Using a virtual background

By | November 1, 2020

If you want to give your presence in a Zoom meeting a little lift, then it may be worth considering using a ‘Virtual background’ – this means that instead of showing your untidy office, you can transport yourself to an exciting location – in front of Buckingham Palace, relaxing on Fifth Avenue, or flying in a hot air balloon!

The Virtual Background feature allows you to display a separate image, or even a video, as your background during a Zoom Meeting –  but you have to make sure you do it well!   The feature works best with a physical green screen and uniform lighting to allow Zoom to detect the difference between you and your background. But, what does this mean? A ‘green screen’ is a plain background which is used to superimpose the virtual imagery.  You can read more on the technicality of this at this page

If you want to try a Virtual Background to see how it works, you can use the steps listed below.  Zoom offers a few default virtual backgrounds (which you will need to download to use), or you can upload your own image to change your surroundings to something more personal – or at least unique!

How to change your Zoom background on the desktop app

Before joining a meeting:

  1. Click your profile picture, then click on Settings.
  2. In the left menu bar, click Background & Filters.  You will see your current display, as others see you, and below there are the background options, so you can check them out:

    Settings – Background screen options

  3. In the Virtual Background tab, select one of Zoom’s defaults or upload your own image.  If the Zoom background you choose is ‘new’ to you, then you will need to download it.
  4. If you have a green screen set-up, you can select that option. [see below]
  5. To add your own image or video, click the + icon to upload from your computer.

After joining a meeting:

  1. At the bottom of the client, click the up arrow next to Stop Video.
  2. Select Change Virtual Background.
  3. In the Virtual Background tab, select one of Zoom’s defaults or upload your own image.  If the Zoom background you choose is ‘new’ to you, then you will need to download it.
  4. If you have a green screen set-up, you can select that option. [see below]
  5. To add your own image or video, click the + icon to upload from your computer.

Virtual background display

Green screen

Note that there is an option to use a ‘green screen’ – this means a completely clear background, so if you are sitting in front of a clean wall, painted in a single colour, then you will get a good result. If you select green screen and the background is cluttered and inconsistent, then you will see a rather less satisfactory result:

Green screen option on a cluttered background

You may also find that if you move in this display, your arms or head may mysteriously disappear!

How to change your Zoom background on the mobile app

  1. Open the app, sign in and join your meeting.
  2. Tap the three dots at the bottom right to open the More menu.
  3. Tap Virtual Background.
  4. Select one of Zoom’s defaults or upload your own. 

If you feel adventurous, you can search the Internet for ‘free Zoom backgrounds’ – you can find offerings from a wide range of sources, including Nintendo, Disney, Netflix, and Marvel.