If you’re working from home and want to hide your messy office, or don’t want to invade the privacy of your co-workers during your next Zoom meeting, changing your background can help a lot. Zoom features two settings that can help with your overall look: The Zoom Virtual Background and Touch Up My Appearance. Here’s how to change your videoconferencing background in Zoom to make it more professional, or more exciting.
Zoom virtual background
Before you do anything, make sure your overall workspace is well lit, but not too bright. Generally, in a pinch, people will rely on their built-in laptop camera or monitor camera for web conferences, but if you are going to make a habit of videoconferencing, you might consider purchasing an external webcam to use for meetings.
Zoom acknowledges that their virtual backgrounds work best with a green screen and uniform lighting, to allow Zoom to detect the difference between you and your background, even if it’s not completely necessary. Using a green screen — a green backdrop often used for professional recording video — gives a uniform green or sometimes blue background color that works well with any backdrop or by itself.
In practice, a green screen is nice to have but not a requirement in most cases. It will definitely stabilize your projection and prevent a certain amount of ghosting, but you can easily do without it. Whether or not you use a physical green screen, your clothing color should ideally be a different hue or shade from your backdrop, otherwise it may confuse the camera and prevent it from distinguishing between foreground and background.
Zoom: The Missing Manual
How well your backdrop looks also depends on your system and video capabilities. You need to adhere to Zoom’s video and resolution requirements for the best results.
You don’t have to use Zoom’s images. You can add still image or even video backdrops of your own by clicking the addition sign (+) sign above the default images, and adding your own picture to use. There are no size restrictions for your own virtual backgrounds, but Zoom recommends cropping the image to match the aspect ratio of your camera. So if your camera is set to a 16:9 aspect ratio, an image of 1,280 x 720 or 1,920 x 1,080 pixels works well. For video, you need an MP4 or MOV video file with a minimum resolution of 480 x 360 pixels (360p) and a maximum resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (1080p).
Equipment you’ll need
Zoom is quite specific about what kind of computer or mobile device you’ll need for virtual background images and videos. Here are the basics, which you can use without a physical green screen. For more, go to Zoom’s virtual background support page.
Windows: Video or image without a physical green screen
- Zoom Desktop for PC 4.6.4 or higher.
- Windows 8, or 10 64-bit.
- Processor: 6th generation i5 quad-core or higher (except u-series); 4th generation i7 quad-core or higher; any processor with eight or move cores and a frequency of 3GHz or higher.
Mac: Image or video without a physical green screen
- Zoom Desktop for Mac 4.6.4 or higher.
- MacOS 10.9 or later.
- Processor: i5 quad-core or higher; 6th generation i7 dual-core or higher, with macOS 10.14 or later; any processor with eight cores or more.
Linux: Green screen needed
- Zoom Desktop for Linux 2.0.91373.0502 or higher.
- Processor: Dual Core 2Ghz or higher, i5/i7 or AMD equivalent.
- Physical green screen.
Whether you use Zoom’s virtual backgrounds or not, a few pointers to keep in mind will make your videoconferencing presentation a pleasant experience for all participants.
- Set the camera at the same level as your face so you can look directly at the camera.
- Keep the camera or laptop lid still.
- Use the mute function when you are not speaking, especially if your house is noisy.
- Don’t look down at the camera.
- Use a solid color background if possible, even with a virtual background.
- Higher quality cameras result in a better virtual background.