Virtual backgrounds can increase privacy, make your videos branded and add excitement, curiosity, professionalism or even humour to a presentation. I find them especially useful for longer presentations as I can change the background each time I move to a new topic.
However, there is a big difference between good looking virtual backgrounds and bad looking virtual backgrounds. So here are three steps to improve your virtual backgrounds with Zoom.
Step 1: Use a Green Background
There isn’t a lot of green in human skin tones, so this colour can be removed from the picture without affecting how we humans look. Just make sure not to wear any green clothing or accessories as Zoom will remove these too!
Green backgrounds can be anything green - from green paint, to green fabric, to large green cards that you can purchase in Arts & Crafts stores and mount them with sticky tack.
I mostly use the Lencarta (150cm x 200cm) Pop Up Green Screen. I love these because when they pop out the fabric stretches and is completely flat and wrinkly free. This pop up has green on one side and grey on the other so I can use the grey side as a plain background – I find this is better when I’m using alternative video conferencing apps that don’t have the same capabilities as Zoom such as Microsoft Teams or Google Meet. These pop ups are great for small spaces – once you get the knack of popping them down (which can take a few attempts).
Good lighting is important for all lenses to do their job properly – from film cameras to webcams – but it’s even more important when you’re using green screen. So if possible, face a window and try to ensure that you are well lit and that the green screen is evenly lit.
Step 2: Prepare Zoom
Zoom is always adding updates and at the moment they need to be manually installed by you, the user. To do this, open the Zoom Desktop App, click on your profile picture on the top right, and then click check for updates, Install and within a few minutes you should be able to open the latest version of Zoom.
Next, open the Zoom Desktop App and click the setting wheel (underneath your profile picture). Go to Video settings and choose the camera you want to use. The better the quality of your camera, the better your video and virtual background will look. If you find that you have followed all of the steps and your virtual background still isn’t looking great then you may need to upgrade your webcam. Alternatively, like me, you can use your phone as a webcam with Reincubate Camo. Click here for a full tutorial on how to do this.
Next make sure that Original Ratio is Off and HD is On. You can enable Touch Up My Appearance and Adjust for Low Light but I find that these options decrease the quality of the final image so I usually turn them off.
Now go to the Background & Filters tab and select ‘I have a green screen’ and select any image for now. Once you have selected an image, you should see an overlay appear that will allow you to manually pick the colour of your background to remove. Pick a point close to your head for the best result.
Now you should be looking great and ready for the final step.
Step 3: Add Images or Videos
Zoom gives you a few options for some standard background images and video that you can use but I avoid these as they’re so recognisable and generic. Instead, you can download stock images or video from a free stock site.
My go to site is Pexels. Type in what you’d like your background to be such as 'office', make sure to avoid images with people in the background as it will be obvious that it’s a static image.
When you find a background that you like, open it and click the dropdown menu next to free download and select 1920 x 1080 or as close to that as you can get, and download it. Go through and repeat this until you have a few different images that you test in Zoom and see how they look.
If you want to take it to the next level, you could bring the image you choose into Canva and add your logo, text, or even a QR code so you have a branded and bespoke virtual background.
If you want to use videos, in Pexels click the video tab and search for a video that loops and doesn’t have too much motion in it. Download a few of these, add them to zoom and see if they work.
Be careful with video backgrounds though as they can end up being distracting if the motion is too fast or they look really fake. But if you’re only switching to them for a short time to make a point then they can be a great way to grab your audience’s attention.
I hope that this video has given you some confidence and to take your virtual backgrounds to the next level.
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Thanks a million for watching and I'll see you next time.