What is a "virtual background," and why would I want one?

Zoom Virtual Backgrounds allow you to display an image as your background in your video feed, instead of whatever is actually in your background, during a Zoom meeting.  Virtual backgrounds are useful when you want to use your video feed during a Zoom meeting, but don't want to/can't show others the location you find yourself in.

How to set up and use a virtual background

  • Zoom provides these instructions: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/210707503-Virtual-Background
    • You'll notice these instructions make reference to needing a "green screen" behind you.  You don't have to have one, they just work really well if you do have one.

  • Whitman has a very nice set of Whitman images you can use for your Zoom virtual background: https://www.whitman.edu/communications/graphic-design/visual-identity/video-conferencing-backgrounds
    • You don't have to use a Whitman image, you can use any image you want, but it's best if the image is as simple image, not one full of visual complexity.  Try a few out on your own to see what works best.
    • Whatever you choose as your background image, make sure it helps you represent yourself professionally.  If you're a student, keep in mind you are presenting yourself to your professor and other students, so choose something appropriate (i.e. don't choose an image of your favorite band, beer, movie characters, offensive language, etc.)

  • Note that, even if you receive a message saying that your system’s processor is not optimized to handle it, this may still work well on a computer.

  • If you’re accessing Zoom with a mobile app, we've heard that virtual backgrounds may not work on some older smartphones.

Why not just turn off your video feed?  Isn't audio enough?

Sometimes this is fine.  You need to understand what the expectations are from the person(s) running the Zoom meeting (i.e. professor, group leader, etc).  You may be asked, out of respect for the group's communication dynamic, to turn on your camera.  If this presents a difficulty for you, one possible solution is to use a virtual background.  If you face difficulties in using video during a Zoom meeting, please talk privately with the person running the meeting.  If those difficulties are of a technical nature, please feel free to contact Technology Services.

Questions?  Need help?

Please feel free to contact Technology Services.

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