Steady Development of Background Image Capabilities
It’s interesting to track the development of support for background images in Teams meetings from the original introduction of support for background blur in 2018 to the ability of users to upload custom images, for organizations to control what video effects people can use in meetings, and support for custom backgrounds in mobile clients. Overall, Microsoft has done a nice job of making custom background effects work for Teams users, spurred on by user demand during the pandemic and a healthy dose of competition from Zoom.
The question of how to obtain suitable background images for Teams meetings is often hotly debated. You can:
- Create and upload your own, if allowed by the organization. Most digital cameras and smartphones can capture suitable images without restoring to digital manipulation with Photoshop or similar editors. Overall, landscapes and scenery works best, but this is a matter of personal taste.
- Choose from the sets of images released by different companies, including IKEA and Microsoft.
- Download and use other images, such as the daily image displayed on the Bing home page.
- Select from a set of organization-approved background images (if you have the appropriate license).
See this post for more information about how to create and upload background images from different sources.
Customizing Together Mode
Up to now, it hasn’t been possible to create custom images for Together Mode when used in Teams meetings, largely because of the need to insert images extracted from the video feeds of participants and combine those images with a background. This is changing, as Microsoft has released a developer preview for how to use a scene creator to generate a suitable custom image for Together mode. The scene creator allows a designer to upload an image (like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise) and decide where to place user feeds in the image, including seats reserved for the meeting organizer and current presenter. When everything is ready, the creator generates a package (a Teams app) which users can sideload into Teams to use the custom background. This process will become smoother over time, and you can expect organizations to make corporate-approved Together Mode backgrounds available for meetings soon.
Microsoft’s Gallery of Teams Background Images
Microsoft has a Teams background gallery featuring images selected by both Microsoft and users. If you have a nice image, Microsoft allows you to upload it for consideration, and if they accept the image, it becomes available for others to download. And of course, you’ll love the two images I uploaded to test the feature (Figure 1), both of which come from scenes in the West of Ireland.
Slightly confusingly, Microsoft has a different page containing sets of themed background images, all of which are available for individual download from the gallery. I guess it’s a matter of packaging. In any case, the Nostalgia set (Figure 2) is the one I want to focus on here.
Selecting a set downloads a ZIP file containing the images. The Nostalgia set has four, featuring:
- Clippy, the Office Assistant. Marking a return from the graphic wilderness, Clippy is also due to feature in the new set of Microsoft Windows emoticons.
- The classic Windows XP “Bliss” or “rolling meadow” wallpaper.
The last two are stylized representation of the apps in use rather than the user interface of the apps.
Obviously, Clippy is the #1 choice for an inspiring Teams background image (Figure 3), even if I am not quite sure what Clippy is doing in the picture. Clippy’s position on top of a mass of paper reminds me of the famous series of “puppy dog” advertisements for Andrex toilet tissue.
On that thought, maybe I’ll use the Bliss image (or another of my own) in my next Teams meeting.
So much change, all the time. It’s a challenge to stay abreast of all the updates (even the slightly silly stuff) Microsoft makes across Office 365. Subscribe to the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook to receive monthly insights into what’s happening.