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A Better Zoom Visual Experience

Virtual Background window selection

For many of us, Zoom is the new media—and to many of us, Zoom is a really boring way to learn.

Why? Because it's two dimensional—a flat world, a world made up either of an array of rectangular boxes or of PowerPoint projections. In effect, a flat screen with little windows or a flat screen with projected images.

I asked myself, what if these two styles could be commingled? What if we could have the presenter becoming part of the projection—especially in an easy way.

Image that you are looking at a TV weather report and the weather reporter is pointing to a screen showing the rain over Pennsylvania or the broiling heat over California.

How do they do it? With a Green Screen or a Virtual Background. You can too. And it's pretty easy. Here's how.

First get yourself several background images of a type that will help illustrate your story. Save them as JPEGs or a similar image file, and place them in a folder called "Virtual Backgrounds."

Next open Zoom. Select "Start a new Meeting" or do what's necessary to get Zoom to get onto its screen. Then click on either "Test Speaker and Microphone" or "Start with Computer Audio."

Then adjust your room lighting and position your camera so that you are relatively centered both horizontally and vertically, and that your virtual background or green screen fills the monitor as best as possible.

On your Zoom screen, look for the video camera icon. On computers, it is in the lower left hand corner. Then select the adjacent "up arrow," and from the menu, select "Choose Virtual Background."

From this smaller "Settings" window, confirm that the "Background & Filters" is highlighted. In this window, you should see a picture of what is appearing on your screen, and below that, one or more Virtual Backgrounds.


Click around and you will see the background change behind you in the picture. Some older computers may not support virtual backgrounds unless you have a green screen. If you have a green screen, click the "I have a green screen" checkbox.

Now we are ready to start putting our plan into action. In order to avoid having unnecessary images that will interfere with your presentation, get rid of as many unnecessary images as possible.

Click on the "+" (plus) near the virtual backgrounds. Your curser may read "add virtual background image." A search window will open. Go to your "Virtual Backgrounds" folder and select the first image in your presentation. Then the second, etc. Avoid selecting more than eight images to reduce confusion.

The images are loaded in the desired order because at this time, I do not see a means to reorder the images once they are placed in the "virtual backgrounds" array.

If you are going to present some text or an image such as a map that you will be pointing at, here's two suggestions. First move the information off the center so that it will not be blocked by your image. Second, you may find that it is disorienting to point to parts of a projection in the normal view. In this case, it may be easier to click the "Mirror my video" checkbox.

Leave the Settings window OPEN and select your first background image. Then begin your presentation changing your background image as desired.

Practice it first to check for familiarity and timing.

Good luck and let me know how it turns out.

~ Al Zagofsky







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