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.