By now, most of us are meeting “face to face” using our favorite video conference tools and apps like Zoom, GoToMeeting, Google Meet, FaceTime, Webex, Microsoft Teams, Skype, and a whole slew of others that are popping up to fill the new demand.
There’s one feature you’ve likely noticed for the first time in the past couple months…virtual backgrounds. When you think of a green screen style effect, you might wonder where that fits in with typical business meetings. This type of tech is best used by our local meteorologist explaining complex weather patterns or action stars blending into surreal environments. What could we possibly do with these to enhance an everyday business meeting?
Why Use a Video Conference Virtual Background?
Add Some Humor
Disclaimer: Before you do this, know your audience. There’s an appropriate time to debut your coveted Tiger King background and then there’s not. If in question, skip Joe Exotic and stick with your natural background. On the flip side, we’re all living in some uncomfortable times, and a little humor can go a long way. So long as you read the room and keep things respectful, a witty background might bring some smiles to your team.
Hide Your Home
Let’s face it, we don’t all live in HGTV featured homes. Many of us are squeezing an “office” into a space that was never set up to be one. These days, a home office could be your kitchen or your bedroom or closet! We’re sharing these spaces with our family, and we’re going a bit stir crazy, and it’s a lot of work to keep the makeshift home office ready for video prime time. A simple virtual background can clean that space up in seconds!
Brand Your Presence
Every space is an opportunity for your brand to shine, even virtual ones. Consider this virtual space a billboard for your brand, free of charge. Every time you enter a conference, you can highlight your company, its products or services, and its values. That said, don’t overdo it. It’s important to consider these interactions as virtual extensions of how we’d behave in a physical meeting. When it comes to branding your virtual background, ask yourself “what would I put on a branded polo?”… that’s what you’re going for here. Here’s a couple examples of branded backgrounds we use at Duckpin.
How Can I Set Up a Virtual Background?
Before you start working on designing your custom virtual background, it’s important to check whether your video conference tool or app supports virtual backgrounds. If they do, you’ll want to pay close attention to the size and resolution specifications required for the background image, making sure it does not appear grainy, low quality, or distorted.
Finally, one last consideration is the usable space on the image. Don’t forget that YOU will be in front of this image, so consider how much space you’ll take up and design around that space. For example, you wouldn’t want to put your company logo in the center of the image, as you’ll likely cover it during meetings.
Which Video Conference Tools Support Virtual Backgrounds?
We’ve put together a handy list of popular tools/apps below, along with specifications for each if they support virtual backgrounds.
Zoom has built-in support for virtual backgrounds (Images and Videos).
- 16:9 Aspect Ratio Required
- 1280 x 720 pixels Minimum Resolution
- Visit Zoom Help Center for more information
Google Meet doesn’t have support for virtual backgrounds, but it can be done. See the bottom of this post for third-party options.
While FaceTime does support some interesting filters, virtual backgrounds are not available. For those using FaceTime on a computer rather than a phone, see the bottom of this post for third-party options.
WebEx has recently enabled support for virtual backgrounds on iOS (iPhone and iPad) only. In addition to virtual backgrounds, WebEx for iOS supports background blur which can help keep the focus on you, not what’s behind you! For those using WebEx on a computer, see the bottom of this post for third-party options.
- Can use any image in your iOS photo gallery (we recommend trying it out before using it live to confirm proportions look acceptable)
- Visit WebEx Help Center for more information
Microsoft Teams supports preset backgrounds as well as background blur. According to Microsoft, support for custom backgrounds will be released this month (May 2020). That said, some tech-savvy folks on the web have found a workaround for this, allowing you to drop your custom backgrounds in the directory that the app uses for the presets.
- Visit Microsoft Support for more information on official background support.
- Visit How-To Geek for a workaround to use custom background images
- 16:9 Aspect Ratio Recommended (if using workaround )
Skype supports custom image backgrounds and background blur, depending on your computer specs.
- 16:9 Aspect Ratio Recommended
- To blur your background in Skype, your computer processor needs to support Advanced Vector Extensions 2 (AVX2)
- Visit Skype Support for more information.
GoToMeeting doesn’t have built-in support for virtual backgrounds, but it can be done. See the bottom of this post for third-party options.
If my video conference app doesn’t support virtual backgrounds, do I have any other option?
Yes! There are third-party programs for your computer that allow you to “take over” your webcam and apply filters and backgrounds before you join a video conference. Here are a few of the more popular ones: