Don’t settle for a boring scene of your home office during an online Zoom meeting. Opt for a virtual background instead.
With remote work as the new normal, it’s commonplace to replace your actual background with a virtual version at least some of the time, particularly as school starts back up for the year. At first, people were trying to focus on serious backgrounds, but now anything goes.
The reality is that working from home for months end is a bit more fun when you can do it on The Simpson’s couch or while hanging out on retired Admiral Jean-Luc Picard’s bridge aboard the USS Enterprise or even dialing in from the Batcave.
SEE: How to use Zoom: 15 tips and tricks (TechRepublic download)
Virtual backgrounds are easy to use on Zoom, which has faced several security and privacy issues this year. There are no size restrictions for virtual backgrounds, but you should crop the image to match the aspect ratio of your camera.
If you don’t know how to turn on virtual backgrounds on Zoom, TechRepublic has a guide for that. TechRepublic can also help you create a custom virtual background on Zoom. You can use any image. The key to picking the right image for use as a virtual background is important. If it’s too dark it may be hard to see; if it’s too bright or busy, it will distract from the call, according to TechRepublic’s Brandon Vigliarolo.
PHOTOS: The 66 coolest virtual backgrounds to use in Zoom meetings (TechRepublic)
Free virtual backgrounds from CBS, DC Comics, Disney and more
To make it fun, many of those in the entertainment industry are getting into the spirit of things and sharing images for free for everyone to use as their Zoom virtual backgrounds.
CBS has shared backgrounds for shows including NCIS, The Price is Right, Survivor, Big Brother, Magnum PI, The Amazing Race, Young Sheldon and Mom, as well as CBS All Access shows Star Trek: Picard, The Good Fight, Star Trek Discovery and Why Women Kill. And because no one can get quite enough Star Trek: Picard, CBS All Access shared more.
NBC shared images from Parks and Rec, so if you’ve ever wanted to sit at Ron Swanson’s desk or channel your inner Leslie Knope, this is your chance.
DC Comics is sharing free backgrounds from the Batcave, Gotham City, The Daily Planet and more. Fox has backgrounds available from The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers, The Family Guy and several other popular shows. If animals are more your things, Monterey Bay Aquarium has free animal backgrounds available.
Final Fantasy VII shared backgrounds from the game for everyone to use. Bethesda is sharing stunning images as well. And there are images from your favorite Nintendo games such as Animal Crossing, Super Mario Odyssey, Pokemon: Let’s Go Evee!, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and ARMS. And of course Blizzard has gotten in on the act. Even if you can’t play World of Warcraft at work, you can look like you’re in Stormwind City or the Shadowlands while you’re busy in a video conference with the new 4K backgrounds for WoW fans.
Paramount Studios got into the act with backgrounds for Top Gun Maverick. The movie’s release has been delayed, but there are plenty of cool backgrounds available for virtual meetings. If you’re ready for the next chapter in Bill and Ted’s adventure’s, Orion Pictures has shared images from Bill & Ted Face the Music. If you can’t get enough Keanu Reeves, Lionsgate has shared images from John Wick: Chapter 3.
HBO is sharing backgrounds for Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley, Westworld, Euphoria, Insecure, Sharp Objects, Late Night with John Oliver, Succession and more at this HBO link.
There’s also backgrounds for Schitt’s Creek, RuPaul’s Drag Race and The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run for anyone who wants to do a virtual call under the sea. Broadway’s Moulin Rouge has also gotten in on the fun with backgrounds, as has Broadway’s Frozen and other big marquee names such as Hamilton and Beetlejuice.
A lot of companies are getting into the branding game, offering gorgeous images with their logo prominently displayed. If that doesn’t bother you, there are plenty to choose from, including those from the Missouri Botanical Gardens and United Airlines if anyone is missing the opportunity to travel to their favorite places. Gray Malin has also shared gorgeous images from Italy, Colorado, Central Park and more.
Or opt for something unique, such as NPR’s music background, or Faber Books’ tour of favorite libraries around the world. You can also get creative and head over to the NASA website and pull images from the original Apollo 13.
One of the best ideas might be the most underrated. How about taking a photo of your own home in perfect order, and make that your virtual background. No one will be any the wiser in your video calls, and yet you won’t have to worry about cleaning up before your next meeting. We’ve even heard of folks using photos from their own office, and making their co-workers momentarily think they’re still at their desk rather than quarantining at home.
SEE: Zoom 101: A guidebook for beginners and business pros (TechRepublic Premium)
To see all of the virtual backgrounds mentioned in this article, see TechRepublic’s gallery on The 66 coolest virtual backgrounds to use in Zoom meetings.
This article was updated on Aug. 28, 2020 with additional images.