
  ->resize(Resize::fill()->width(300)
    ->aspectRatio(AspectRatio::ar1X1())
    ->gravity(Gravity::autoGravity()));
Python:
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CloudinaryVideo("ship").video(width=300, gravity="auto", aspect_ratio="1:1", crop="fill")
Node.js:
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cloudinary.video("ship", {width: 300, gravity: "auto", aspect_ratio: "1:1", crop: "fill"})
Java:
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cloudinary.url().transformation(new Transformation().width(300).gravity("auto").aspectRatio("1:1").crop("fill")).videoTag("ship");
JS:
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cloudinary.videoTag('ship', {width: 300, gravity: "auto", aspectRatio: "1:1", crop: "fill"}).toHtml();
jQuery:
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$.cloudinary.video("ship", {width: 300, gravity: "auto", aspect_ratio: "1:1", crop: "fill"})
React:
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<Video publicId="ship" >
  <Transformation width="300" gravity="auto" aspectRatio="1:1" crop="fill" />
</Video>
Vue.js:
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<cld-video publicId="ship" >
  <cld-transformation width="300" gravity="auto" aspectRatio="1:1" crop="fill" />
</cld-video>
Angular:
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<cl-video public-id="ship" >
  <cl-transformation width="300" gravity="auto" aspect-ratio="1:1" crop="fill">
  </cl-transformation>
</cl-video>
.NET:
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cloudinary.Api.UrlVideoUp.Transform(new Transformation().Width(300).Gravity("auto").AspectRatio("1:1").Crop("fill")).BuildVideoTag("ship")
Android:
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MediaManager.get().url().transformation(new Transformation().width(300).gravity("auto").aspectRatio("1:1").crop("fill")).resourceType("video").generate("ship.mp4");
iOS:
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cloudinary.createUrl().setResourceType("video").setTransformation(CLDTransformation().setWidth(300).setGravity("auto").setAspectRatio("1:1").setCrop("fill")).generate("ship.mp4")

Rotate or Move On: The Challenge with Video on Mobile

Nearly half of all smartphone users watch short-form videos or live posts at least once a week. Because most people hold their phones vertically for comfort, yet videos are best viewed horizontally, many folks shy away from the trouble of rotating their phone and waiting for the video to update. The solution? Have videos play with the correct aspect ratio, eliminating the rotation step and avoiding accidental dropping of the phone.

Additionally, given the monumental role of social media in video consumption, you must deliver videos on those platforms across all devices. The chart below showing the various aspect ratios required for optimally delivering videos for Facebook and Instagram, clearly demonstrates the challenge, especially if large quantities of videos are involved.

Introducing Automatic Content-Aware Cropping

You can now automate all your video cropping with Cloudinary’s automatic content-aware automatic cropping functionality. No more time consuming manual editing. Cloudinary has developed a complex deep-learning algorithm that analyzes frames from the video and identifies where the most interesting areas are. From this analysis, a heatmap is produced and then used to crop the video intelligently.

The cropped video will now follow the most interesting area of the video throughout the duration, ensuring that your videos retain all the important features you wanted when you filmed them, while filling the screen no matter the aspect ratio.

As we mentioned above, all you need to do is set the crop mode to fill and the gravity to auto. This will begin the process of analysing the video. We recommend performing this on upload as an eager transformation to ensure the analysis is complete before delivery (or alternatively using the explict method before delivery on a video already in your account). Once that analysis has been performed on a specific video in your account, you can deliver your content-aware video in any aspect ratio you need; Landscape, Square, Facebook Vertical, Instagram Story Vertical.

Automatic Cropping Versus Default Cropping

Let’s take a look at how content-aware automatic cropping compares with the standard center crop. Notice how the default crop only has the dog in shot for a short period of time when he passes through the center of the frame. With automatic cropping, this impressive frisbie catch stays in shot throughout the video, despite starting on one side of the frame and finishing on the other.

Click any video to see the comparison in action.

Original video
Default crop
(Center gravity)
Automatic crop

Taking it Further

We could use this new functionality to extend the existing mobile video experience and actually serve up a landscape or vertical video depending on the orientation of the device. If the user lands on your page whilst browsing in portrait orientation we can set our HTML5 video source to our vertically cropped video. If they then decide to switch to landscape then we change the source to the original landscape video. Full screen video for both orientations.

See the Pen Orientation switch demo by Cloudinary (@Cloudinary) on CodePen.


It's also super easy to combine content-aware cropping with a number of other great features of Cloudinary’s Dynamic Video Platform. Take a look at how to use automatic video transcoding and content-aware compression to achieve complete end-to-end automation and optimization.

In Summary

So there you have it, Cloudinary’s powerful video solution just got even more powerful. Advanced AI and deep learning algorithms enable you to deliver your videos in the right size and aspect ratio, for every platform or device and automate the whole process. Go ahead and try it out with one of your own videos on our demo page, or you can sign up for a free account and get going with the full product. Just remember to set the crop mode to fill and the gravity to auto. Check out our documentation for more info.


Further Reading on Video Manipulation

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