If you've got a Zoom call with friends this evening but would rather they didn't see the mess behind you — or you haven't got a well-stocked bookshelf to show off — then fear not, because the app lets you change your background to something else.
You may already have seen Zoom users blur out their backgrounds when appearing on TV news, but the feature can be made much more interesting. You can upload your own images and videos, or even use a green screen (should you have one laying around).
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But before all that, you need to check that your computer meets Zoom's requirements. To be clear, video chatting can be done using almost any computer (or smartphone and tablet) with a webcam and a microphone. But inserting a virtual background requires your computer to have a certain level of performance.
We'll now explain what these requirements are — for PC, Mac and iOS — then dive into how Zoom's custom background feature works. There are several options here for changing your background, and each requires a different amount of computational power. You can have a single image as your background, which requires the least power, or you can run a video, which requires a more powerful processor.
You can also opt to use a physical green screen with either images or videos, and doing so requires less power than asking your computer to replace your unkempt apartment with something more aesthetically pleasing.
- Install the latest version of Zoom Desktop Client for PC
- Windows 7, 8 or 10 (64-bit)
- Fourth-generation i7 quad-core processor, or higher
- Windows 10 (64-bit)
- Sixth-generation Intel i5 dual-core processor or higher, with integrated GPU enabled and graphics driver version 23.20.xx.xxxx or higher.
Zoom also notes that, due to compatibility issues with some Intel processors using the HD 620 graphics processor, computers with these processors must use a physical green screen.
To check what processor your PC has, navigate to Settings > System > About. Then under 'Device specifications' you'll see the details of your processor.
The situation is a little simpler for Mac users. If you want to replace you background with a virtual image or video (and without using a green screen), you'll need the following:
- The latest version of Zoom Desktop Client for Mac
- macOS 10.9 or later
- A Mac with a processor that is i5 quad-core or higher, sixth-generation i7 dual-core or higher (with macOS 10.14 or higher), or any processor with eight cores or more.
To find out what processor your Mac has, click on the Apple icon in the top-left corner, then click on About This Mac.
This means that most modern Macs can run Zoom virtual backgrounds, but this does not include dual-core, i5 versions of the MacBook and MacBook Air. Unfortunately, this means even the latest Air, which only launched in February 2020, cannot run Zoom virtual backgrounds with its base-spec, dual-core i3 processor. The higher-end quad-core i5 and i7 options will work, however.
Virtual backgrounds are only available on a few recent iOS devices, including the iPhone 8 and X onwards, all versions of the iPad Pro, and the fifth-generation regular iPad (from 2017) or newer.
We appreciate that is a lot to take onboard. The easiest way to work this out is to open Zoom and try to run a virtual background. If your computer isn't capable of running the background, the Zoom app will tell you. But to be clear, this is not a software issue, and it cannot be fixed by increasing the RAM of your computer, or upgrading to a newer operating system. It's all to do with the processor and graphical performance of your machine.
For a more detailed breakdown of exactly what is required to run Zoom virtual backgrounds, with or without a green screen, visit this page on the company's website.
Virtual backgrounds are not currently a feature of the Android app.
How to enable Zoom virtual backgrounds on PC and Mac
If you are running Zoom on your PC or Mac, click on the settings icon in the top-right corner, that looks like a gray gear. Now click on Virtual Background on the left, and pick from one of Zoom's default options, or upload one of your own by clicking on the + icon.
If your computer can't handle a virtual background, you can click on the 'I have a green screen' checkbox, which lets you try again - providing you do actually have a green screen.
To add a virtual background during a live Zoom meeting, click on the upwards-facing arrow next to the video symbol at the foot of the screen. Then click on 'choose a virtual background…'.
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How to enable Zoom virtual backgrounds on iOS
Finally, to set a virtual background in the iOS Zoom app for iPhone or iPad, tap on the 'More' icon in the lower-right corner while on a call, then tap on Virtual Background, and pick one of the defaults or tap on the + icon to upload your own.
Now all that's left is to get creative, like these guys: