Don't Settle for Boring Video Chat Meetings. 11 Ways to Make Calls Way More Fun
Use these video-chat tricks to change your background, adjust for bad lighting, turn on captions and more.
Alison DeNisco RayomeManaging Editor
Managing Editor Alison DeNisco Rayome joined CNET in 2019, and is a member of the Home team. She is a co-lead of the CNET Tips and We Do the Math series, and manages the Home Tips series, testing out new hacks for cooking, cleaning and tinkering with all of the gadgets and appliances in your house. Alison was previously an editor at TechRepublic.
ExpertiseHome Tips, including cooking, cleaning and appliances hacksCredentials
National Silver Azbee Award for Impact/Investigative Journalism; National Gold Azbee Award for Online Single Topic Coverage by a Team; National Bronze Azbee Award for Web Feature Series
Shelby Brown (she/her/hers) is an editor for CNET's services team. She covers tips and tricks for apps, operating systems and devices, as well as mobile gaming and Apple Arcade news. Shelby also oversees Tech Tips coverage. Before joining CNET, she covered app news for Download.com and served as a freelancer for Louisville.com.
She received the Renau Writing Scholarship in 2016 from the University of Louisville's communication department.
Video chat apps have become a staple in our daily work -- and personal -- lives over the last two years. But staring at your own face framed by your messy living room or plain home office on the screen can get dull -- for you and for them.
Luckily, popular video chatting and conferencing platforms such as Zoom, FaceTime and Google Meet offer some ways to spice up your chats with fun features and settings. We break down the tips for each app below.
1. Change your Zoom background, use filters and avatars
Virtually transport yourself to the beach, outer space or anywhere else you can imagine by changing and customizing your background while on Zoom calls. You can read our step-by-step guide on how to change your Zoom background on the desktop and mobile app, but basically, you go to Settings > Background & Effects > Virtual Background, and select or upload the one you want from there.
2. Loop yourself paying attention during a meeting
Not that we'd ever recommend doing this, but if you wanted to create a customized background that is just a loop of yourself nodding along to a meeting, you technically could do that, as David Zhou of Mailchimp tweeted.
To get the video background option, follow the instructions for customizing your background above and just add a video file instead of a photo. You might need to make sure your Zoom is updated and that you meet minimum system requirements. If you want to try something different, here's how CNET's Jesse Orrall prerecorded himself in video meetings to see if his coworkers would notice.
3. Turn your Zoom mic on and off with the space bar
Want to feel like a DJ who happens to work in their PJs from their kitchen table? Mute your microphone, then press and hold the space bar whenever you need to talk.
4. Look your best with a Zoom beauty filter
If it's one of those days where you don't think you're looking your best, Zoom has an answer: a feature called Touch Up My Appearance. Basically, it's a softening filter, like you'd find on Instagram, FaceTune or your phone's selfie camera.
To turn it on, go to Settings > Video and check the Touch Up My Appearance box. From there, you can use the slider to change the intensity of the filter.
Apple FaceTime for iPhone and Mac
1. Chat as your Animoji or Memoji in FaceTime
If you've created a customized Memoji avatar, you can use it to replace your actual face during a FaceTime call. To do that, start a FaceTime call, tap your phone's display and tap the Effects button (it looks like a star, and it's at the bottom left of the screen). Tap the first icon that appears at the bottom of the menu to choose the Memoji or Animoji you want to use and you'll see your face get replaced by that choice. Tap the Effects button again to stop using the character, or to switch to another one.
2. Add filters and effects to your FaceTime chats
Make your FaceTime video call look a bit more interesting by adding filters and effects -- similar to how you would on Snapchat or Instagram. To do this, start a FaceTime call, tap the display and again tap the Effects button. You'll see different options in terms of effects, features and stickers you can use during your call -- which will stay in effect throughout the call, or until you decide to remove them.
3. Blur your background on FaceTime
Again, no one wants to worry about a messy workspace when on a call. To blur your background on FaceTime, tap the Effects button and then tap the profile-style button in the top-left corner of your screen. This will automatically blur your background.
When you start or join a Google Meet video chat, you can add fun Snapchat-style backgrounds, styles and filters. To explore, tap the sparkle icon on your self-view window. This will open an Effects menu. You can choose cozy animated or static backgrounds like a library, a greenhouse, a fairy house in the woods and more. In the same menu, you can add different styles like black and white, or fun animal and cartoon filters. To add your own background, tap the plus icon and upload a photo.
2. Blur your background on Google Meet
To blur your background during your Google Meet video chat, tap the sparkle icon again to open the Effects menu. Choose the first icon for a more blurred background, or the second icon for a slightly less blurry background.
3. Adjust for bad lighting
You can also work around poor lighting conditions with Google Meet. Tap the three-dot button at the bottom of your screen, choose Settings and toggle on Adjust Video For Low Light.
4. Turn on captions
If you need some extra help following along during a meeting, Google Meet has an option to turn on Live Captions. To turn them on, tap the three-dot button at the bottom of your screen, choose Settings and toggle on Live Captions.