Viral videos of meetings gone wrong have taken over the internet. Kids barging into live streams, dogs barking through webinars, and bosses not quite understanding video conferencing technology are all byproducts of an increasingly remote workforce.
Adding a virtual background to a video stream engages your audience and makes you look more professional. Savvy marketers even use them as a branding tool. This quick guide will show you three tools you can use to deliver your message without a hitch.
When you live stream to an audience, you want the attention to be on what you are saying- not on your surroundings. If your participants are busy trying to read the titles of the books on your bookshelf, you have a problem.
Virtual backgrounds can put the focus back on you, literally. Blur tools make it possible for speakers to project a clear image of themselves while causing their surroundings to be out of focus.
When looking to engage your audience it may be tempting to choose a creative background that projects you in a virtual reality. This option is better for less professional settings. These “fun” backgrounds can have the opposite effect of what you want, instead of engaging your audience you could end up distracting them.
Fewer things can go wrong when broadcasting from a controlled environment such as an office. But when streaming from home, the setting becomes much more variable. The people (and animals) we live with have a mind of their own and can wander into the backgrounds of video calls, distracting audiences.
We’ve written about the importance of a good setup before. It looks professional to have clean surroundings. For those who don’t have the option of a home office, virtual backgrounds give you more control of your personal setting. Virtual backgrounds take the stress out of organizing your space before every broadcast.
When you host a presentation or a video meeting you’ll likely have most aspects of your outreach branded. Landing pages, registration forms, and even reminder emails will include your brand’s logos and colors. Using a virtual background is just an extension of this concept. You can use your brand’s colors, add a logo, or even a slogan to your background.
For less serious presentations, you can choose a background that corresponds with your topic. For instance, if you are teaching a virtual class selecting a classroom as a background can signal to your students that it’s time to learn.
This tool has been getting heaps of attention in recent months, even though it’s still in Beta! Backed by big investors, Mmhmm’s presentation capabilities bring a new edge to the virtual background game.
Mmhmm's top features are:
Mmhmm’s biggest selling point is a dynamic screen that presents alongside your own image. With this screen, you can screen-share, play videos, present images or share slides all without leaving the stage yourself. It is easy to manipulate your own image using the trackpad of your laptop, so you can shrink or adjust your own image without taking your eyes off of the camera.
Mmhmm also comes with a multiplayer feature, allowing presenters of the same team to present the same screen even if you are all on separate feeds and in different locations. Everyone on the presentation team has equal control over the pace of the presentation and slides.
Face tracking capabilities follow your movements, making sure your virtual background stays put even if you change positions. It’s also a huge pro that you can manipulate the screens with just the trackpad. This makes it easier to adjust your presentation without looking away from the camera. However, when we tried it without a green screen the effect was quite poor, the camera had trouble filling in space around us. Mmhmm is still in beta, so this might improve over time.
Starting at 39 euros for a basic yearly subscription, ManyCam is a virtual background tool that’s been on the scene since 2006.
ManyCam comes with a heap of cool features to help you change your background and live feed such as:
ManyCam broadcasts high-quality background images with a green screen. If you don’t have a green screen don’t fret, you can use their Chroma Key tool to apply a green screen effect to any background. Your selected background is then layered into your video streams. You can use ManyCam to blur, remove, or replace your background.
For creative presentations, they offer a draw and text feature that lets you write on your main screen while you broadcast. Use it to annotate slides, screen shares, or pre-recorded videos to get your point across. They also include 3D masks and special effects that can be added to your feed and customized.
Overall, ManyCam has a super intuitive interface and is easy to understand. The background replacement works whether using a green screen or not, but the results are most consistent with the green screen. Our favorite feature is the customizable dashboard where you can favorite your most used features and access them when we need them. But, you can only favorite three of the features at a time.
The simplest of the three tools we tried, ChromaCam offers a free watermarked version of its software and a lifetime subscription for 29.99.
ChromaCam keeps it simple with the following features:
Like the othet tools on this list, you can use ChromaCam with or without a physical green screen. You can upload your own slides to use as your background, and you can layer logos and text over your own image with the tool.
Without the bells and whistles of the other tools, ChromaCam is a great entry level tool for anyone just needing a simple background blur. It works best with a green screen especially if streaming in low light.
We hope this short guide will help you choose the best virtual background tool for your live stream. Whether you need a feature-heavy tool like Mmhmm, or you want to keep it simple, one of these three tools is sure to have what you are looking for.