Blur and Virtual Background choices for any online meeting

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You can have a blurred or virtual background for any online video call, not just ones that have those in-built features.

Zoom has blur and virtual background optionsTeams is getting them with some limitations.  Other online calling software either don’t have them or they are configured in different ways.

What would be ideal is a way to setup those features with your webcam then use that video feed on whichever calling software you like.

Most of us use different video conferencing options depending on what the host has chosen.  Currently we have Zoom, Teams, Skype and Google Meet all setup.

One camera feed with consistent selection of virtual backgrounds and other effects all would be great, and it is possible.

Virtual Camera

Welcome to the Virtual Camera … a piece of software that takes a real camera feed, lets you change it (blur, virtual background etc.) then select that as a ‘camera’ in Zoom, Teams, Meet or whatever.

No need to change the settings in each meeting software, just choose the ‘virtual camera’ and you’re away.

If you’ve been following Office Watch’s coverage of Remote Working and online meetings, you’ll have already seen some virtual cameras:

There are various virtual camera options available and we’re focusing on these options

  • for Windows or Mac computers.
    • Apple and Android devices would be great.
  • Accepts any video feed including from a smartphone or tablet webcam, IP camera.
    • Some are limited to only physical cameras.
  • Live computer desktop or window can be used as a background or as a video feed.
  • Blur background option
  • Virtual background option
    • Users choice of background image
    • Video/moving background would be nice.
  • PowerPoint presentation
    • g. as a virtual background or ‘picture in picture’.

Here’s some candidates we’ve found.  We’ve not had time to test them but hope to fully review some in the near future.  If you’ve had experience with any of these, we’d love to hear from you

ManyCam

ManyCam is the ‘big daddy’ in virtual cameras. It’s available for Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad and Android devices.

It has a wide range of options including support for multiple cameras, desktop capture, split screen, picture in picture in their Standard plan ($29 a year).

You can setup multiple preset video feeds and switch between them whenever you like during a call.  Here we’ve made three presets; a side by side view of camera and PowerPoint slide, Picture in Picture (mostly slide with live camera in the corner) and an ‘I’ll be back’ choice for when you have to leave for a short time.

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Manycam Studio ($59 a year or $119 lifetime) includes blur and custom video background plus support for two devices.

Many other options including onscreen clock, timer and stopwatch options.  Handy for quizzes or countdown for a break in an online meeting.

If you’re regularly using online meetings across many services, ManyCam is probably worth the annual fee or pay for a lifetime licence.

The purchase and fulfillment are a little cumbersome with a curious split of management between the ManyCam site and their payment processor.  We had noticeable delays in both payment processing and getting the licence in the ManyCam software and activating it. It all worked in the end, but our advice is not to wait until the last minute to buy ManyCam, allow their system some time to catch up.

CamMask

A Windows and Mac option with a range of options including a virtual background feature but no blur.

CamMask also has funny effects a la SnapCamera, text overlay including date/time and scrolling text.

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It also has presets, six different video outputs or looks you can setup before then switch between during your calls.

US$34.99 with a free trial download.

ChromaCam

ChromaCam is a Windows only option.

It can blur a background or add a virtual background.

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The Lifetime licence $29.99 includes full background blur, custom and streaming backgrounds plus support for PowerPoint slides.

It appears to work only with physically connected cameras and even then we had trouble getting it to recognize a laptop camera.  Definitely try before you buy.

XSplit Vcam

While XSplit Vcam doesn’t have all the features of some other virtual cameras, it’s setup and instructions are better than most.

It does have a blur control we’ve not seen elsewhere. Move the slider to change the amount of background blurring. Blurring can be applied to any background not just the live camera feed.

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Backgrounds can be from images, videos, YouTube videos, Web pages or photos from Unsplash.

The free version does have a very intrusive watermark, see sample above, but still lets you test the software.

Sadly there’s no option to select an active window as a background so a live PowerPoint presentation isn’t possible.

Vcam is $39.95, Windows only.

Try before you buy

Virtual camera software is a tricky area for developers.  All the different cameras and video feeds mean there can be compatibility problems.  Definitely install and try the free option first to make sure the software works with all the cameras and feeds you have.

Remember to turn off the blur or virtual background options in Zoom, Teams etc.  Those choice will overlay or repeat the effects from the virtual camera with confusing results.

 

If the Windows or MacOS teams want to make their next release really compelling, some virtual camera options baked into the operating system would be great.

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