This year, the Academy Awards will not allow acceptance speeches on Zoom, but that doesn’t mean you can’t virtually gather with your friends to watch the Oscars.
However, before you unmute to discuss the best and worst red carpet looks and groan about what will win versus what should win, take a few minutes to make sure your video background is reaching its full aesthetic potential.
There’s no better authority on Zoom rooms than Claude Taylor, who, with co-creator Jessie Bahrey, runs Room Rater, the popular Twitter account that scores Zoom backgrounds on a scale of one to ten. Variety spoke to Taylor to find out the four best tips for setting up your space so you can take home the award for best room.
Color: According to Taylor, adding a splash of color to your room makes a huge difference in adding visual appeal. This can be achieved by placing a brightly colored pillow on the chair or showcasing a plant on the desk. Pieces of art, especially identifiable works, also work wonders in adding vibrancy to your screen. While books can also serve as great background material, Taylor warns against color coordinating the spines. “That’s just treating books as decorative objects and not crucibles of knowledge,” he said. “It’s disrespectful, and we will roast you.”
Depth: Since your Zoom screen is already two-dimensional, add depth to your background to avoid appearing flat. While a common mistake people make is sitting directly in front of a blank wall, this problem can easily be solved by angling the camera and shooting down the wall. “Don’t set up a hostage video,” Taylor said. “You can create depth with whatever space you’re working with.” Spreading out objects behind you and across the room is another simple way to capture the fullness of your space.
Production: Without getting too technical, you can set up an aesthetically pleasing Zoom room by following simple lighting and camera techniques. Bring in some lamps from around the house and space them out off camera to add brightness to your room. To go above and beyond, purchase a ring light (found online for under $25) and place it behind your camera to illuminate your face. If you’re looking to meet the standards of a perfect Room Rater score, be sure to hide any visible electrical cords. Most important is camera height, which should always be around eye level. Angling your camera too high means showcasing too much of your forehead, and shooting from below provides an unwanted glimpse into your nose. In the words of Taylor, “Nobody needs to be introduced to someone else’s nostril hairs.”
Personality: Perhaps the most overlooked, yet important aspect of designing your virtual background is showcasing personality. While the classic bookcase background can always add a personal touch, the joy of unplanned cameos from kids and pets is unmatched in this category. Toys, Lego structures and children’s art also add a playfulness and whimsicality to every Zoom room that cannot be fabricated.
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