Microsoft Improves Teams Together Mode with New Background Scenes

Combining Video Feeds Into a Common View

Announced in Office 365 notification MC225405 (29 October), Microsoft will make new scenes available for use with its Together Mode feature in mid-November. This is Microsoft 365 roadmap item 68749.

Together mode is intended to give participants in Teams meetings a more interesting and engaging experience than the standard gallery layout. The implementation isolates the head and shoulder of each video-enabled and combines these snippets with a background (scene) to create the impression that everyone is seated together in a shared space. Up to now, the only available background looks like seats in a theater.

Together mode is available when there are five or more participants in a meeting. Only organizers and presenters can enable together mode for a meeting. More information about the effective use of Together mode is available in this Microsoft article.

New Scenes for Together Mode

Microsoft has shown other background scenes for together mode in conferences and now they are bringing that capability to customer tenants. MC225405 says that after starting together mode in a meeting, you can select a different scene to use as the basis for the shared space by choosing the Change scene option (Figure 1).

Teams Together Mode now has a Change Scene option
Figure 1: Teams Together Mode now has a Change Scene option

Teams displays the set of scenes (Figure 2). These are:

  • Theater (the original Together mode scene).
  • Cinema.
  • Curved conference theater.
  • Curved outside amphitheater.
  • Round boardroom table.
  • Straight boardroom table.

The first four scenes are suitable for large meetings up to the 49-participant limit Teams can display. The boardrooms scenes can be used with smaller gatherings (5 feeds can be shown).

Scenes for Teams Together Mode
Figure 2: Scenes for Teams Together Mode

To reduce processing demands, Teams combines video feeds in the back end before sending a single feed to clients. This means that everyone sees the same scene. It’s not a great idea to switch between scenes in a meeting. Instead, select the most appropriate scene at the start and stay with it.

I have many small meetings and like the straight boardroom scene, which looks as if it uses a background taken in Silicon Valley or perhaps the Redmond/Bellevue area. As Figure 3 shows, from an aesthetic perspective, the effectiveness of the combined feeds is dependent on the positioning of workstation cameras. If everyone’s camera is in approximately the same position, the combined scene looks quite natural. If not, it is less effective.

Using a boardroom scene in Teams Together Mode
Figure 3: Using a boardroom scene in Teams Together Mode

Update to Teams Meeting Recordings

The other notable update is MC225568 (30 October) to let tenants know that Teams meeting recordings will now use a 3×3 gallery view instead of a 2×2 view as previous. This is Microsoft 365 roadmap item 68935. Rollout is now proceeding with the aim of completion soon.

Recordings use a different video feed than the one delivered to meeting participants. After Microsoft started to increase the number of participants who could be viewed in a meeting from the original 2×2 to 3×3 and then 7×7, it was noted that the recording didn’t match what participants saw. Microsoft said that they’d improve the view, which is what they have now done.

The same meeting view is used when Teams saves recordings in OneDrive for Business rather than Stream.


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