Why MTR With Front Row Looks So Bad

GK Blog Microsoft Teams Front Row

During the pandemic, Zoom made a fortune. The company could do no wrong, even when it did — like in 2021 having to pay an $85 million fine to settle claims that it lied about offering end-to-end encryption and in 2020 when it accidentally used its Chinese servers to generate encryption keys.

The number of daily video calls from pre-pandemic to end of 2021 went from 10 million to 300+ million, in case you’re counting, that’s 30x growth in two years. Zoom dominated, and nearly all of us owe it a giant “thank you” for keeping schools open.

During that time, Zoom’s biggest rival, Microsoft’s Teams, also grew, just not as much. And, people were growing frustrated with the clunky user interface by mid-2021. Even people I know who work at Microsoft didn’t like it.

But, in 2022, Microsoft’s Teams division updated the UC platform with a better UI and better performance. Although Microsoft won’t hand over the data, it appears that the Teams Net Promoter Score improved during that time, too.

People like the new MS Teams way better.

In late 2022, MS Teams rolled out Teams Front Row — the “improved meeting equity” feature that lines up your remote attendees along the bottom of a wider (technically spec’d at 21:9 or 32:9 aspect ratio) screen — using either LCD, LED or projection. You’d have to be totally unengaged with the market not to have noticed the new feature being promoted by nearly everyone in UC (including all sorts of new accessories). In case you haven’t seen it, the image below shows that it’s a cool concept. In a lot of ways, it solves meeting equity issues; it certainly helps to have a remote calling option right in front of you rather than be inside a tiny box of tic-tac-toe squares in a big room with a small monitor. It doesn’t address the quality of the experience of the remote attendee, however. And, not everyone likes sitting on the proverbial front row, either.

Microsoft Teams Front row layout for Microsoft Teams Rooms on Windows

It’s pretty darn cool, huh?

But have you noticed how bad the picture resolution is? It’s fuzzy. Interestingly enough, when demo’d on 4K projectors, LEDs or LCD monitors, it’s a great way to test the quality of the display’s video scaler/processing. It’s showing everyone that, when sending low-resolution images to a high-res 4K display, video scaling matters, and many displays don’t have good ones. But, even if a display has a good one … it still looks fuzzy.

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Why is this?

Well, for whatever reason, MS Teams Front Row is spec’d by Microsoft to be 2560 x 1080 on a single display application and 3840 x 1080 when using two displays. Yes, widescreen HD.


It’s true. And, the biggest irony of all is that nearly every large format 21:9 display made is 5120 x 2160.

Video scaling varies. Some manufacturers spend a lot of time and money to develop video scaling technologies that have technology smart enough to sample the incoming images and video and even figure out what’s missing and correct it on the output. Most display companies don’t have this. So, the scaler being activated is generally a bad idea.

But, even with incredible quality scaling, you simply improve the video quality by increasing the pixels.

What needs to happen here is that Microsoft needs to fix this on the spec. I realize most video calls are, at best, 720p or 1080p but the spec calls for CHAT to be displayed on the right side of the screen and the participant engagement on the left side (flanking the view or shared content) and that looks TERRIBLE at 1080 on a large format LED or projector. And, in most cases, an LCD monitor is too small but, even with a 100” monitor, you generally can’t read the chat at that resolution.


Photo via Greg Jeffreys.

There’s no reason why Microsoft, since the content is being generated from inside the computing device (aka: a computer that’s capable of outputting resolutions much higher than even 5K), can’t display in higher resolution. I am not sure exactly why the spec is this way, especially since the Front Row feature is so darn cool and all the displays supporting it are all listed as 5K with native resolutions of 5120 x 2160. Check it out for yourself. Sharp/NEC, Planar, Samsung, Epson, LG, MAXHUB, Prysm, Panasonic, T1V, Avocor, Primeview, Ashton Bentley and literally everyone else.

IMG 1719

So, hey Microsoft, PLEASE fix this. Everyone in the AV market selling, designing and installing these 21:9 screens for MS Teams Front Row loves the new feature, but it’s BLURRY. Help!

PS. Thank you to Avocor’s Brian Carskadon for the inspiration for this column. Connect with him here.