back to article The world is chaos but my Zoom background is control-freak perfection

Take a good look at my junk. Nice, isn’t it? OK you can stop staring at it now. No, really, stop. Hey, my eyes are right here, pal. Five minutes later, you are still leering at my junk and enviously comparing it with your own. How did I come to be so well-equipped, you wonder? Easy: it’s all in the arrangement. I take great …

  1. Sam not the Viking


    I recall a video-meeting in the early days of such things. I had to travel two and a half hours to get to the special 'video-conferencing room' of the consultant's office. We had a two-hour slot booked with them in their hi-tech room. There were six of us at this end connecting to the customer, another four located, physically, about thirty minutes drive from this centre. The connection was troublesome and we were tended by several experts in this matter. After one hour fifty-five minutes the connection was finally made and we exchanged greetings, whereupon we were ejected from the room as it was booked by another group.

    A two-hour return journey.... I wondered whether to return to the office for the remaining hour-or-so. Not for long.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Set-dressing" has been going on for ages.

    Whenever a Victorian entrepreneur had made it big, and bought a nice house in the country to show off, it had to have a library in. In order to furnish it, they would buy books by the yard. Simply tell them how much shelf-space you wanted filling, and crates of suitaby-impressive leather-bound tomes would arrive. Buy a few others with engraved plates to leave open on the library table, and you could safely invite your houseguests in.

    Rearranging your bookshelves to hide the embarrassing stuff, and maybe adding a potted plant, so that your Zoom background looks better, is just the modern equivalent.

    1. Chris G

      Re: "Set-dressing" has been going on for ages.

      I have never tried it but zoom has virtual backgrounds in it's settings. There must be a market for a customiseable background app so that it doesn't like a generic library/kitchen/toilet.

      Even better would be a background app that you could import video scenes into, one day you could zoom from a busy office, next from the top of a bus or from the sea bed, much more interesting.

      Watching the first video in the article, I bet that is the only time ever a DPD van has apparently been in the right place at the right time.

      1. Alistair Dabbs

        Re: "Set-dressing" has been going on for ages.

        The virtual backgrounds look fake because the keying edge is obvious. Everyone can tell immediately that you're showing a fake background - especially if more than one participant is using the same background image. This just makes me even more curious about what's really going on behind them and why they're trying to hide it: is it a Turkish bath? is it a bedroom? is there a whipping post? etc.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Set-dressing" has been going on for ages.

          Or simply you don't want the gits that you work with to see your place full stop?

          I don't want them at my place in the flesh - not going to let them view the place

      2. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: "Set-dressing" has been going on for ages.

        Well yes. Zoom lets you set a virtual background, I just show a suitable picture from the last time I went on holiday. It actually has me apparently sat in the back of a water taxi with a canal showing behind.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Set-dressing" has been going on for ages.

      My "set dressing" is some rather scruffy bookshelves stuffed with a combination of books and other miscellanea, and a large cut-out of Gnasher.

      So far, only one person has commented on the Gnasher. I have to say I am somewhat disappointed.

      1. Dabooka

        Re: "Set-dressing" has been going on for ages.

        Just the one? I say, I'd be jolly disappointed too. Rest assured it would have raised a comment from me.

        To date aside from the usual cats n kids, the only items note worthy I've seen has been a Dalek (a good size one too) and a rather fetching display of whisky.

        One supplier I've known for years, who typically uses the company backdrop, did call in once without it and I noticed he had a load of Grace Jones album covers framed on the wall. Queue spending about 45 minutes chatting about 80s music and me buying a couple of the frames. Rather natty, you can slide the covers in and out and change your display.

      2. TomPhan

        Re: "Set-dressing" has been going on for ages.


        1. jdiebdhidbsusbvwbsidnsoskebid

          Re: "Set-dressing" has been going on for ages.


    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Set-dressing" has been going on for ages.

      I love to put other low resolution video clips as my background so viewers get entertained by masterbating monkies, dogs licking themselves, fornicating animals, critters dropping a steamer, or other forms of "all natural & wholesome goodness" that makes them chortle. When someone invariably asks me WTF I have as my backdrop, I smile innocently & reply "It's the bit of my library I've cleaned up enough to be presentable." I'll point off to one side & claim there's a potted plant (where the monkey is currently wanking), or to the other side to claim it's a small end table covered in a red & white checkered doiley (where the lions are humping), or directly behind me to claim is my collection of every $RandomAuthor's books (where the trains entering the tunnel is playing in endless loops). When they say that is NOT what they are seeing I'll pretend to be confused & say that the stream must being hacked by script kiddies. At which point the boss will either tell everyone to ignore my background or tell me to disconnect. Either way is fine by me since I really didn't want to be there anyway.

      Now if you'll excuse me I shall cue up some rather disturbing hentai porn for my next meeting...

    4. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: "Set-dressing" has been going on for ages.

      As a teenager I visited London and was put up with a young married couple in Hampstead. Everywhere I went in their beautiful flat were books. I picked one up, and the corners of the page were still uncut in places. So I looked at a few others; expensive, beautiful volumes. Every single one had been left totally unopened.

    5. swm

      Re: "Set-dressing" has been going on for ages.

      I remember shooting a video in a studio at college and they had for a background bookcases filled with books. I pulled one of the books and discovered that it was only 2 inches deep - the rest of the book had been sliced off. The bookcases were only 2 inches deep!

      I shuddered a bit about this mistreatment of the books.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: "Set-dressing" has been going on for ages.

        It's a bit like when I did my PGCE at the start of the '80s. The uni's education department was hugely respected outside the borders of Leicester University, but clearly not within their managing group. Education obviously too Plebeian for them. We had a shitty building off campus with far too little space so when all the students were in at the start and end of the year it was heaving. And we had crappy equipment. (We used our little CCTV suite a lot for demo lessons etc It was ancient even then.), dodgy heating, peeling walls, the lot.

        The so-so law school was in a fake old building in the centre of the campus, with tiny bits of ivy planted ( in specially dug flower beds) they were desperately trying to get to grow up the walls, and inside the walls were covered with wood panels obviously bought in a job lot somewhere- none of them matched and they all looked out of place. They even had shiny brass fitting in odd places, if my memory serves.

        All, of course, "set-dressing" to try and make themselves look like the UK equivalent of "Ivy League" (almost literally).

        1. Rol

          Re: "Set-dressing" has been going on for ages.

          "They even had shiny brass fitting in odd places"

          Now it seems grave robbers have a secondary market for the discarded coffins.

          Science might advance one death at a time, but Leicester University's decor just gets ever creepier.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: "Set-dressing" has been going on for ages.

            To be fair, the randomly ( as far as I could tell) located brass door handles etc. probably didn't come off a coffin.

    6. cheb

      Re: "Set-dressing" has been going on for ages.

      Victorian? It's been done since at least Henry VIIIth time. Holbein's 'The Ambassadors' has it all, scientific instruments, musical instruments, open tomes, and more. Granted it's only a still image, quick drying paint been hadn't invented.

      There's also the weird anamorphic skull, which gets you strange looks as you peer sideways and down at from the edge of the painting. I'm not sure where that fits it, it's unlikely to be a dodgy graphics card in the cheap web cam.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have found another solution for that problem

    I disabled the laptop camera and just say that a Windows update borked my camera. So sorry.

    Anon because obviously.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I have found another solution for that problem

      I uninstalled the camera driver and blame the IT department...

      1. Anonymous Custard

        Re: I have found another solution for that problem

        My work laptop has to go into various customer sites and cleanrooms, and several of them have a no camera policy (although this seemingly gets ignored for smart phones).

        So no Mr Customer, I can't turn on my camera for your multi-hour zoom/teams/webex shoutfest, as I don't have one due to your own site policies.

        And the irony is, I'm working from home in my study, and directly behind me is actually a real wall full of loaded bookshelves...

        1. Mage

          Re: a real wall full of loaded bookshelves.

          My library-office room was once a bedroom. The wall behind me is entirely books. In front of me is mostly books. Front of desk has 3 x book cases.

          Side walls about 1/3 bookcases.

          I only WFH now because I packed in Electronics and IT and only write fiction that's officially fiction. Both sorts, SF and F. Either can have all other genres.

          Some of the reports in the old days were fiction. We rarely did video or audio conferencing, so tended to travel.

          I upgraded to a lovely 2560 x 1440 screen and closed the laptop lid. I went into Currys to look at webcams and ordered from China at 1/20th the price, because I use Viber and Zoom to chat with family members and if I open the laptop they see the side of my face.

          Why do they all have microphones and assume you run Windows? I use a headset.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I have found another solution for that problem

        I just neglected to remove the black plastic strip from it when I got the machine. If they want me on video, my lack of wardrobe will fix that.

    2. Aussie Doc

      Re: I have found another solution for that problem


      You know what I look like, let's get down to business.

      Presumably you've emailed any pics or docs I need to see ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  4. TWB

    I must have been lucky

    In my last job both in the office and 'WFH', we never did calls with the cameras on. The screen was only used if you were being shown something on someone else's desktop. Non one ever asked "can I see what you look like today?", and if I had never met someone in person I could just let my imagination run wild.

    1. Sam not the Viking

      Re: I must have been lucky

      We used have an internal sweepstake on what our suppliers actually looked like. We felt we knew them well because we were always on the phone. We never got it right.

      One contact had a very squeaky voice, easily recognised from the start. We envisaged him to be thin, slight and short, probably dressed casual. He turned out to be very large, tall and dressed in an immaculate tailored suit.

      It's great when misconceptions get destroyed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I must have been lucky

        Long before webcams were a thing we used to call our supplies department to order stuff. We had to do that in the morning, since the friendly woman who ran it worked in security in the afternoons. She had a gorgeous, young, sexy voice, and we (age-20-something male engineers) all drooled at the thought of meeting her.

        Then one day someone had to visit the HQ site, and was signed in by a security agent. It was only when she started speaking that they realised that the very large woman 'of a certain age' signing them in was their supplies contact.

        Don't get me wrong, she was a lovely, helpful person, but not at all what we'd imagined.

        1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: I must have been lucky

          We had one of those too, she used to handle telephone VAX/VMS support from our Bristol office in the late 90s. In retrospect the VAX knowledge should have clued us in that she was a bit older than we thought...

      2. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

        Re: I must have been lucky

        Charlotte Green. Those who know, know.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I must have been lucky

      "In my last job both in the office and 'WFH', we never did calls with the cameras on."

      Same for me, but actually it is because of my generous 800 kbps (bits, not bytes) DSL line. There's no way upstream vid would fly !

      I have to say I was wondering why many colleagues had suddenly those super cool background in they calls !

      Thanks for educating me, Dabsy. Merci !

  5. macjules

    "hide the witchcraft tomes"

    My parents never bothered to hide the Dennis Wheatley books: I recall a primary school head teacher once enquiring if I was baptised or not.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "enquiring if I was baptised or not."

      Was it none of his businesses?

  6. Red Ted

    Books arranged by colour

    I saw this a little while ago, where the books on the bookcase looked like the old Penguin Book that had the sleeves different colours.

    It suggested to me that they probably hadn't read any of them.

    1. TomPhan

      Re: Books arranged by colour

      Penguin book covers have different colours for different genres - green for crime, orange for general fiction, black for classics, etc - and plenty of people arrange them by it.

  7. Franco

    If there was one "good" thing about lockdown IME (very subjective I know!) it was that the hairdressers and barbers were shut too, which meant IME no one wanted to be seen. Things have of course changed now as we've started to open up again,

    Again IME, the Zoom/Teams background thing degenerated in to a pissing up the wall contest of who had been on the most exotic holiday and had the pictures to prove it.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Again IME, the Zoom/Teams background thing degenerated in to a pissing up the wall contest of who had been on the most exotic holiday and had the pictures to prove it.

      And the winner was the one with Olympus Mons in the background.

      1. KittenHuffer Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        I've never met Olympus ....

        .... but I bet her Mons are spectacular!

        ----------> Other spectacular Mons are available!

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: I've never met Olympus ....

          In that case, meet Olympus Mons.

          1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

            Re: I've never met Olympus ....

            In that case please meet Mons and Joke!

    2. MiguelC Silver badge

      I've been in the ISS for some time now, self isolation dialled up to 11 :)

      1. ShadowSystems

        At MiguelC, re: the ISS...

        I've been outside it. That way I can't hear anyone screaming when I start playing the bagpipes. =-D

        *Moons you through one of the windows and then absconds with the tanks of MindBleach*

    3. Falmari Silver badge

      Forget about pictures use the video background option. My choice is 5 min loop of Fallout New Vegas or a SpongeBob SquarePants video.

      If you have no interest in the meeting just play 10 min loop of you sitting in front of the computer and bugger off. ;)

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My own photo

    With so many Zoom meetings, I got one of the green-screen backdrops (cheap, as I'm too mean to spend much)! I often have a picture relevant to the meeting group as my background (often the organisation logo), or something totally off-beat (creates discussion to break the ice). However, before erecting the green screen, I took a photo of the bookshelves behind and sometimes use that. Yes, it's exactly what would be seen without the screen but saves the pfaff of taking it down.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Politicians led the pack....

    .... lot at how they liked to be interviewed, the background they choose - it has to convey the idea they are well educated, clever people.

    Here Berlusconi was known since the 1990s for his obsession to look good on camera, it has been said he has a fake studio setup to be used for interviews, with everything accurately laid out to make him look good - books, family photos (not the bunga-bunga ones, of course), and so on... he could probably write a book about it, and explain how to trump (eh eh) others in your Zoom/WebEx call....

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Politicians led the pack....

      he could probably write a book about it,

      He probably could, if he could write.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Politicians led the pack....

        He could still pay a ghost writer to write the book for him, as most politicians do...

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Politicians led the pack....

          He could, if he were smart enough for that. Only two problems with it though:

          1) He isn't smart enough to think if it himself

          2) He won't listen to others

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BBC Covered Buy-a-Bookshelf

    I heard about this bookshelf thing earlier this year.

    Seems the company that sells books for TV sets has seen an uptick thanks to Zoomers looking to impress.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: BBC Covered Buy-a-Bookshelf

      Read this as "BBC covered bookshelf" and the broadcaster was not the first thing that sprang to mind. Sorry.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't cover it up!

    The most interesting thing I've seen in someone else's background was a naked woman. It was his rather plump middle-aged wife walking past the doorway - not a pretty sight at all.

    However, this week I went for a midday run and then headed for the shower, only to find there was no hot water and so went to investigate. It was only later I contemplated I too had been wandering about in the buff while my wife was on a video call, and I had indeed walked past her open doorway at least twice. I believe her camera is usually pointed at the wall beside the doorway, but still, I probably could have been more careful and hope the angle hadn't been changed.

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: Don't cover it up!

      It sounds to me that an expanse of some sort of towel-like material might do the trick.

      1. Dr_N

        Re: Don't cover it up!

        A flannel over the face to avoid identification?

        (As suggested by a tour guide in Japan when someone pointed out the flannel/towel in an onsen was not really large enough to cover their modesty.)

        1. Allan George Dyer

          Re: Don't cover it up!

          @Dr_N - "the flannel/towel in an onsen was not really large enough to cover their modesty"

          That's more boast than modest.

    2. juice

      Re: Don't cover it up!

      > It was his rather plump middle-aged wife walking past the doorway - not a pretty sight at all.

      I have a couple of friends on Facebook, who've occasionally put up a mortified post about (e.g.) how they were handing their partner a cuppa in the morning, only to realise that said partner was on a conference call, and they hadn't bothered tying their dressing gown closed...

    3. Scott 53

      Re: Don't cover it up!

      I'm trying not to think about your angle changing.

      1. tiggity Silver badge

        Re: Don't cover it up!

        Hope it passes the Mull of Kintyre test

  12. Tweetiepooh

    I work from my study so have always had book shelves, with books, in my background. We decorated the room so the books have changed with more theology titles on show (they are used) but like not readable given webcam quality and distance.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I was lucky because I had renovated my study a few years before the pandemic, to make it more comfortable and made it also a little stylish - I did not put a bookshelf behind my desk, but a half-height cabinet, because I needed room for a large XIX century painting, and needed also a surface for a couple of bronze sculptures as well. On one side there's also an upright piano with some old prints of ancient astronomical instruments above it. All of those were left to me by my grandparents, I had to buy nothing.

      That become my backdrop for calls, LOL! A few months ago a manager asked me if I could give him the image I was using as a background. He was stunned when I told him that was my real study, and moved the camera around to show him....

      1. Alistair Dabbs


      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        On the subject of mistakenly assumed to be fake backgrounds: lots of our company execs liked to use "plant floor" stock images from the company archives for their backgrounds, so it would look like they were remoting in from an assembly line. On one instance of a weekly recurring call, the organizer appeared to have gotten bored with having his office wall in the background. On this call, the background was the side of one of the buses built at that facility. After welcoming everyone to the call, he noted that he'd be muted unless required to provide input, as he truly was on the production line, and it was rather noisy.

    2. Missing Semicolon Silver badge


      Not nearly nerdy enough!

      No backdrop here, just shelves with old laptops, electronic bits, and an old Logic Analyser. Causes discussion with new meeting attendants.

  13. Potemkine! Silver badge

    to organise a sweepstake on whether your curry leftovers might be removed more effectively by hydrochloric acid or a blow-torch.

    Or bet on how long it will take for a new kind of life form to emerge from it and make the plates move by themselves.

    Talking about bass lines, this is one of my favourite ones:

    Patrick Coutin - J'aime regarder les filles

    1. Sir Awesome

      Well now you've gone and reminded me of Holly's premature April Fools gag on Red Dwarf!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Several years ago I worked for six months at a big investment bank, where I was appalled to find they used Lotus Notes for email. I'm working for them again at present, and they're using Skype for all their conferencing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Skype

      I extensively used Skype in the past months when the company WebEx was hardly usable. Despite the attempts by MS to kill it it worked well enough.

    2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Skype

      For some reason a lot of banks use Lotus Notes. If you are truly unlucky, you also suffer the migration to OutHouse Outlook.

      1. Stork Silver badge

        Re: Skype

        It could be because it is (was?) an IBM thing, and as big blue had sold the banks their mainframes already, so when this newfangled e-mail came along they took what was on the shelf.

        I suffered Notes at a company which was founded to do work for IBM mainframes

  15. Calum Morrison

    Up here in Scotland, one of our public health officials is always immaculately turned out when she's interviewed - almost daily - from her home; makeup, hair, clothes and always with a very tasteful, very fresh flower arrangement in her nicely decorated room. But over her shoulder is a surface-mounted light switch fed by a cable conduit and I CAN'T FOCUS ON ANYTHING ELSE!

    1. Dwarf


      There's a word for that - OCD, but I prefer to call it a CDO, which is like an OCD, but just with the letters in the right order.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        but just with the letters in the right order LIKE THEY DAMN WELL SHOULD BE.

        FTFY ;)

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Guitars are the new Aspidistra

    There does seem to be a middle aged man guitars thing going on in the Zoom backgrounds I see. I'm not sure if they want to be Tony Blair or Brian Cox, but I do fear it could be the upcoming social media snigger-trigger...

  17. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    50 Shades of Grey

    Charity shops had shelves full of them. Go and make them an offer for them, or, better still, give them a donation for taking a photo of those shelves with these tomes and use that photo as a background

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: 50 Shades of Grey

      Most charity shops in my old high street used to have hand-written signs on their doors: "No more Da Vinci Codes please".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 50 Shades of Grey

        A few years ago, I wanted to get rid of a stack of books and contacted several charity shops.

        They were very specific about the type of book they wanted, and all my (mainly) old PC and software stuff wasn't it. Mills and Boone would cut it, but not 'C Programming Bible' (not all of them were like that, but they weren't in M & B territory by a long mile). So I just skipped them all.

        They're the same with TVs. I had a perfectly working Samsung CRT flat screen at one time. When I upgraded to my first proper TV (a plasma) I thought I'd try and help someone and contacted various charities. They're more picky than a 5-year old who doesn't like vegetables.

        So it went in the skip.

        And don't get me started on Music Magpie. I had a tonne of old music CDs I wanted to divest myself of. But not one of them was acceptable when I scanned them. Also skipped (along with the Music Magpie bookmark).

        1. tiggity Silver badge

          Re: 50 Shades of Grey

          Had similar with old, but good condition, furniture when clearing mums house (due to her going into care home)

          Charities turned their nose up at lots of furniture (even though it was well built & would massively outlast flatpack hardboard / thin pine / plywood flatpack junk) as it was too "old fashioned" (bear in mind this was a furniture charity that was giving furniture to people in need for free so you would think that they would be less picky. If I was skint and had no table and given choice between a "dated" design of table or continuing with no table, I would pick having a table.

          So lots of perfectly good stuff ended up at the tip (fortunately some stuff went to family & friends, biggest of which was a 3 piece suite that charity turned down!)

  18. Emir Al Weeq

    Office background

    For the first few weeks of WFH, I wanted to go back into the office to photograph it from where my webcam had been located pre-lockdown; thus providing the perfect background image.

    Common sense prevailed: that's hardly a reason to break lockdown.

    1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      Re: Office background

      The first time I had to visit the orifice during lockdown I did just that! Took a photo from the spot on my desk where the lappy camera would be located, and uploaded it to use as a backdrop.

      As long as I didn't move too much it was good enough to fool a few people into thinking that I was actually back in the orifice rather than WFH.

      The best was joining a bleating to have one person, who was in the orifice, do a double take where you saw them looking at their screen, then looking across to my desk expecting to see me, and then back again with a really confused look.

      ------------> Actually got them to say this in the Teams bleating!!!

      1. Stoneshop

        Re: Office background

        The first time I had to visit the orifice during lockdown I did just that! Took a photo from the spot on my desk where the lappy camera would be located, and uploaded it to use as a backdrop.

        One colleague had to be in the office (with appropriate measures, etc.) during a network change that would take out the VPN endpoints for a couple of hours. So no possibility of doing that remotely.

        So now he has a background showing the view from his desk. With the Train Destination Display[0] sitting on a cabinet behind him prominently visible, the clock showing twenty minutes to four, the display empty and a dark window in the corner showing that it's 3:40AM, hence the lack of info being shown[1].


        [1] Of course it works, and dutifully shows the departure time and destination for the next train at platform 13b. The whirring of the flap display is one of the few things I miss from working at the office.

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Office background

          For a moment I thought you meant this one:

  19. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    No 10 Briefing Room

    Haven't got £2.5 million to spare? Just use this picture as a background

    1. MiguelC Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: No 10 Briefing Room

      A colleague uses an Oval Office backdrop like this one

  20. Dr_N


    "The last thing I want is for anyone to see what’s in my bookshelves.



    I’m certainly not in the mood to censor my reading material now just in case someone on a Teams meeting doesn’t like my 1980s sexist sci-fi multi-volume manga boobathon."

    No one (who's opinion matters) will be able to identify your hentai manga titles from their spines, Mr Dabbs.

    1. stiine Silver badge

      Re: Hentai

      My shelves are the full collection of Hajime Sorayama, above Stephen King, above Terry Pratchett, above Harlan Ellison, above Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle.

      1. RockBurner

        Re: Hentai

        What no IMB?

  21. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Worn off

    This one guy, a senior developer, got himself the Panasonic GH5, nice Sigma lens and even a Tiffen diffuser for that classic soft look.

    He installed on his desk some Neewer LED lights, backlight and turned his partner's umbrella into a softbox (they are WFH and barely leave home so...)

    Then he started hunting for vintage books on eBay to create that ultimate posh backdrop. Finally he scored a cheap Elgato capture card - the last piece of the puzzle. Well, almost - he got that knockoff Neumann U47 microphone from reverb just in time.

    Over the weekend he was perfecting the lighting, camera angles and on Sunday he got that perfect TV look. Finally!

    When he dialled in to stand up in the morning, he realised nobody had switched their cameras on, except the PM was showing his nostrils from his Dell's state of the art web camera with the famous bottom angle.

    He actually never "aired" himself in the Netflix quality, as everyone got accustomed to no cameras to save bandwidth and he didn't want other people to feel bad for not having such setup.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Worst of all worlds

    I got the worst of all the combos during Covid. Our location is a manufacturing facility, so WFH options were very limited. Mask mandates, 6' separation, plexiglass dividers where needed, temp checks, etc. resulted in 0 cases of transmission at work, but wasn't very fun. Of course, when the boss's boss holds a meeting, he expects cameras on (partially cause he's a non techie "visual learner" type of guy, partially because he's just getting to know us). So not only did I need to wear a mask all day, I still needed to cope with on-camera Skype/Zoom/Teams meetings.

    Oh yes, our company uses all three platforms. Skype *was* standard, we're now gradually moving to Teams, and Zoom is still used for bigger meetings after a fiasco Skype meeting with 100+ people who own neither a pair of headphones nor the common sense to mute their microphone (not helped by a meeting host who kept trying to shout instructions over the feedback "mute your speakers!").

    Did you you that if your webcam can see blue sky out your window behind you, and if you wear a blue disposable facemask, Teams will chroma-key out your face when you turn your head to specific angles? freaky effect. Even worse was one of our company execs who had a two-toned shirt on during one meeting. From time to time, the upper half of his torso would disappear.

    1. Anonymous Custard

      Re: Worst of all worlds

      I can empathise and concur, although swap out Zoom for Webex in our case (whilst having the other two as well, as of course our customers all want to use something different). And currently moving from Skype for Business to Teams, although christ knows why as it's definitely a backward step (at least the hobbled version of Teams we're getting).

      And at the first internal Europe-wide internal meeting they tried to hold on normal Webex, with many people sans headset, unmuted and with the beep for people joining/leaving the call enabled (and feeding back from aforementioned idiots who were unmuted). Suffice it to say the network slowed to a crawl, and no-one could be heard over the background noise and the incessant beeps and beep-echoes.

      So some swift educational courses were mandated (although even now some people still can't seem to work any of them or diene to mute themselves when they're just sat there stealing oxygen), and the meetings were switched to Webex events, where everyone except the presenters are force-muted and can only ask questions etc via the chat Q&A.

  23. MiguelC Silver badge

    "black metal filing cabinets"

    Is that where you keep youy Dimmu Borgir, Mayhem, Darkthrone, Burzum, Immortal, Emperor, Satyricon, Enslaved, Carpathian Forest and Gorgoroth vinyl records?

  24. TomPhan

    Is it cheating if it's a photo of your office?

    I still have occasional need to go into our expensive and pretty much abandoned building, so I've photographed various room, desks, and what the view is like from where a webcam would normally be. Perfectly appropriate backdrops.

  25. James Anderson


    I used to have some of those in the last century.

    My life as a contractor grabbing whatever gig iPad the most eur, chf, usd, the or even sometimes gbp the bookshelves had to go.

    I suppose I could just position my Kindle top right of my zoom background.

  26. storner
    Big Brother

    Show'em where I live? No way!

    My webcam has one of those slide-to-cover-the-lens plastic things. It is never open. And as I work with IT security, it is for "security reasons".

    Icon should be obvious.

  27. Lucy in the Sky (with Diamonds)

    The old saying...

    You know the old saying, if you proclaim that you have nothing to hide, then you have not thought the whole thing through...

    What did the French Cardinal in charge of the secret police said?

    "If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him."

    I make my elder relatives use backdrop pictures on Skype, but me on the other hand only ever do teleconference with the aforementioned elder relatives, and conduct work only in person, or over the phone, when I happen to be on call...

    Once, a census taker tried to make me go on Zoom...

    I ate his liver with some Fava Beans...

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: The old saying...

      What did the French Cardinal in charge of the secret police said?

      Cardinal Richelieu was in charge of a lot more than the secret police.

  28. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    monstrous set of shelves stacked with five lifetimes of books.

    Really? It must be a very wide angle lens looking into a library. Pretty much every bookshelf backdrop I've ever seen barely has space for a years worth of reading. In my case, anyway. YMMV :-)

  29. Rol

    Sod the background...

    It's the foreground, or more specifically, me, that needs a makeover.

    I need an animated me that isn't puffing on a roll-up and slurping crude oil coffee, while sat in his pyjamas at three in the afternoon picking his nose.

    If I could fix that, then I'm sure my video connection will stay stable throughout the most tedious of meetings.

    Perhaps Pixar or Aardman studios could market their lip-sync software to animate an image of myself talking, along with fidgeting, playing with my imaginary hair, and nodding in agreement at random moments?

  30. matthewdjb

    The clued up didn't get bookshelves. Simply bookshelf wallpaper.

  31. Big_Boomer Silver badge

    Home office

    Even before the pandemic I worked from home 2-3 days per week so I already had a home office setup. During the pandemic I did re-arrange it with a height adjustable desk and some nice big 32" monitors, as well as changing the layout so I could look out of the window. This had the effect of rotating my background from "door and wall" to "bookshelves, fan, and printer". I had several people comment on my new background looking particularly realistic and thoroughly enjoyed telling them that it was realistic because it was real and that the improved quality was due to a new 4k Webcam. I don't think I've ever used an artificial background but I assume that they are useful for those who are working from their bedrooms/kitchens or those who suffer from "house-barrassment" as touted by advertisers.

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