In the last week, Zoom Video Communications (or Zoom) has quickly established itself as the essential digital meeting place for friends, family and coworkers alike. Amid the global COVID-19 Pandemic, the video conferencing app has managed to provide some respite from the loneliness and isolation that come with mandatory shelter-in-place orders.

tl;dr: Use this free Zoom virtual background maker to crop and trim a custom video background for your video call.

While Zoom is advertised as a buttoned-up conferencing solution for schools and businesses, there's a somewhat lesser-known feature that turns it into one of the most entertaining apps around. We're talking about virtual backgrounds of course. This video effect allows users with newer hardware to digitally remove the background behind them on camera and replace it with any image or video without using a green screen.

Virtual Backgrounds provide additional privacy for your calls by hiding the room behind you and can lead to some truly hilarious interactions with your friends and coworkers. One of my favorite virtual backgrounds places the speaker in an instantly recognizable interview scene from The Office, while others place you in classic memes or movie moments.

Here's a rundown of how to make your own Zoom Virtual Background for video meetings.

  1. Download Zoom and check the system requirements
  2. Find the image or video you want to use as a virtual background
  3. Upload and edit your background in Kapwing
  4. Download your background and add it to Zoom

Step 1: Download Zoom and check the system requirements

To get started with virtual backgrounds, download the Zoom desktop or mobile application. Virtual Backgrounds are not currently supported in the Zoom browser app.

It's important to note that some older devices and machines are not capable of running virtual backgrounds - you'll want to check the official Zoom system requirements to make sure your hardware is ready for this feature. Zoom has different system requirements for using an image for your virtual background vs a video. This distinction allows more users to access the feature.

A wide range of PCs and Macs are capable of running virtual backgrounds, but on mobile you'll need an iPhone 8 or newer to replace your background.

The first time that you open the "Virtual backgrounds" tab in the Zoom desktop app, you'll be prompted to enable the smart virtual background package. This isn't sketchy malware; it's quick, trustworthy, and real. Just click the blue "Download" button to continue.

Step 2: Find an image or video you want as a virtual background

This is the fun part. Think about what image or video you want to use as your virtual background and go find it! In my personal background collection, I like to pull a lot from video games, memes, and movies. For this reason, I've primarily used YouTube and Google Image Search to find images and videos so far.

When finding the perfect background, it's important to think about where your head will sit in the frame. Will an important part of the video or image be covered by your face if it's behind you? Will you need to sit further to the left or right of the camera so that the people you're calling can see the background? Take all of this into consideration as you find images and videos for your virtual background.

This image from The Office provides a designated place for your face making it an ideal virtual background

Here are some of our favorite Zoom backgrounds that you can download and reuse:

Step 3: Edit your background for Zoom

Once you've landed on the perfect virtual background, you need to edit it so that it meets Zoom's system requirements. Start by going to Kapwing's Studio, a free online image and video editor. You can upload a video if you have a virtual background MP4 on your computer or phone, or you can import a video directly from YouTube by pasting the URL.

Once you've gotten the video in Kapwing, adjust the dimensions and length to fit Zoom's requirements for virtual backgrounds:

Size: A 16:9 aspect ratio or image size of 1920x1080 pixels is ideal for the best possible background. I started by using Kapwing's Studio to create a blank 16:9 canvas. Next, I uploaded an image into my blank canvas. Kapwing immediately resized my image to the perfect 16:9 size for Zoom. Click the "Custom Size" to get the exact 1950x1080 dimensions.

A 16:9 blank canvas in Kapwing's Studio

File Format: GIF, JPG/JPEG, MP4, MOV, or 24-bit PNG. All Kapwing outputs are compatible file types, so you can use Kapwing to convert any video to MP4 or an image to a JPG.

File Size: If you have a large image you want to make smaller, try using Kapwing's Studio to resize the image down to 1920x1080 and, if it's a video, trim it to be shorter in length. Kapwing should give you a file that is small enough to upload to Zoom.

Audio: Zoom video backgrounds are muted when you upload them, so there is no need to worry about the video's sound. You can mute the video directly in Kapwing's Studio.

Looping: Keep in mind that all virtual video backgrounds will loop during your call. For a longer call, you want to choose a background that has minimal movement so that it doesn't get annoying or distracting. Test out what your video will look like on loop using this free looper tool, or make a cinemagraph for a perfect virtual background.

Length: Zoom does not specify a length requirement, but most video backgrounds are no longer than 30 seconds to avoid becoming a distraction during calls. To shorten your video or choose a section to use for the background, click the "trim" button and clip the part you want so that it fits your background.

I trimmed this dragon attack scene from Game of Thrones down to 30 seconds to make a wildly distracting virtual background for my Zoom calls.

When your virtual background is set to the correct size and trimmed to your desired length, click "Publish" to process the image or video in Kapwing for download. Zoom requires video backgrounds to either be in the MP4 or MOV format, so any video exported from Kapwing should work.

Step 4: Download your background and add it to Zoom

When your virtual background is finished processing in Kapwing, click "Download" to save it to your computer or mobile device. Make sure you're signed into Kapwing to remove the watermark from your new background. Now, you're ready to add your creation to Zoom and start taking your calls to the next level.

Open the Zoom app and go to your settings. If you are using a compatible device, you'll see a "Virtual Background" option in the menu - select this to add your new background. Inside the virtual background screen, click the "+" button and select whether you'd like to add an image or video. Locate the file on your device and select it to instantly see your new background inside of Zoom.

The Virtual Background screen inside of Zoom's settings
The Virtual Background screen inside of Zoom's settings

After you upload the custom virtual background, you can use it in any subsequent Zoom call.

To access your virtual backgrounds while inside of a Zoom call, click the small arrow next to to the "Stop Video" button and then select "Choose Virtual Background..."

That's it - you're ready to shine in your next Zoom call while delighting everyone who is lucky enough to chat with you.

Thanks for reading! Hopefully this tool helps you participate in the latest remote work fad: Zoom virtual backgrounds. These video clips and images can add pizzaz to an otherwise boring video call and entertain your coworkers during a grim time. Here at Kapwing, we don't underestimate the healing power of a good laugh.

We'll continue to update this article with good examples of Zoom backgrounds made by our users. Thanks for reading!