Usually, when we go to a meeting, it’ll happen in some boring meeting room with tall windows and stale coffee – 2020 brought a lot of meetings back to people’s homes though. While the coffee is no doubt better, the views might not be – not everyone wants their living room or home office visible in a video call, especially if they have people walking past a lot, or just didn’t have the time to clean up after their toddler.
Thankfully Zoom has a solution – virtual backgrounds. They are overlays that cover everything other than you, and replace it with another picture, just like a greenscreen might. Zoom is smart enough to know which part of the image ‘you’ are (with the odd bit of confusion about arms/headsets) and will replace everything else with your chosen image without the need for a green screen.
You can either use one of the default virtual backgrounds or upload your own – so whether you’d like to hold your meeting with the Oval Office behind you or maybe a roaring waterfall or even the ISS – you can!
Tip: Always make sure that the background you set is appropriate for the situation and double-check before each meeting. Memes may make a funny backdrop for a call with friends, but your boss won’t be so happy to see it!
Setting up a virtual background
To configure a virtual background, you need to go into Zoom’s settings. To access the settings, click on your user icon in the top-right corner, then click on “Settings”.
Once in the settings, switch to the “Background & Filters” tab, and stay in the default “Virtual Backgrounds” sub-tab. Zoom comes with three static virtual background images and two video backgrounds that you can use. Simply select one of the backgrounds from the list by clicking on them. You can disable the virtual background by clicking the first option “None”.
Tip: You can tell which backgrounds are animated by looking in the bottom-left corner of the preview image. Video backgrounds have a small white video camera icon, while static backgrounds don’t.
If you have a green screen or another single colour background behind you, you can increase the quality of the background replacement/foreground detection. To do so, enable the “I have a green screen” setting in the bottom-left of the “Virtual Backgrounds” sub-tab of the “Backgrounds & Filters” settings tab.
When you enable the setting, Zoom will attempt to detect your background colour and automatically start filtering with it. If the detected background colour isn’t working well, you can manually set the background colour to be replaced by clicking the box at the bottom of the page labelled “Manually pick the colour of the background if the detected colour is not accurate”.
Uploading your own virtual background
If you’re not a fan of the default backgrounds, or just want to use a custom background, you can choose to upload your own custom virtual background. You can upload both image or video backgrounds. Images must be in either the PNG, JPG, or BMP (bitmap) format, while videos can use either the MP4 or MOV format. Video backgrounds can be between 360p and 1080p while there is no upper limit on the background image resolution. It’s recommended that you use the highest quality version available as this will give the best results.
To upload a background, click the “Add” icon in the top right of the virtual background selection screen, then select whether you want to add an image or a video background, and import it from your hard drive.
Tip: Your newly uploaded virtual background will be selected and enabled by default. If you don’t want to use it straight away, select another one and verify you’re happy with the appearance in the preview at the top of the settings window.