Virtual Backgrounds Online Can Be Cheesy, Professional & Fun
After I wrote the post Effective Green Screen Gear You Can Buy Inexpensively, many people asked me about where I get my virtual backgrounds for usage in Zoom so I’ve added links below.
I thought I’d toss up a few screenshots of me using a few of the backgrounds I’ve downloaded. While the first one in the upper left of the image above is a composite one I created in Photoshop from two others, all the rest were downloaded from free sites like these:
But it’s not just Zoom that offers virtual background capability. Many other virtual meeting software offerings are scrambling to offer virtual background capability since people love the feature. Here are links to a few popular offerings with direct links to their virtual background help pages:
Surprisingly Google Meet or Hangouts does not offer virtual backgrounds (yet).
Hopefully it will ship before my next scheduled webinar, but the $295 Blackmagic ATEM Mini will help me go to the next level. This device will enable me to input up to four HDMI inputs (like all of my good cameras) as well as HDMI out from my laptop, iPad or iPhone.
One of the best features of this device is that it will also enable me to input virtual backgrounds directly in to the switcher. So, for example, when I switch from my laptop presentation to my live camera feed on me, its output is as a “webcam” so will show me over the virtual background of my choice. In addition, every app that accepts a webcam will see me overlayed on a virtual background.
If you’re interested in the ATEM Mini (or the ‘Pro’ version) you might want to check out a few of these videos on YouTube.
BUT IT’S NOT JUST VIRTUAL BACKGROUNDS…
Don’t look or sound like you are using a computer, smartphone or tablet for the very first time when you’re in a meeting! Even if it is your first time, practice with someone beforehand and, at the very least, LOOK AT YOURSELF so you can come across well online.
These tips are the best ones I’ve found yet on YouTube, and thought you might enjoy it:
Good luck and stay safe.
My Kids’ Technology Adventures Began With An Alien Named Cosmic Osmo
When my first-born daughter Liz was a toddler, I was hoping I’d be able to guide her towards becoming a techie. No pushing and no pressure was what I tried to achieve. Instead I tried to be a coach to her, gently showing her how stuff worked while striving to make it fun.
One of the ways I introduced her to technology was through games. There was a HyperCard ‘stack’ game — released at MacWorld in 1989, which I bought there, called Cosmic Osmo — and we played it often. She was always delighted to play it and asked to do so whenever I was on my Mac SE/30.
HyperCard was amazing and I learned how to build my own stacks. I built one with sounds I created in SoundEdit, and when any button on the stack was clicked, it would play that sound. I loaded as many funny sounds as I could find (along with the ones I recorded myself, including my daughter’s own voice) and she LOVED clicking on the buttons to trigger the sounds!
Fast forward to today and she definitely became very technically astute. She worked for the Apple Store for five years during college and just afterwards, at Best Buy (where she moved to corporate in to human resources), and every time I’m with her I learn some new tip or trick with my iPhone. The best part is that she grasps technology instantly and I hope I had some influence on her in this way.
Here is a video from 1989 where we are in my home office, she is sitting on my desk, and we talk about “Osmo” and I record her voice with SoundEdit:
Alex Begins His Technology Adventure
In 1994 our son Alex was born and he took technology like a duck to water. For him it was all about play, which fit perfectly in to my goal extending to him when it came to making the use of technology fun.
By this time Liz was well on her way toward her belief that technology was a seamless and integral part of our lives. She became a patient and encouraging tech-coach to her little brother. He wasn’t much interested in what Mom or Dad had to say about tech, but rather he watched, listened and allowed himself to be guided by his big sister. It was fun to watch!
In 1998 I was working at Apple in the business group after Steve Jobs came back, and had the chance to bring home the first iMac introduced and it had some built-in games, like the one they loved called Nanosaur.
Here’s a fun video of my kids using that first iMac at Thanksgiving, about three months after it was introduced:
We Have Come A LONG Way With Technology!
1) Holy buckets has technology advanced! When I watch these videos above (and the one below) and think about SoundEdit and a Mac SE/30, it’s just stunning how far we’ve come with computing technology, graphics, gameplay, sound, animation, and so much more.
Want to see what Liz and I experienced playing Cosmic Osmo on a Macintosh SE/30 with a 9″ screen? Here is a video of Cosmic Osmo’s click-to-trigger interface in HyperCard:
2) By the way, somehow I missed this Ars Technica article (30-plus years of HyperCard, the missing link to the Web) on May 25, 2019, but thought I’d add it to this post. In that article I learned about a way to goof around with HyperCard — this time by downloading Steam for your PC, Mac or Linux computer and actually introduced in 2010 — and, once you’ve installed it, you can load up an instance of HyperCard here.
Make Technology Fun
Whenever I’m asked about kids using technology too much, not enough, how to make it fun or educational, I always coach parents to limit screen time, always keep an eye on their kid’s use of tech, but most importantly make the use of it fun!
Having phones that are dozens of times more powerful than that previously mentioned Mac SE/30 and original iMac — along with Internet of Things devices that are inserting themselves in all parts of our lives — we all need to keep vigilant about how we use it. If you haven’t watched the Cosmic Osmo video above, view it now and see how laid-back, at-ease, and fun Cosmic Osmo is having with his out-of-this-world technology use. There’s a lesson there for all of us. 😉
Resources for Learners
As a lifelong learner I’m always on-the-hunt for good resources online and I just came across a new one I wanted to share with you: Everlearners and their page of learning resources here.
I’ve yet to find a link to a resource I did NOT like, but my personal favorites are:
- Big Think
- Watch Know Learn
- Documentary Storm
- Oh heck…all of them!