Early Findings from Initial Research Hour
Our research focused on virtual backgrounds rather than video background since reference was made to Zoom and video conferences. Our early findings are below.
- Outbrain offers 10 virtual backgrounds that can be used in Zoom meetings.
- Shutterstock offers a free pack of virtual backgrounds that can be used for both Skype and Zoom calls.
- Canva offers virtual background templates to choose from and gives users the opportunity to create one of their own.
- Unsplash and Modsy are two other options to choose virtual backgrounds from.
Best practices in choosing virtual backgrounds
- In choosing a background for meetings, it is better to select an option that would be considered somewhat neutral and not distracting to the attendees. This may require persons to avoid using what they like.
- Consider backgrounds with good lighting, patterns and colors that will not cause a strain on the eyes.
- If there is a need to move about or do something else while the meeting is in progress, Zoom offers the option of creating "a looped video background—with you in it".
- Microsoft Teams offers a blur feature for virtual backgrounds. This allows the camera to focus on the attendee and not so much their background.
Virtual backgrounds are gaining popularity as more professionals are working remotely. Virtual backgrounds allow professionals to hide clutter or other distractions in their remote location, in addition to adding a bit of fun to the remote working situation. Several creative and unique backgrounds are available, in addition to multiple galleries offering free virtual backgrounds.
Free and Creative Backgrounds
- Conference Call Bingo is a background making conference calls more entertaining. This background has multiple phrases or events that often occur in conference calls, making observing these interactions a game.
- The cozy library background provides a scholarly feel with calm lighting, appropriate for multiple situations. This allows users to remain calm and professional and communicate a love of books.
- A Harry Potter background is available for fans of the series, giving the illusion of being in the fantasy world. This allows users to enter a fictional world, as a break from current stress.
- The "render distance" background provides a relaxing view of mountains and sunsets, with soft colors that do not distract from meeting content.
- A recent creative background is an entertaining take on issues in today's world, the "toilet paper queen". This background turns a source of stress into humor, which is often needed with today's events.
- All-free-download is a gallery with 8,421 photos to use for virtual backgrounds. Users can browse backgrounds by popularity, relevance, recommendations, and new uploads. Users can search by certain colors or designs or theme as well.
- Pixabay has a wide variety of virtual background options. This gallery includes 3D options for a unique look. Users can browse background options by popularity, image type, horizontal/vertical landscape, category, size, or color.
- Pngtree offers 85 free virtual backgrounds, with a unique virtual reality option. This option adds depth and creativity, keeping the call interesting and engaging.
- Kapwing Resources has 50 options for free virtual backgrounds and allows users to create their own original backgrounds. The tool for making a background is free as well, allowing users creativity, perhaps finding their own brand for business.
- Freepik has more than 10,000 free graphic resources to create unique backgrounds, in addition to being able to choose from pre-made backgrounds. These backgrounds have options such as holiday theme, abstract design, nature, and more.
As virtual backgrounds gain popularity, users need to be aware of best practices when using these backgrounds. Virtual meetings are considered part of one's work, and an appropriate level of professionalism must be used. Users should observe best practices, making the best use of the virtual background.
- The position of the camera during a virtual meeting communicates to attendees and affects the chosen virtual background.
- Camera angles that are too low can give an unflattering and potentially inappropriate view to other attendees. If the angle is too high, this inhibits eye contact and looks like others are looking down at the attendee.
- A virtual conference attendee should set the camera device to have the camera at eye level, which is likely to ease any anxiety or awkwardness and work well with the chosen virtual background.
- When utilizing a virtual background, users find the best results by positioning the camera with a solid color behind the user, to keep the background image stable.
Avoid Hypnotic Patterns
- Some virtual backgrounds have patterns that play tricks on others' eyes. This can be very distracting to attendees, and they can miss what is being said during the meeting.
- Solid colors are recommended for professional virtual backgrounds to avoid using a distracting pattern. Additionally, users should avoid wearing the same color as the selected background, as this could play tricks on the eyes of viewers as well.
- This practice is used when attending virtual meetings from a bed or messy area, allowing the participant to maintain an air of professionalism.
Know your Situation
- Virtual conferencing is used in multiple situations, from socializing through distance to professional or corporate meetings.
- When choosing a virtual background, users must ensure their choice is appropriate for the situation of the conference call to avoid distractions or looking unprofessional.
- Some people are starting to throw "zoom parties" to stay connected during social distancing. These situations allow more creativity with the virtual background, having options to looks like vacation spots or games.
- One blogger wrote a review of a Zoom party conducted in March 2020 during social distancing, noting the variety of virtual backgrounds added to the social experience and entertainment.