Microsoft Delivers Control for Teams Background Blur and Effects

Control Through New Setting in Teams Meeting Policy

Background blur for Teams meetings has been available since September 2018. Background effects, better known as the ability for users to choose images to use as their background during Teams meetings (Figure 1) appeared in early April. The availability of background effects created some issues for Office 365 tenants, such as making sure that people select appropriate images. Microsoft didn’t have an answer at the time, so they went with the solution of providing a set of curated images for people to choose from. However, it’s easy to upload custom images and use those images instead.

Teams background effects
Figure 1: Teams background effects

Policy Controls First Followed by Client Updates

In Office 365 notification MC212361, Microsoft explains how tenant administrators can control background blur and background effects on a per-user basis. Two changes are needed. First, a new setting (VideoFiltersMode) can be updated in Teams meeting policies to control which (if any) video effects are available to users. Policies can be updated now in preparation for a future update for the Teams client that will respect the setting. The client update is rolling out from mid-May to end-May using the standard client refresh mechanism. I tested using version 1.3.00.13515.

Updating the VideoFiltersMode Setting

The available values for the VideoFiltersMode setting are:

  • NoFilters: No filters are available.
  • BlurOnly: Background blur is available (but only if certain hardware conditions are met).
  • BlurAndDefaultBackgrounds: Background blur and the set of curated background images selected by Microsoft can be used (essentially, what happens today).
  • AllFilters: All filters are available, and the user can upload custom images. This is the default value for meeting policies.

Some will doubt the need to control how people use background effects and say that they trust people to do the right thing. The default value of AllFilters means that people can continue to use background images without any restriction. Others will welcome the opportunity to exert control. For example, these organizations can set VideoFiltersMode to BlurAndDefaultBackgrounds to allow users to use blur and effects but not be able to upload new images through the GUI. We don’t know yet if this option will stop custom images being picked up if they are distributed to client workstations via group policy or other mechanisms. Figure 2 shows what happens when the meeting policy applied to an account only allows background blur to be chosen.

BlurOnly means that only background blur is available
Figure 2: BlurOnly means that only background blur is available

Teams meeting policies are usually updated through the Teams admin center. In this case, the GUI to manipulate the VideoFiltersMode control is not yet available in the Teams admin center, so you must set the value with PowerShell. Like all Teams policies, the PowerShell cmdlets to manipulate meeting policies are available in the Skype for Business Online module.

Updating Teams Meeting Policies with PowerShell

After connecting to the Skype for Business Online endpoint, to list the existing policies and the assigned value for VideoFiltersMode, run the Get-CsTeamsMeetingPolicy cmdlet:

To update a policy, run the Set-CsTeamsMeetingPolicy cmdlet:

Once the meeting policy is updated, it can be assigned to users as normal through the Teams Admin Center (Figure 3). It can take up to 24 hours before a change made to a policy is picked up and applied by clients.

Updating the meeting policy for a user in the Teams Admin Center
Figure 3: Updating the meeting policy for a user in the Teams Admin Center

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17 Replies to “Microsoft Delivers Control for Teams Background Blur and Effects”

  1. Hello Tony,

    At this moment I am not permitted to modify but it will be available during this month.
    Regarding this option BlurAndDefaultBackgrounds, will be the option to set a background for all users and not only the default one?

    Thanks,
    Golan

  2. Put your custom images in C:\users\\appdata\roaming\microsoft\teams\backgrounds\uploads

  3. Thanks for article! Any idea if granular control will be added to lock to default Microsoft and / or a custom set created by a specific organization?

    1. We don’t know what Microsoft will do over time. It’s entirely likely that this is a first-run implementation to help tenants cope with video effects that they will further tweak over time. Vote on Teams User Voice if you want anything specific.

    1. Nope. Check your hardware, check that other people in the tenant can use blurred backgrounds… etc.

  4. Out of all the features they need to be working on this is the worst. Draconian control over employees given to draconian IT managers. Why is microsoft not working on fast deployment of having a better video quality or even allowing the view of more than 4 or 9 participants.

    1. Because experience (especially in the EDU market) with Zoom and Teams shows that some users will abuse the ability to display custom background images with objectionable content, including pornography.

  5. i have been using Microsoft teams, virtual back ground for the past month with no issues….
    then last Friday it stops working,

    So I un-installed and re-installed Microsoft teams desktop app(from links on Microsoft page)
    Now the folder path that used to hold the background images has gone…. Backgrounds Folders gone

    C:\Users\ \AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\
    C:\Users\ \AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\Uploads\

    no info online to explain how to resolve.

    any advice ?

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