Play a part in your favourite movie or TV show (sort of)...

 

It is just over 7 weeks since the pure technology group moved to entirely working from home and in that time we’ve learnt that our BC Plan works quite effectively for longer periods than test days but one of the biggest things we’ve learnt is the importance of great communication.

 

We’ve done our utmost to make this whole situation easier on staff, increased communication and run many activities on virtual platforms. Naturally, as a Microsoft partner, we have Teams rolled out across the company, however, in the last few weeks our use of Teams has skyrocketed to become the principal method of communication. We’ve also had some fun with it too and I’d like to share some of that knowledge with you so you can do the same and highlight some features and add-ons.

 

Virtual Backgrounds

 

We all have seen the funny clips online of news presenters having broadcasts ruined by kids walking in mid-interview.

 

Now, Microsoft has introduced a feature into Microsoft Teams called ‘Virtual Backgrounds’, with this, Teams can isolate your face and body from the background around you and apply all the necessary details to transform your surroundings into something else. You can use custom backgrounds to make it look like you’re sitting at a beach, in Minecraft or just in a cleaner office.

 

You can access this feature at any time in any meeting on PC and Mac, once you’re in a meeting, click on the three dots [] on the floating control menu and select ‘Show background effects’.

 

Now there is a downside currently, this new feature only came with a handful of backgrounds to choose from and we feel they are a bit boring. So, if waiting is not your style you can access the folder within Microsoft Teams to unlock your custom backgrounds.

 

Before you start digging into this, it is important to note that you need the desktop version of the app on a Mac or PC. If you don’t have the background effects option, but you already have background blur don’t panic; it will appear- just check for updates regularly.

 

To set your own custom background, you’ll need to navigate the file system.

 

On Windows, you can add your backgrounds to the %APPDATA%\Microsoft\Teams\Backgrounds\Uploads folder (Hint - press Win+R, paste the above path in and press enter).

 

If you’re on a Mac, then your backgrounds will be in the Microsoft Teams client folder in ~/Library/Application Support/Microsoft/Teams/Backgrounds/Uploads (Hint - press Command+Space, paste the above path in and press enter).

 

Once you have access to those folders, adding your backgrounds is as simple as copy-pasting a file from your pictures or documents into the right place. You can even drag and drop your file if you like.

 

Any picture will do but a 1920 x 1080 quality .png file is recommended.

 

The next time you run Teams and join a meeting, you should be able to select ‘Background Effects’ from the menu and see your new options to choose from.

 

It wouldn’t be right of me to talk about this without showing some of the creative efforts our staff have used:

 

  

PTG Staff featured in Pulp Fiction, Minecraft, Tiger King and Game of Thrones.

  

If that’s not enough and you’d like something more interactive and AR-based you can download a utility called ‘Snap Camera’

 

This is the program responsible for the viral tweet about the woman who turned herself into a potato during a online meeting and couldn’t turn the filter off again. Here’s how you can make yourself a potato, or even AR Hulk in your next meeting.

 

Make the most out of 'Snap Camera' in Teams calls...

 

  

Using Snap Camera filters is also really easy and simple. To get started, go to snapcamera.snapchat.com/download to get the Snap Camera installer for your computer.

 

Snap Camera is not exactly like the app found on your Apple or Android device, it is pretty close, however.

 

Once installed, launch Snap Camera on your computer. It should display the camera stream right away. If not, the app may need to be configured to use your computer’s webcam. Go to the settings of the app by clicking on the ‘settings’ (gear) icon on the top right of the screen.

 

 

Then, under the ‘Choose your Camera’ option, select your computer’s webcam if it isn’t already selected.

 

 

Select a filter you want to use in your Zoom or Teams video call in the Snap Camera app. The most used and popular filters of Snap Camera are displayed under the ‘Featured’ section of the app, but we suggest you go check out the ‘Top Community Lenses’ section too.

 

How to use Snap Camera in Microsoft Teams

 

Open the Microsoft Teams app after setting up the Snap Camera app on your computer.

 

Note: If the Teams app was open before you set up the Snap Camera app, you will have to restart it for it to be able to access the Snap Camera virtual webcam.

 

In the Teams app, you will have to set the Snap Camera as your preferred camera device. You can change these settings during a call, or before.

 

Click on the ‘Profile’ icon on the Title Bar in Teams app and select ‘Settings’ from the menu.

 

 

In settings, click on ‘Devices’ on the left to go to device settings. Scroll down and click on the drop-down menu under the ‘Camera’ option and select ‘Snap Camera’ from the list.

 

That’s it; you’re done. You can change to any filter you want during your video conference by changing the filter in Snap Camera (there are 1000s!). Teams will use the selected Snap Camera filter as long as Settings > Devices > Camera is set to Snap Camera and the Snap Camera app is running.

 

Important to note, this is quite CPU hungry so you may hear your fans kicking in whilst on video calls.

 

Microsoft Stream

 

For those not familiar, Microsoft Stream is part of Office 365 and is essentially “Enterprise Private YouTube”. If you record a meeting or part of a meeting in Microsoft Teams, it can be automatically accessible for the people in the meeting from within your organisation to have access to it within Stream.

 

 

Stream also has the concept of channels and groups.

 

Microsoft Stream groups are connected to an Office 365 group as an easy way to organise who has permission to see and edit your videos and channels. Each Office 365 group will also be a group on stream. So, channel meetings recorded in teams will end up in the same stream group.

 

Channels are more like YouTube channels, you create them as a collection of videos on a topic. You can create a channel within a group, or create a company-wide channel.

 

How to record a meeting in Microsoft Teams: 

 

In your teams' meeting, click on the [] options button and click on “Start Recording”, once the meeting has finished the recording will be automatically available in Microsoft Stream.

 

 

Virtual Quarterly Briefing

 

 

The broadcast feature in Teams has also allowed us to change how we communicate with everyone once a quarter. Our tradition has been to hold a meeting off-site every quarter in a venue to showcase our achievements over the past quarter and to celebrate staff.

 

Naturally, this is not possible at the minute, but that does stop us wanting to communicate with our staff and to celebrate the good. For the first time we produced a live event for our quarterly briefing, and provided all of our staff with a £10 UberEATS voucher so they could get some food in.

 

This was presented via Teams with some backend production, and whilst it lacked the noise and laughter of having everyone in the room together, it ran perfectly well the only limitation of some of the speakers talking for a bit too long. You know who you are CFW.

 

pure Esports II

 

 

 

The same also applies to our breakthrough event in 2020:  pure esports. We ran the first Esports event in January but lockdown has given us the opportunity to run the second event completely virtually.

 

With help from our friends at EGL, HP and Lenovo we are hosting the free to access pure Esports II competition on the 15th May. 

Sign up here.

 

Have fun with all of the above and enjoy your virtual meetings.