Custom Video Tiles with React

Discover how to customize the video tiles in a Whereby call using the Browser SDK with React hooks.

Intro and getting started

One advantage of the Whereby Browser SDK is ease of customization. You can customize your video calling UI right down to the video tiles using what you already know: CSS, JavaScript, and React.

In this tutorial, you'll create a pair of video tiles. Before starting, you'll need a Whereby Embedded account. Once you have your account, create a meeting room using your account dashboard or Whereby's REST API. You can leave the room unlocked for development purposes.

You can get started on Whereby for free with 2,000 participant minutes each month — perfect for trying our features.

This tutorial assumes:

You'll need this background to understand some of the code examples here.

What we're creating

Whereby is well-suited to coaching, telehealth, remote classrooms, and virtual meetings. We'll use the Whereby Browser SDK and CSS to create video tiles for a remote 1-to-1 coaching business, BreatheCoaching. The image below illustrates what we're going to build.

Create a Participant component

Start by adding a Participant component to your project. This is the component we'll use to display each participant's video.

import React from "react";

const Participant = (props) => {

  /*
   * In the parent component: 
   * <Participant {...localParticipant} {...components} />
   */
  const {
    VideoView,
    stream
  } = props;

  return (
    <div>
      {stream && 
        <VideoView mirror stream={stream} />
      }
    </div>
  )
}

export default Participant;

Participant expects a VideoView component prop from its parent. VideoView requires also a stream prop value — the stream property of either a LocalParticipant or RemoteParticipant object. Pass the stream prop of Participant along to VideoView, as shown above.

At this point, the video tile should fill your entire browser, as in Figure 2. By default, the VideoView component expands to fit the width of its container. Let's constrain its width with some CSS.

Managing the video tile's dimensions

Add a Participant.css file to your project. Import it into the Participant component file as shown below.

import React from "react";
import 'Participant.css';

Add a className attribute with a value of participant to the containing div element. You'll use this attribute value as the selector in your CSS.

//…

return (
  <div className="participant">
    {stream && 
      <VideoView stream={stream} />
     }
  </div>
)

Since the design specs for BreatheCoaching require square video tiles with rounded corners, set the width property for the .participant class. Use the aspect-ratio CSS property to enforce square dimensions.

:root {
  --localParticipantWidth: 200px;
}

.participant {
  aspect-ratio: 1;
  width: var(--localParticipantWidth);
}

Now our video tile is 200 pixels wide by 200 pixels tall. Our video source however, is only 112.5 pixels tall (Figure 3).

Videos maintain their aspect ratio regardless of the dimensions of the video element or its containing ancestors. To resolve this, use the object-fit CSS property and the cover value.

.participant > video {
  object-fit: cover;
}

Using object-fit: cover causes the browser to scale the video source so that it fills the container, but maintains its aspect ratio. Your video tile should now resemble Figure 4.

Rounding the corner

Our design also calls for rounded video tile corners. Add a border-radius declaration to the .participant rule set, along with overflow: hidden. The latter rule ensures that the corners of the video don't extend past its container.

.participant {
  aspect-ratio: 1;
  width: var(--localParticipantWidth);
  border-radius: 25%;
  overflow: hidden;
}

Your video tile should now resemble Figure 5.

Although the local and remote participant tiles are different sizes, there's a lot of overlap in their appearance. Instead of creating a separate component, let's add some code to support a remote participant variation.

Same component, different look

Each participant object contains a property named isLocalParticipant. For remote participants, the value of this property is always false. Use this property to conditionally add a remote class to the remote participant tile. First, update the destructuring assignment to extract isLocalParticipant from props.

 const {
  VideoView,
  stream,
  isLocalParticipant
} = props;

Then conditionally add a remote class to the containing div.

return (
  <div className={`participant ${ !isLocalParticipant ? '' : 'remote'}`>
    {stream && 
      <VideoView stream={stream} />
     }
  </div>
)

Note: Using the ternary operator is fine for tutorials. For production-ready projects, consider the classnames package instead.

Finally, add a .remote rule set to Participants.css. Override the width property value from .participant and add a transparent border. Use the box-shadow property to add the halo.

:root {
  --localParticipantWidth: 200px;
  --remoteParticipantWidth: 400px; /* Add a --remoteParticipantWidth custom property */
}

//…

.remote {
  width: var(--remoteParticipantWidth);
  border: 1.2rem solid transparent;
  box-shadow: 0 0 2rem 0.5rem #fff;
}

Note: You can also use the filter property and the drop-shadow() filter to create the halo effect.

Your remote participant tile should look a bit like Figure 6.

Put it together with the rest of our UI design, and you can launch BreatheCoaching in no time.

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