Sometimes on video meetings you don’t want your surroundings to be visible. Maybe you didn’t have time to clean that day, or there are distractions that will detract from your meeting.
For times like these, video conference providers like Zoom and Microsoft Teams offer virtual backgrounds which replace your physical background with an image or video of your choice. These features are often meant to be used with a green screen—a single-color physical background that enables the software to work properly.
While using a green screen for Zoom may seem like a good presentation option, that isn’t always the case. In this article, we look at the reasons to use a green screen for video conferences, the downsides of this type of background, and when you should definitely NOT use the Zoom green screen for video meetings.
Why use a green screen for Zoom?
If you’ve ever used a virtual background feature without a green screen, you’ve probably noticed the glitches. That’s because without a solid color background, the software can’t fully differentiate between you and your background.
This becomes most apparent when you move. The program doesn’t know exactly where you begin and your background begins, so it will begin to glitch around the edges of your silhouette, such as your neck, head, and arms or fingers.
Enter the green screen.
Green screens have been used for decades in the movie, TV, and video game industries in a process known as chroma key compositing. By putting the actor or presenter in front of a solid green (or sometimes blue) background, technicians can separate the background from the person in post-production and add any image or video they want in the background. This makes it look like the actor or presenter is somewhere else.
You’ve probably seen this process used on a weather forecast news segment, with the presenter standing in front of a large map showing weather patterns. In reality, they’re standing in front of a large green screen, with the backgrounds added by the production team.
Contrast in color between the background and the people on camera is essential to making this work. Bright green is used as the background since it’s unlike any natural human skin tones, and it’s unlikely someone would be wearing that color on their clothing.
Using the same principle, Zoom recommends using a physical green screen for proper performance of the virtual background feature. To use a green screen for Zoom calls, you can purchase and set up a green screen kit in your home office or other workspace.
When NOT To Use a Zoom Green Screen
While a green screen can be fun, they’re not always the best choice. If you’re on a sales call, an interview, or any meeting where you need to impress the person on the other end, a green screen is likely to undermine your professional image.
Why? Because in a video meeting, green screens with virtual backgrounds can create a subtle impression that something is off (see our article on portable green screen pitfalls for more information).
Even with advances in technology, a green screen is relatively easy to spot. Because the person in the frame is in a different space than the background, it’s impossible to make them look completely natural. While your virtual background may look a lot better with a green screen, it will still look like a virtual background, mostly because of differences in lighting, coloration, and focus between you in your physical space and the virtual background.
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Downsides Of Green Screens For Video Conferences
If you’re planning to use a green screen for video conferences, you may want to consider some of the following downsides:
Difficulty With Lighting
In order to make the green screen effect work, it’s crucial to have proper lighting. The backdrop must be completely wrinkle-free and evenly lit throughout with soft lighting. Otherwise, any variation in lighting will be interpreted as a color gradient.
Achieving this can be very difficult in a home office setting, and even harder if you’re in a temporary workspace. If you have natural light coming into your room through a window, the lighting on your face will change depending on the amount of light, but your background will not. The best way to avoid this is by having a physical background in the same space as you. That way the lighting will be consistent across both you and your background.
Inconsistency Across Video Platforms
A green screen on its own is ugly. (That’s why it’s the color it is, remember?) If you’re using a video platform that doesn’t have virtual backgrounds, this suddenly becomes a liability. Now you just have an ugly green color behind you. This looks bad on other platforms, and it doesn’t look or feel great to have in your workspace.
With a physical backdrop, you’ll have the same background no matter what platform you’re on. You can record a Quicktime video from your webcam, switch over to Vidyard for a sales meeting, record and send a Loom video, take a Slack video call, and then jump onto a Zoom conference and your background will always be consistent.
Lack of Portability
If you have a lot of space to hang a large green fabric and you’re only doing video meetings from that location, a green screen isn’t a problem. But if you have a smaller space, need to move your background, or travel, moving a green screen setup quickly becomes infeasible.
While there are smaller, portable options like collapsible backgrounds that can be used as a green screen, these come with their own issues (see our article on pop up backgrounds for more information).
Looking for the best way to appear professional on video meetings?
When you really need to look professional, communicate at your best, and be consistent in your presentation, there’s no substitute for a good physical background like the Anyvoo video conference backdrop. With an Anyvoo backdrop, you can have a great-looking, custom branded background (or use one of our professionally designed images) for your video calls that will look more natural than a virtual background ever can. Since you and your background are in the same space, you don’t need to worry about lighting issues or movement spoiling the effect.
If you travel a lot, Anyvoo backdrops come with a travel frame and are easy to set up and easy to move. And because Anyvoo backdrops are double-sided and offer a green screen option, you can still utilize a green screen whenever you want. Got questions? Ask us—we’re here to help.