Have you ever wondered how to achieve an engaging background for your live streams without having to go to the expense of installing a green screen or have a ‘set’ in a studio or your office that you can use for all your online live streams and meetings?
You might wonder why having a relevant and professional background matters?
Only recently on an episode of the Live Stream Insiders, one of our viewers who works for a TV station in the US commented that they had recorded an interview with a potential guest, but the station decided not to air it on TV as the interviewee had a ‘messy’ background in his office.
I have watched professional speakers live stream and share recorded videos where the background in their office was so untidy, it detracted from their message and did not convey a professional image where you would be encouraged to invite them to tender for business.
Ideally we all have a background that is ‘on brand’, but many people find themselves without the luxury of an area in their office or home that they can leave set up with lighting, camera, streaming software and which has a great set.
You can purchase a backdrop and there are many available online. My co-host for the Live Stream Insiders purchased a large photo which he uses as a backdrop. Don;t tell everyone, but previously he used a shower curtain that was printed with a design that reflected his brand. No the shower curtain had not been used!
However, using a backdrop is not a flexible solution as you may not be able to leave it in place between live streams or video recordings. I know from many years of experience that the more you have to do to prepare for a live stream or video recording, the less likely you will be to do so!
Even Skype has recognised the importance of having a background that does not become a distraction to their audience. I mentioned on the Live Stream Insiders show earlier this month that Skype has introduced the ability to blur your background when using Skype on desktop.
You can toggle the setting to blur your background when in a Skype call and your background will be subtly blurred, leaving you as the focal point. The background blur feature from Skype uses artificial intelligence (AI).
You might also want to blur your background to maintain a level of privacy.
I know a number of people in my network who use a green screen, but to ensure that is done effectively, it is not as simple as simply adding a green screen as your backdrop. Yes there are portable green screens such as the Elgato Collapsible Chroma Key Panel which I talked about on the Live Stream Insiders show when it was first launched. You can use it in different locations and store it away like a ‘pop up’ banner. But even that might not be convenient enough or cost effective for your budget.
That is where the XSplit VCam (PC use only at this time) might be the solution you are looking for. The product was released in 2018 for premium subscribers of XSplit, but earlier this year, they released it as a stand alone product.
If you want to learn how to use it, read on for my tutorial.
There are lots of benefits of XSplit VCam when you are recording videos and live streams. It allows you to:
- remove your background and replace it with an image or a web page
- add a blur effect to your background as professionals do with DSLR cameras.
You don’t even need lighting or a green screen which means that it could a great solution for you especially if you live stream or host online meetings from conferences and events or different office locations.
XSplit VCam supports JPEGs, GIFs, PNGs and full web pages so you can personalise your background for your live stream, web meeting or even video recording without using expensive live streaming software which might also use a lot of resources on your computer.
You can even use the blur effect with your replacement background.
XSplit VCam is a quick, easy and low cost solution to making your live streams more professional – it currently retails for under $50 for lifetime access.
It also works with streaming apps such as Open Broadcaster Software (OBS), Streamlabs, XSplit and with Skype on desktop.
In my tutorial below you will find some other video streaming and screen capture apps I tested it with.
I had the opportunity to test the software thanks to the team at XSplit and it has already been added to my recommended tools that I share in my video marketing and live streaming workshops.
How To Use XSplit VCam – A Step By Step Guide
The first thing to know about the app is that it is a stand-alone product – you do not have to have any other XSplit product to work with it.
Before you purchase the software, if you have questions about whether it will work for you, you can check out the information about the tool here on their support page, and you can contact their support team who I found to be very helpful.
First you need to download the app once you have purchased it, saving the software to your computer.
Then you will need to open the downloaded file and go through the installation process to enable access to the desktop application.
I recommend making sure that you have your webcam connected before you start the calibration process – this means that you can easily select the camera you want to use.
The software needs to calibrate with your camera – you can learn more about the calibration and set up in this YouTube video.
Once you have finished the calibration you will see:
1 – The camera you have decided to use with the app
2 – The option to use your original background, replace your background or remove your background.
You will also see the option to blur your background.
In the image below I chose to remove my background. There is also a feature to remove your chair – this is a feature that will be of interest to gamers who the product was originally aimed at.
You can use your own images as a background or you can select a background image from Unsplash Stock Photos which is integrated into the app.
In addition, you could use a web page as a background – this is a great option if you have a landing page for the product or service you are talking about in your video or live stream.
If you choose to use a Stock Photo you can add a search term to browse the images and select one that is relevant for your video or live stream.
While there is no ability to favourite background images, it will remember the last image that you used the next time that you use XSplit VCam.
If you always want to use the same image, you could go to Unsplash to find an image you want to use save it to a folder on your hard drive or Dropbox to easily access the image in the future.
Remember that the purpose of your background is to enhance the video or live stream for our audience – I certainly don’t encourage you to use the virtual green screen to leave your viewers with an impression that does not support your real and authentic personal brand!
You have the option of blurring the background of the uploaded replacement background which gives a great effect and means that the focus of the attention is on you.
There are a number of factors that will affect the quality of your video using XSplit VCam including the processing power of your computer (make sure you have turned other apps that you are not using when recording your video or live stream off), your lighting and your regular background.
As an example, I noticed someone using the app for a live stream, but their usual background has a lot of variety behind them. As a result, their use of the XSplit VCam app was not as good as I was able to achieve as my background is a solid colour (there was a lot of feathering of their image against the background in their video).
I also discovered that the choice of your replacement background image can make a difference to the quality of the video – you might want to test different colours as we all have different skin tones, colour of hair and colour of clothes that we wear – I found that darker backgrounds gave a better result for me.
Testing XSplit VCam With Other Video And Live Meeting Tools
I know that live streaming is still not used by many people, so I was interested to see if XSplit VCam would work with other tools for example for online meetings and for video creation.
This last week the desktop app for Loom the screen recording tool was made available to everyone, so it was good to see that XSplit VCam was recognised with the free Loom screen capture tool.
I also tested the app with the screen capture tool from FonePaw and I was able to get XSplit VCam to work with that too.
I tested XSplit VCam with Zoom which was also able to recognise the app. If you use Zoom for webinars, not just live streams and online meetings, you may want to check that it also works for the webinar module.
However I found that unfortunately the software does not work with all live streaming and online meeting software. As an example, I use BlueJeans for my client meetings and for streaming to Facebook, and unfortunately the software would not recognise XSplit Vcam as a camera source.
Why Use XSplit VCam As A Camera Source With Zoom If Zoom Has An Integrated Background Replacement Feature?
If you are an active user of Zoom, you will be aware that have a feature to change your background within the desktop app.
As part of this tutorial, I thought I would do a comparison of the integrated Zoom feature with that of using the virtual camera from XSplit Vcam.
If you have not used this feature previously, you need to check that you have it enabled. First log into your Zoom account and go to Account Settings.
The the section In Meeting (Advanced) make sure that the virtual background feature is enabled.
When you start your Zoom meeting go to Settings.
Then navigate to Virtual Background and you will see there is the option to enable a virtual background from Zoom or upload a background image.
For the purpose of this tutorial I used the same background as was using with XSplit Vcam and you will see that the experience is far less superior using the Zoom integrated feature to replace your background, even though I was using the same background and lighting.
If you have been discouraged from using the Zoom virtual background feature as it has not given you the quaity of image you want in your live streams, then I encourage you to test using XSplit VCam with Zoom. You can see how much better my video was.
Some Features I Would Like To See From XSplit VCam
Having put XSplit VCam to the test there are a few features I would like to see them develop going forward:
1 – the ability to resize and reposition the background image that you use
2 – the option to scroll through a ebw page and resize and reposition the web page – this would be especially helpful when delivering tutorials
3 – the ability to have animated gifs and videos not just images as the virtual background
4 – the option to favourite images within Unsplash that you might want to use in the future
5 – the facility to have several virtual backgrounds in a queue to use and select from
6- a free trial to check that it works for users – as I mentioned in my tutorial, I found that one online meeting and live streaming tool I used to test with XSplit VCam did not recognise the virtual camera.
Overall, XSplit VCam is a great virtual green screen solution which is cost effective and they have a very helpful and responsive customer support so it is certainly a tool I will have in my resources for my clients and delegates of my video marketing and live stream workshops.
Let me know how you might use a virtual green screen solution for your video and live stream production.
If you have questions about live streaming or video content creation and marketing, remember you can schedule a conversation with me to ask me your questions.