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Show HN: ZoomerBackgrounds – community-sourced virtual video backgrounds (zoomerbackgrounds.com)
327 points by logane 86 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 78 comments

Hi HN, author here! As students facing online instruction, we built ZoomerBackgrounds to solve firsthand the everyday problems of having subpar backgrounds and spoke with several friends working in industry about their background needs. The result is a product we really think you're really going to love. We had a lot of fun making this over the weekend and hope you all enjoy :)

For the tech stack we used react on the front end with a Node.js server + Firebase for persistent storage. This was my first time writing Javascript in about 5-6 years and it's really neat to see how the ecosystem has matured - there are even real classes now! We also used the Google Cloud Vision API for detecting inappropriate images.

On the database side, we found that Firebase Store works really well until it doesn't -- when you want to do anything that isn't basic reads/writes (e.g. SQL-like IN queries, query pagination, programmatic queries like sorting by the HN ranking algorithm ~ points/(time since post)^(1.5)) the workarounds can get complex and a little weird.

One question we had is around AdSense approval! The Google Adsense approval team rejected our website for not having enough meaningful content / not having "valuable inventory" - it would be great to hear some insight about how to show Google we are a real website.

Happy to answer any questions here or at logan@mit.edu!

I see that you have an option to not include a watermark on downloaded images, but having watermarks turned on by default (especially since these look like user uploaded images which I'm assuming you don't actually own) is quite off-putting.

Thank you for pointing this out, we will fix it ASAP!

I was going to say that the watermark is too obtrusive ... I don't have a problem with you getting a bit of attention in exchange for the time it takes to curate the collection but it's too big and in a bad spot.

I think you should accept videos since zoom allows them as backgrounds.

Certainly something we're looking into!

Is there a way to report or flag images if any inappropriate ones are uploaded?

Yep--just email us at hello@zoomerbackgrounds.com!

This is probably a trademark infringement on Zoom, in my personal opinion; this is not legal advice.

You might want to ensure you're doing what you need to for safe harbor provisions on copyright too.

Edit: I see you addressed the later.

Zoomer is the name of a generation, not a Zoom trademark: https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/words-were-wat...

I’m confused why some of these backgrounds are mirrored. You know that when you see your background in Zoom it’s only flipped for your benefit, right? It’s sent to others the normal way round...

Good to know, that was never obvious to me.

I did not know that!

I wonder: does anyone know of a solution which does something similar in a more software agnostic way? I imagine a software that takes a webcam manipulates the image and emulates another webcam which one could select then in every software that supports webcams.

Does such a thing exist?

On Linux ffmpeg can output to a /dev/videoX device using v4l2loopback in order to spoof a webcam, I was able to play a looped video as a webcam and connect to websites that require a webcam.

On kubuntu I had to mknod (I think) the video device, then apt install v4l2loopback, then modprobe videodev and the v4l2loopback module, then use ffmpeg.

ffmpeg can capture from any video source including your running Xsession (eg a desktop area). So in theory you could output a pythonCV window or something this way.

OBS can probably do that better.

Yes, you can do this with OBS. The virtual webcam feature can be added as a plugin. And chroma-keying is a built-in feature. I use a Mac, and I've been toying with this a bit over the last weeks (e.g. https://davidbieber.com/snippets/2020-04-09-exploring-obs/)

It's super easy...if you have a suitable chromakey backdrop and decent lighting on it. What I'd love is a plugin that replicates (or at least approximates) some of the "virtual chromakey" features of Zoom et al.

I don't currently have access to a good chromakey backdrop and it really is much easier to do it well with a bright green matte screen behind you.

It ain't important, but it would sure be nice!

For Windows, Snapchat have a standalone virtual cam called Snapcamera https://snapcamera.snapchat.com/

There are green screen plugins for that. You could chain Snapcamera's virtual cam output into OBS and use OBS 's chromakey filter to underlay whatever other content you like. Y I u can then output OBS to another virtual cam output for use in Zoom or wherever else via the Virtualcam plugin for OBS.

It'd be really nice if someone would make a nice OpenCV virtualcam output so one could drive all this from a (relatively) simple Python script.

Oh hey, this worked fairly well. I used one of the Snap fake-greenscreen filters and fed it to OBS as you suggested. It really does highlight the limitations of fake-chromakey (edges are fuzzy/flickery) but that's to be expected without a real, properly lit backdrop.

I won't be using this in any work meetings but it could be fun for calls with friends.

https://www.xsplit.com/vcam and https://www.chromacam.me

both work with OBS, but only for Windows or Mac.

Windows only. No Mac support.

Snap Camera, CamTwist, and OBS are all options for that. Zoom recently had issues with using these virtual webcams on macOS, don't know if it's been fixed.

Snap camera and Zoom on macOS works well. I used it all the time.

The tricky bit for OS X is that there isn't a virtual webcam driver for it. (Someone posted a proposed bounty last month: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22686333)

You can do this today on Windows and Linux, I believe.

Snapcamera.snapchat.com does this!

This has been my background for as many calls as I can do without it being unprofessional. https://v.redd.it/84tmrvcuqbs41/DASH_480?source=fallback

Could you please give us a link to the original video? This looks so familiar but I can't place it.

Here you go, it's pretty wild: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvrZJ5C_Nwg

Is this guy serious? Listening to the lyrics has hardcore African Child vibes.... or is this just parody? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-YCZr0epts&t=84s

Kirin J Callinan and Alex Cameron both like to invent characters and then write songs from the character's perspective as sincerely as possible. Sometimes the characters they are playing are just exaggerated version of themselves. They write 'serious' songs with elements irony and sometimes this means the songs fall closer to the 'parody' end of the spectrum.

I think their best attempt at this was Alex Cameron's album 'Forced Witness'[0]. Alex imagines what a Marlon Brando obsessed, porn addicted loner from the 80s would look like in 2017 with access to the internet. It manages to achieve biting satire and great song writing without devolving into simple parody.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KU01Rix_l2w - The lyrics of this album are very NSFW .. read the pitchfork review if you want to know what you're getting in to: https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/alex-cameron-forced-wit...

Hahahahaha, I've sent this to everyone I know. Thanks!

What part of that background looks professional?

Here are some Archer backgrounds you could use for Zoom: https://twitter.com/archerfxx/status/1250472698049785856?s=2...

https://pixabay.com/videos/ has some great background videos

Microsoft Teams also supports custom backgrounds - adding instructions for how to use them seems like an obvious value-add

There's a commercial service for this.[1] Those are backgrounds specifically intended for green screen use, and look reasonably convincing.

[1] https://videogrowthlab.com

I'm afraid this will be quickly overrun by trolls. Hopefully you are prepared to moderate.

There's already enough questionable images up there that I don't feel comfortable sharing this with my company.

(Author here) That's certainly something we took into account--we're using some AI methods to largely automate content moderation (Google Cloud Vision, in particular), and we also have to capability to turn on a moderation queue if it becomes necessary. Aside from that, if you spot something inappropriate before we do let us know at hello@zoomerbackgrounds.com!


No, because it's an online website; and, if people are allowed to upload things, they will upload things.

And people, in general, suck.

"This is fine" is an awesome idea. Now I'm sad we have to use Skype at work.

Using OBS and v4l2loopback I have been able to get the zoom background replacement in all messenger applications (green screen needed)

Snap Camera [0] works with Skype. I just don't know if it supports custom backgrounds.

[0]: https://snapcamera.snapchat.com/

I've just taken to having something interesting on the wall behind me. I started with the classic, "This is a velociraptor-free workplace."

Currently I have a sign that says, "Will code for toilet paper."

Very nice! I am on a phone. Are all of these backgrounds static (not animated)?

Yeah, I’m really confused. The title says video backgrounds but they all seem to be static images.

Maybe OP meant to write "virtual video conferencing backgrounds."

If folks want to use video backgrounds, there is a simple way, if your source is on youtube.

youtube-dl <video>

In many cases these days, it will yield a mp4 file that you can plug directly into Zoom. Sometimes it will download in other formats, you might need to convert.

`youtube-dl -f mp4 $url` will ensure the output is always mp4

In my experience the hardest part is finding a good youtube video for a background. Roller coaster videos are certainly fun though

Flying toasters with toast https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gD-JnD1DCo

I'm looking for a subtle way to give my coworkers a chuckle without being too distracting, I think it'd be funny to take a picture of my current background and then change it every day but I can't think of a decent way to do it without looking like a nut job.

Someone I know recorded a video of the normal view from their camera, and at some point they walk in, pretend to notice that they are walking in on a video conference, and slink out.

FYI none of those images show if you have adblockers on

They show fine for me using uBlock Origin

uBlock, Privacy Badger, DuckDuckGo Essentials and a PiHole and can still see the images.

UI looks great and the entire product looks really well done. As a fellow student in a ton of zoom classes I’ll be sure to recommend to others!

Needs tags! For example, names of people and TV shows, indoor/outdoor, skyline/landscape, etc.

An option to mirror the backgrounds would be very useful. Some of them are mirrored, and some of them aren't.

There are a bunch of these like MeetingBackground.com and zoomvirtualbackgrounds.com

I wonder what percentage of folks use video.

Where I work almost nobody turns on their camera ;)

It's 90% for us with a headcount about 2100+

I wonder if the size / formality of the company / likelihood of someone being in the meeting that you don't see often has an influence.

My company of approx 200 mostly use face cameras, too. It's one of the steps in place to help increase connectivity during this time when we can't physically interact.

It was very common when I worked, but when they went to 60k+ people working over the work VPN it was discouraged.

Can't split tunnel that VPN, because "security." Am I right?


This is nice but the logo is too big.

You plan on supporting videos as well?

We're definitely considering it!

Pack it up everyone, the casting couch wins

eeZah7Ux 85 days ago [flagged]

How about improving FLOSS platforms instead?

Please don't do this here. In addition to being tedious it's against the Show HN rules: https://news.ycombinator.com/showhn.html.

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