Building a Second Background (BASB)

Building a Second Background (BASB)

This blog post started from a Zoom videoconference call for the Building a Second Brain Notion tour in Singapore. It was planned to be a live meeting but it transformed into a virtual meeting with people from around the world attending because of concerns regarding meeting live during the Coronavirus outbreak. 

Some people on the call noticed I had a different background for my Zoom video as shown in Figure 1 above instead of the usual background of whatever is behind the person who is sitting in front of the computer video camera. This post explains how to create a different background for your Zoom calls.

Zoom Settings

Figure 2 Zoom Settings are in the preferences menu selection (green box added to highlight it) 

In the zoom.us menu choose Check for Updates… to update the zoom software to the latest version. You need at least zoom version 4.6.4 to get full support of the Virtual Background feature for multiple computers and operating systems.

As shown in Figure 2  the zoom.us menu Preferences item is selected to get to the various preference settings.

Figure 3 Default Setting Screen is audio

After selecting Preferences a list of settings screens is listed on the left-hand side of the screen. The default screen displayed (highlighted in blue) is the audio settings. Note that selections are to use computer audio, mute the microphone, and to temporarily unmute by pressing the space bar. Clicking the Virtual Background selection (highlighted with the red box) will show the screen for the Virtual Background settings (Figure 4).

Figure 4 Virtual Background Settings

On the Virtual Background Settings screen, the currently chosen background with your smiling face will be shown. Note that the background itself is flipped horizontally so you may need to flip horizontally any asymmetrical background photos you add by clicking the plus sign in the rounded box.

If you have a green screen behind you, you can select that which will make the application of the background more robust but my experience is that the virtual background works well without a green screen.

Adding a Background Photo

Figure 5 Glen at the Canadian Parliament Building in Ottawa.

I like the outer space background photo but you can have some fun and personalize the photo to whichever location or theme fits your preference, brand, message, or fits with the meeting you are participating in. 

Photos that work best have notable details on the left and right edges because the middle portion will be blocked by your face. You can see that I flipped horizontally the parliament building photo so the flag flies from left to right and the tower is correctly positioned on the right. Also keep in mind, having sufficient contrast between your clothing and skin tone and the virtual background. You want to stand out and make it easy for the other participants to see you. This is helped by having sufficient light for people to see your facial expressions.

Another benefit of using a virtual background is it can be used to remove potential distractions like a messy desk or background items like books, photos, or paintings. Try experimenting and see what works best for you. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions for building your second background.

You can find more information on the zoom Virtual Background feature on the Zoom Centre help Virtual Background page.


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