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Frame Processors

What are frame processors?

Frame processors are functions that are written in JavaScript (or TypeScript) which can be used to process frames the camera "sees". Inside those functions you can call Frame Processor Plugins, which are high performance native functions specifically designed for certain use-cases.

For example, you might want to create an object detector app without writing any native code, while still achieving native performance:

function App() {
const frameProcessor = useFrameProcessor((frame) => {
'worklet'
const objects = detectObjects(frame)
console.log(`Detected ${objects.length} objects.`)
}, [])

return (
<Camera
{...cameraProps}
frameProcessor={frameProcessor}
/>
)
}

Frame processors are by far not limited to object detection, other examples include:

  • ML for facial recognition
  • Using Tensorflow, MLKit Vision, Apple Vision or other libraries
  • Creating realtime video-chats using WebRTC to directly send the camera frames over the network
  • Creating scanners for custom codes such as Snapchat's SnapCodes or Apple's AppClips
  • Creating snapchat-like filters, e.g. draw a dog-mask filter over the user's face
  • Creating color filters with depth-detection
  • Drawing boxes, text, overlays, or colors on the screen in realtime
  • Rendering filters and shaders such as Blur, inverted colors, beauty filter, or more on the screen

Because they are written in JS, Frame Processors are simple, powerful, extensible and easy to create while still running at native performance. (Frame Processors can run up to 1000 times a second!) Also, you can use fast-refresh to quickly see changes while developing or publish over-the-air updates to tweak the object detector's sensitivity in live apps without pushing a native update.

react-native-worklets-core

Frame Processors require react-native-worklets-core 0.2.0 or higher. Install it:

npm i react-native-worklets-core

And add the plugin to your babel.config.js:

module.exports = {
plugins: [
['react-native-worklets-core/plugin'],
],
}

The Frame

A Frame Processor is called for every Camera frame, and exposes information about the frame in the Frame parameter. The Frame parameter wraps the native GPU-based frame buffer in a C++ HostObject (a ~1.5MB buffer at 4k), and allows you to access information such as it's resolution or pixel format directly from JS:

const frameProcessor = useFrameProcessor((frame) => {
'worklet'
console.log(`Frame: ${frame.width}x${frame.height} (${frame.pixelFormat})`)
}, [])

Additionally, you can also directly access the Frame's pixel data using toArrayBuffer():

const frameProcessor = useFrameProcessor((frame) => {
'worklet'
if (frame.pixelFormat === 'rgb') {
const buffer = frame.toArrayBuffer()
const data = new Uint8Array(buffer)
console.log(`Pixel at 0,0: RGB(${data[0]}, ${data[1]}, ${data[2]})`)
}
}, [])

It is however recommended to use native Frame Processor Plugins for processing, as those are much faster than JavaScript and can sometimes operate with the GPU buffer directly. You can simply pass a Frame to a native Frame Processor Plugin directly.

Interacting with Frame Processors

Access JS values

Since Frame Processors run in Worklets, you can directly use JS values such as React state which are readonly-copied into the Frame Processor:

// User can look for specific objects
const targetObject = 'banana'

const frameProcessor = useFrameProcessor((frame) => {
'worklet'
const objects = detectObjects(frame)
const bananas = objects.filter((o) => o.type === targetObject)
console.log(`Detected ${bananas} bananas!`)
}, [targetObject])

Shared Values

You can also easily read from, and assign to Shared Values, which can be written to from inside a Frame Processor and read from any other context (either React JS, Skia, or Reanimated):

const bananas = useSharedValue([])

// Detect Bananas in Frame Processor
const frameProcessor = useFrameProcessor((frame) => {
'worklet'
const objects = detectObjects(frame)
bananas.value = objects.filter((o) => o.type === 'banana')
}, [bananas])

// Draw bananas in a Skia Canvas
const onDraw = useDrawCallback((canvas) => {
for (const banana of bananas.value) {
const rect = Skia.XYWHRect(banana.x,
banana.y,
banana.width,
banana.height)
const paint = Skia.Paint()
paint.setColor(Skia.Color('red'))
frame.drawRect(rect, paint)
}
})

Call functions

And you can also call back to the React-JS thread by using createRunInJsFn(...):

const onFaceDetected = Worklets.createRunInJsFn((face: Face) => {
navigation.push("FiltersPage", { face: face })
})

const frameProcessor = useFrameProcessor((frame) => {
'worklet'
const faces = scanFaces(frame)
if (faces.length > 0) {
onFaceDetected(faces[0])
}
}, [onFaceDetected])

Threading

By default, Frame Processors run synchronously with the Camera pipeline. Anything that takes longer than one Frame interval might block the Camera from streaming new Frames. For example, if your Camera is running at 30 FPS, your Frame Processor has 33ms to finish executing before the next Frame is dropped. At 60 FPS, you only have 16ms.

Running asynchronously

For longer running processing, you can use runAsync(..) to run code asynchronously on a different Thread:

const frameProcessor = useFrameProcessor((frame) => {
'worklet'
console.log("I'm running synchronously at 60 FPS!")

runAsync(frame, () => {
'worklet'
console.log("I'm running asynchronously, possibly at a lower FPS rate!")
})
}, [])

Running at a throttled FPS rate

Some Frame Processor Plugins don't need to run on every Frame, for example a Frame Processor that detects the brightness in a Frame only needs to run twice per second. You can achieve this by using runAtTargetFps(..):

const frameProcessor = useFrameProcessor((frame) => {
'worklet'
console.log("I'm running synchronously at 60 FPS!")

runAtTargetFps(2, () => {
'worklet'
console.log("I'm running synchronously at 2 FPS!")
})
}, [])

Native Frame Processor Plugins

Since JavaScript is slower than native languages, it is recommended to use native Frame Processor Plugins for heavy processing. Such native plugins benefit of faster languages (Objective-C/Swift, Java/Kotlin, or C++), and can make use of CPU-Vector- or GPU-acceleration.

Creating native Frame Processor Plugins

VisionCamera provides an easy-to-use API for creating native Frame Processor Plugins, which are used to either wrap existing algorithms (example: "MLKit Face Detection"), or build your own custom algorithms. It's binding point is a simple callback function that gets called with the native frame type (CMSampleBuffer or Image), that you can use for any kind of processing. The native plugin can accept parameters (e.g. for configuration) and return any kind of values for result, which are bridged through JSI.

See: "Creating Frame Processor Plugins".

Using Community Plugins

Community Frame Processor Plugins are distributed through npm. To install the vision-camera-resize-plugin plugin, run:

npm i vision-camera-resize-plugin
cd ios && pod install

That's it! 🎉 Now you can use it:

const { resize } = useResizePlugin()

const frameProcessor = useFrameProcessor((frame) => {
'worklet'
const smallerFrame = resize(frame, {
size: {
// ...
},
})
// ...
}, [resize])

Check out Frame Processor community plugins to discover available community plugins.

Selecting a Format for a Frame Processor

When running frame processors, it is often important to choose an appropriate format. Here are some general tips to consider:

  • If you are running heavy AI/ML calculations in your frame processor, make sure to select a format that has a lower resolution to optimize it's performance. You can also resize the Frame on-demand.
  • Sometimes a frame processor plugin only works with specific pixel formats. Some plugins (like Tensorflow Lite Models) don't work with yuv, so use a pixelFormat of rgb instead.
  • Some Frame Processor plugins don't work with HDR formats. In this case you need to disable videoHdr.

Benchmarks

Frame Processors are really fast. I have used MLKit Vision Image Labeling to label 4k Camera frames in realtime, and measured the following results:

  • Fully natively (written in pure Objective-C, no React interaction at all), I have measured an average of 68ms per call.
  • As a Frame Processor Plugin (written in Objective-C, called through a JS Frame Processor function), I have measured an average of 69ms per call.

This means that the Frame Processor API only takes ~1ms longer than a fully native implementation, making it the fastest and easiest way to run any sort of Frame Processing in React Native.

Disabling Frame Processors

The Frame Processor API spawns a secondary JavaScript Runtime which consumes a small amount of extra CPU and RAM. Additionally, compile time increases since Frame Processors are written in native C++. If you're not using Frame Processors at all, you can disable them:

Android

Inside your gradle.properties file, add the disableFrameProcessors flag:

VisionCamera_disableFrameProcessors=true

Then, clean and rebuild your project.

iOS

Inside your Podfile, add the VCDisableFrameProcessors flag:

$VCDisableFrameProcessors = true

🚀 Next section: Zooming (or creating a Frame Processor Plugin)