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Google Meet Effects: How To Download And Customize Your Meeting Background

As many of us have started adjusting to this new normal of remote working and distance learning, it’s up to us to make present ourselves in a fun and colorful way every time we log in to a meeting. Google Meet offers a ton of features to interact with your friends and colleagues but can you add visual effects to your background to hide things you don’t want others to see? That’s what we’re here to talk about.

Can you change your background on Google Meet?

Technically, no! Google Meet doesn’t natively let you apply background effects to your video feed. That’s because there is no option present inside Google Meet that lets you modify the background from your camera feed besides blurring it.

Note: While background changing isn’t possible on it, Google Meet, however, offers a native way to blur your backgrounds during meetings. 

In contrast to Google Meet, both Zoom and Microsoft Teams offer a means to apply effects to users’ backgrounds. Zoom comes with its virtual background option that lets users replace their actual background with other images available on its app or from their own library. Teams recently started rolling out a ‘Background effects‘ feature that allows you to select images as new backgrounds including an option to blue your existing background.

Is there a way you can add background effects on Google Meet?

Yes. Although Google Meet doesn’t currently let you add effects to your background, you can still do it using a Chrome extension – Visual Effects. You can install this extension like any other Google Chrome extension made for Google Meet that boosts the capabilities of the video conferencing service.

This way you can save yourself from awkward looks that your shabby-looking surrounding attracts and present yourself in a fresh way.

What is Google Meet Visual Effects?

Visual Effects for Google Meet is an extension that’s available for Google Chrome offering a bunch of effects that can be applied to your existing background. These include Blur, Pixelate, Rainbow, Virtual Green Screen, Freeze, Inverse, and more.

You have to keep in mind that the extension is only available for Meet on the web users who make video calls from Google Chrome. This won’t work on Google Meet apps on your iOS or Android or on any other browser. Chromium-based browsers do stand a chance at being able to utilize this extension but if you wish to use it without problems, we suggest you stick with Google Chrome on this one.

How to use Visual Effects for Google Meet

If you wish to apply Visual Effects to your video background on Google Meet, you will have to first install the Visual Effects Chrome extension on your browser.

Adding the extension on Google Chrome

To do that, open this Visual Effects Chrome extension page on Google Chrome and when you do, click on the ‘Add to Chrome’ button on the right side of the extension name. Confirm the installation by clicking on the ‘Add extension’ button that appears as a pop-up dialog.

Chrome will now install Visual Effects to your browser and after the extension is successfully installed, it will appear in the Chrome toolbar.

You can now go over to your meeting screen on Google Meet to start using the extension. All the visual effects can now be applied by going into the meeting screen, hovering over the left edge, and then selecting the effect that works best for you.

What we found: In our testing, we noticed that it takes a little longer for the ‘Join now’ and ‘Present’ buttons to appear inside the initial meeting window. We believe that’s due to the extension loading all the effects for use inside the meeting.

Blur your background

Update [Spetember 17, 2020]: You no longer need to use this extension if your sole purpose is to blur your background. That’s because, Google has started rolling out its own Background Blur feature for Google Meet, meaning you don’t need to depend on a third-party extension to get the same result. Read our definitive guide on enabling Blur Background on Google Meet to get a complete idea of the feature. 

After the extension has been installed on your Chrome browser, you can start applying different effects to your background. For many of you out there, the most basic one that should be able to unclutter your video feed is the background blur option.

To apply this, join a meeting, and inside the meeting screen, hover the mouse to the left edge. When the sidebar expands, check the box that reads ‘Background Blur’. You should now be able to view your surroundings getting blurred. Additionally, you have the option to adjust how blurry you want your background to be by moving the slider below the ‘Background Blur’ checkbox.

What we found: The Background Blur in Google Meet almost appeared to be doing its job, if the blur effect isn’t too harsh, then all the objects in your background as well hidden and the extension is doing a good job mapping your body’s outline. If you have set the blur option to the max, that’s when the extension starts going haywire.

While the option maintains the blur effect in the background, some areas around your body don’t get blurred while some others do. We suggest you use the effect at a moderate setting so that you can lose as much detail as possible in your background without the effect looking artificial.

Add a virtual background

If blurring your surrounding isn’t what you want to do, the next best option for you is to completely change it with a custom image of your choice. The Visual Effects extension offers a ‘Green Screen’ option that when enabled can apply a selected image as your background.

You can do this by joining a meeting, hovering over the left edge, and then locating a ‘Green Screen’ option in the pop-up sidebar. Now don’t just try checking the box under it as you would be prompted that you have no image selected to apply as a green screen.

First, click on the ‘Upload Background’ button under the ‘Green Screen’ option and choose an image you might want to be overlaid on top of your current background. Once that’s done, click on the checkbox under ‘Green Screen’ to apply the effect and then click on the ‘Virtual’ tab under it to set it as your background.

What we found: In our testing, the ‘Green Screen’ feature was a hit and miss. If you’re lucky, you will be able to replace your current background with the image that you chose.

However, in some cases, applying the ‘Green Screen’ feature resulted in flickering or both your current and chosen background applied like you would in a double exposure shot. Another thing we noticed is that choosing the ‘Default’ option instead of ‘Virtual’ yielded in nothing and often applied the selected image all over the screen, which isn’t really helpful in any situation.

Try other effects for your meetings

Besides the usual blur and virtual background effects, the Visual Effects extension also lets you add a bunch of other effects to you as well as your background. You can choose any one of the following options – Blur, Bubbles, Contrast, Cube, 3D Movie, Donation, Flip, Freeze, Inverse, Insane, Rainbow, Pixelate, Soft Focus, Text Display, Face filters.

Among the ones mentioned above, we suggest you try 3D Movie, Freeze, Rainbow, Pixelate,   Text Display, Soft Focus, Contrast, and Face Filters. We’ve tried a bunch of them ourselves and they’re fun to use and easy to apply.

What we found: Although most of these effects are a fun way to express yourself in meetings, there’s this one thing we don’t like about them. It’s the fact that when you apply any of these effects, the extension applies it to the whole camera-input instead of just your background. Unfortunately, even your face is now modified with the selected effect, giving you an excuse to not use them for long.

Can you expect Google Meet effects to be available natively in the future?

After taking note of the features that other services are providing their customers, Google has confirmed that it is working on a ‘Background blur and replace’ feature. You will not only be able to change your background but also blur it so that you can hide things you don’t want others to see in your surroundings.

You can take a look at this Google support page, you will notice that the ‘Background blur and replace’ feature is currently in development on both desktop and mobile platforms. Judging by the screenshot provided by Google, we can expect the background effects feature to appear inside the joining screen that appears before you actually get into a meeting on Google Meet.

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