In the past days I have been thinking about a solution to have a “neutral” background to use during Skype for Business video conferences.
It’s like having a lifebelt in our boat, probably we will never use it, but in case our real background is not a good fit for a conference (like a busy Starbucks or an airport gate) we could love to have a “Plan B”.
Some people in companies that have had a remote / smart working mindset for a long time, use a solution that is collapsible and portable webcam background. If we like travelling with a background like the one you see in the picture, that’s an acceptable fix.
For me, the next logical step is a software solution. Low cost and complexity are welcomed if possible. After a short search on the Internet, I have seen ChromaCam https://www.chromacam.me/ .
- the software runs only as a PC app (so, no support for mobile apps) and does not support Lync 2013 and the apps that rely on Lync 2013
- There is no clear statement about Microsoft Teams but at the moment support for Skype for Business and Teams are fairly similar) http://support.chromacam.me/customer/en/portal/articles/2759516-chromacam-with-skype-skype-for-business
Using the software is quite easy. After the installation you have an additional webcam ChromaCam and when you enable it the ChromaCam app opens
A large part of the settings is about selecting the background we want to use.
The free version has a set of standard backgrounds while the full version (which is not too costly) includes the capability to use your own image as a virtual background
The quality of the background replacement is acceptable, we have to play a bit with the distance from the camera and (in some cases) moving a bit to clear the edges of our image (like hairs, shoulders and so on)
Also, it is good to not move too much during the call or you could have a weird effect of parts of your face / body vanishing in the background
There is also “streamer” solutions that are a little bit out of my comfort zone (like having flying kittens or small rockets flying all around)
ChromaCam is smart enough to get if what is in front of the webcam is a human being or not
The algorithm used is a bit demanding in terms of processing power, so it is predictable that the quality of the experience is going to be tied to the hardware we are going to use.
At the end of the day, that solution is as close as possible to my expectation, not perfect but usable “in times of need”.