Saturday, April 11, 2020

Day 22: Greenscreen @ Home

This article is part of The 100 Days Offensive. Got to Day 21 or Day 23.

In the last three weeks, I have seen a lot of homes. This seems to be unavoidable when you do a lot of video conferencing during Corona times. But is it?

I know that Microsoft Teams already has a feature to blur the background. Furthermore they are already working at a feature for custom backgrounds. Zoom already has such a feature. But first I want to have it now and second I'm using more applications than Zoom and Teams. For my online RPG rounds, Discord and Roll20 are the primary applications.

In a RPG environment a custom background also may help with the immersion. So I went looking and stumbled over ChromaCam. This allows me to add my own custom background without installing a real green screen (though that helps with the quality). The app quite impressed me with their capabilities. There is a free version (only pre-defined backgrounds, includes a water mark) to evaluate the technology and a paid version (around 30$) with little limitations.

ChromaCam adds a virtual web cam to your system. Whenever you access the ChromaCam image, an option screen will come up, that offers you to modify the output of your real web cam.

I tried it with several web cams. It worked best with my Logitech C920 camera. My wide angle camera from Spedal did not show as good results, the image contained a lot more grain.

The resulting image is not perfect (see the artifacts around the hair), but good enough to add some flair to the RPG session:

You can even add useful information to the background like the map to the current campaign:

As I took the image on my side of the conference, the image is mirrored. For the players, the writings are readable.

In a commercial setup you can make yourself to be part of a presentation:

The artifacts around the hair are due to a map hanging behind me that offers little contrast against my graying hair. If I were to remove it, the result would be even a bit better.

If you want to try this for yourself, I have two hints for you:

  • Start with the free version to see how ChromaCam works with your camera and with your environment. There are situation were the results will not be worth 30$.
  • If you are using Discord with ChromaCam, you have to disable the Hardware acceleration within the Voice & Video section of the Discord settings as shown below. Otherwise the ChromaCam app will crash whenever you go live.

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