Teams Gets Custom Backgrounds, More

Posted on June 12, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft 365, Office 365 with 14 Comments

It’s finally happening: Users of Microsoft Teams can now enable custom background images without needing a green screen.

“Today, we are announcing the rollout of new custom background effects in Teams,” Microsoft corporate vice president Jared Spataro writes in the announcement post. “It’s all about enabling you and your team to work productively, collaboratively, and with everyone’s well-being in mind.”

Custom background effects work as one would expect: You’re allowed to any image of your choice, and Microsoft is now providing several collections of backgrounds from which to choose as well. Spataro says that Teams uses “a highly trained model that differentiates the subject from their background and can impose a custom background over everything else, making it easy and fast to start expressing yourself in all your meetings.”

Additionally, Microsoft is announcing some new features for the free version of Teams. They include:

Schedule meetings in advance. Now, even free version users can schedule meetings and send out invitations in advance. Previously, only “Meet Now” was available.

Live captions. Teams free users can now turn on live captions during their calls and meetings. It’s currently available as a preview in U.S. English.

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Comments (15)

15 responses to “Teams Gets Custom Backgrounds, More”

  1. SvenJ

    Maybe they just realized they did this. It's been around for some time. (9 Apr) At first it was a handful of preset ones, and instructions where to save your own abounded. Then they added the ability to add your own in the interface. Wasn't any beta thing.

  2. sgbassett

    I've been doing this in Teams for at least a couple of months after the law school class I teach switched from in-person to online.

  3. crunchyfrog

    Yeah, we have this on Zoom and GTM but it seems that it's a distraction that derails the meeting subject to the point that everyone talks about somebody's background which leads to the others trying to outdo them.

    • wright_is

      In reply to crunchyfrog:

      We have clean, custom corporate backgrounds. It makes a lot of sense, when you are having external meetings. A lot of people have planners, project plans, recipes etc. pinned to the walls behind their desks, so having a neutral background that hides "company secrets" is a great idea.

      The users are informed in their training sessions, that they shouldn't use the fantasy backgrounds, just the corporate ones.

  4. beckoningeagle

    I have to use the backgrounds so that my wife and kids can comfortably walk behind me without appearing in the video. Not to mention hiding my desk's mess (the mess is the desk's fault, not mine).

    If you want it to look as perfect as the pictures in the heading though, you still need the green screen and good lighting. Ha ha ha. I haven't been able to make my ears appear when using different backgrounds. The algorithm gets a bit confused. If I set up the green screnn or a white wall for that matter, then it works better. One way to get ears is to wear my surface headphones. Those are so big that when Teams cuts them off they look like ears.

    Paul, you should host a meet and greet over Teams when they turn on the 40 something cameras in Teams. Make sure to invite Mary jo.

  5. red.radar

    Best background I have seen someone do to this point is the cockpit of a fighter jet. It really compliments your audio headset and corona mask.

    The backgrounds are a pleasant distraction in these times. Helps remind you to not take things too seriously. It’s a bad time to stroke out

  6. chrishilton1

    This has been available for some time?

    • beckoningeagle

      In reply to chrishilton1:

      What is different now is that you can upload the custom background using the teams GUI. When they first introduced the feature, you could only used the "canned" backgrounds that Microsoft provided. You could go to the roaming profile folder and use your own, but that requires the user to know what he/she is doing.

  7. paradyne

    It's had backgrounds without needing a green screen for weeks now (well, mine has, regular version no preview or anything) . A button to add your own images seems to be the only new thing?

  8. wright_is

    We've been using this for about a month and a half - two months. We have also been adding our own corporate backgrounds in for our users.

    The Live Captions has also been available for about 2 months on our Teams. It works reasonably well, but as 99.9% of our communications are in German, it isn't of much use, yet. The results are very funny, if you turn it on and speak German - I turn it on during the training sessions to explain how it works and speak some English, but then those in the training session start speaking German and everybody falls about laughing.

  9. RonV42

    We have been testing this in preview at work for maybe two months. We have a library of backgrounds for people to select from, some are funny and many are just corporate locations from our campus to make you think you are in a conference room.

  10. gabbrunner

    You seem to be able to change your skin color now, too, judging from the photo! :)

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