So you’re dealing with a pandemic, a full-time job that has gone remote, and / or kids who are heading back to school (or not, as the case may be). With all that, and more, who has time to clean?
Rather than stress about the mess during business or family video meetings, why not hide it? Luckily, many videoconferencing apps offer features that either blur the background or replace it with something that will obscure the reality of your home environment.
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Here is how to hide your clutter when you’re videoconferencing, using three well-known apps for consumer and business meetings — Zoom, Skype, and Microsoft Teams — and a lesser-known but often mentioned open-source app, Jitsi Meet. (When this was being written, Google Meet was planning to offer blurring and backgrounds, but it was not yet available.)
Zoom, which has become the go-to videoconferencing app for many people, offers a wide range of interesting backgrounds to choose from. (It does not have a blur feature.) You can also supply your own. The app has a long list of requirements for using its backgrounds, depending on the type of system you’re using. If you have a reasonably powerful computer, you will probably be able to use a virtual background immediately. But if you have a slightly older or a lower-end system, you’ll need to have a physical green screen behind you.
Open up your Zoom client. Click on the gear “Setup” icon on the upper right corner. Select “Background & Filters” in the left-hand menu. You may be asked to download the Smart Virtual Background package. Go ahead; it will only take a moment. Zoom has provided some sample backgrounds. Click on the one you’d like to use. You can also select a background after your meeting has begun. Click on the arrow next to “Stop video” at the bottom of the screen, and select “Choose virtual background…”
If you would rather supply your own background, click on the plus sign above and to the right of the sample backgrounds, choose an image from your computer, and add it. If your computer isn’t capable of handling a virtual background without a physical green screen, you will get a warning and be urged to check the “I have a green screen” box below the sample images.
Skype offers both a blur feature and virtual backgrounds. Unlike Zoom, it doesn’t come with any included backgrounds, although it’s easy enough to upload your own.
Start your Skype app and go to your Settings (by clicking on the three dots on top of the left column). Click on “Audio & Video.” Click on “Blur” or add an image by clicking on the plus icon.
If you’re using the free personal version of Microsoft Teams, you’re currently out of luck — that version is, for now, just available for iOS and Android mobile devices, and there are no backgrounds or blurring features available there.
However, if you have access to Microsoft Teams through your workplace or via G Suite, you can take advantage of both blurring and video backgrounds using the desktop app (they are not available in the online version).
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Open the app and click on “Meetings” in the left-hand column. Enter your scheduled meeting or begin a meeting by clicking on “Meet now.” At the bottom of your video image, you’ll see three toggles. The center one brings up your background menu; toggle it on to see all your current virtual backgrounds. You can also blur your background if you wish. Teams offers a nice variety of background choices. If you want to upload your own, click on “Add new” just below where it says “Background settings.”
When you’ve chosen your background, you can close the “Background settings” menu by setting the background toggle to “Off.” Next time you start a meeting, just put that center toggle to “On” and the last background you used will reappear.
This open-source videoconferencing app offers a variety of features for its free web-based app, including the ability to blur the background (currently in beta).
Open Jitsi Meet and start your meeting by clicking on the “Go” button. When you’re ready, click on “Join meeting.” Click on the three dots at the far right of the bottom menu, and select “Blur my background.” To go back to a normal background, click on “Disable background blur.”