Zoom has a new (beta) feature where you can make a PowerPoint presentation your virtual background. I made a video to show it to you.

Live from Grounds for Thought in the GCC Student Union. Sort of.

Here are the resources referenced in the video:

Tl;dr (too long, didn’t read): Some of you will want to know what I did to the original photo.

  1. I used Photoshop to straighten the photo and I cropped it to a 16:9 ratio so that it would perfectly fill a slide for a presentation set to wide screen mode.
  2. I duplicated the background layer and made a mask of just the table in the lower right corner in the new layer. Then I applied a gaussian blur to the background layer to give the impression that the table is in focus, and the rest is slightly out of focus because it is further away.
  3. I exported a JPEG of the image with all layers on.
  4. I also turned off the background layer and exported a transparent PNG of just the table. This can be inserted as an image on top of a slide that has a background photo.

In PowerPoint, I added a blank slide and made the JPEG the background image. I can duplicate that as many times as I want and then add text boxes and other PowerPoint elements on top of it.

Anywhere that I use a different background image on the slide (or just a background color), I insert the transparent PNG as the first item on the slide. It automatically fills the slide, which keeps the table in the exact same position as it is in the original JPEG. This works as a constant guide for me to align the bottom of my video to when I go into Zoom. I appear to always be “sitting at the table.” And the table stays on screen even if the rest of the Student Union scene is replaced by something else.

Fun, right? I can think of lots of other foreground items. You could be standing behind a lectern, a fence, the hood of a classic car, the check-out counter of the Library of Alexandria… the possibilities are endless. The main thing is that the top edge of it is a level straight line, so your Zoom video can sit right on top, and create the illusion that you are “behind” it. If you want some help with this, contact me to engage in visual shenanigans!

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