Here at Wintercroft, we love to be in the same room while we work, so we can bounce ideas around in real time. Unfortunately, during a pandemic this isn't possible, so using the technology at hand to communicate is the next best thing. We've taken to Zoom Meetings for our brainstorming sessions lately and one of the sheer joys of using Zoom is the ability to change backgrounds at will. This works perfectly with our masks to spice up the workday and each session becomes like a box of really weird chocolates. Of course, it always helps if you have a cloak around the house like Steve does. Here's how you can get crazy with some masks and backdrops.
First, think of a place that would compliment a mask you already own or wish to build. It could be a photo of one of your favourite landscapes (see above where Steve appeared as the fabled Rooster of the Moorlands) or indeed a still from one of your favourite films. I like to screenshot paused movies from my apps after I make them full-size. I do this by expanding the paused film, dragging my mouse cursor out of the way and taking a screenshot. Then I crop out any menu bars or unwanted material and it's ready to be uploaded to Zoom. In the Preferences section, there's a Virtual Background option to upload your stills or videos to. They recommend a green screen (or bed sheet backdrop) but I've had success without anything behind me, so experimentation with your particular environment is key.
Take command of any virtual power lunch as one of your favourite film characters and turn your office meeting into a fun-filled costume party. Once you've banked enough backdrops you'll be able to surprise your colleagues with every meeting as a different character. Here, Steve donned the official GOT White Walker Mask he designed and issued his daily commands in the style of an undead ice zombie. I'm happy working under these conditions.
We wish we'd had Zoom when we deployed 3,000 Penguins with Greenpeace for the #ProtectAntarctic campaign a few years ago. For this meeting, Steve was so into character that he had to peck the desk in Morse Code for us to understand his messages. Next time you Zoom with family or friends, delight the kids and nature lovers you know by building an animal mask and making it thrive in it's own environment. This will make virtual birthday parties and animal-themed meetings all the more special.
Kids are fascinated by "the screen", particularly when they are in it. One way to approach this phenomena (which every parent wrestles with at some stage) is to have them create their own screen, outside of the screen. They will brim over with excitement when you tell them that they could create their own world and be a character in it on the screen. This is a great way to get the kids drawing and making masks. They could even draw your backgrounds for your next Zoom meeting. The possibilities are endless.
Guess the Film: This one is fairly self-explanatory, but a whole load of fun with colleagues. We do this nearly every morning. Screen-grab your favourite movie scene and Zoom in it. There are so many great sets to choose from, the weirder the better. Depending on how cool your boss is, you could even act out a bit of the scene.
Tin Can Trumps: Before your next Zoom meeting, ask all your colleagues to grab some canned food from the cupboard. This works just like the classic card game Top Trumps, but uses the nutritional stats on the back of canned goods. Basically anything with a uniform set of statistics will work. Have fun!
Badly Drawn Backgrounds:Of course, based on your skill level you could modify this to Really Well Drawn Backgrounds, but nothing will give your Zoom more of a personal touch than well, your own personal touch. Photograph your drawing and upload it as your background.
If we can't tell spooky stories by the campfire with our friends and family, then the next best thing is to don the shrouded skull and conjure up a creepy tale to share with those who might like a little fright at night. If we're still in lock-down this Halloween, perhaps we can use this technology to make it a memorable, colourful one.
Were incredibly fortunate to have this technology at our fingertips for free, particularly in these challenging times. When I was a kid, the only thing digital I had was my Swatch Watch. When I moved out of my parents' house and got my first flip-phone, I remember feeling like I was on the set of Star Trek when using it. Now, communication with the world is open, visual and the things we can do with it are limited only by our creativity. We'd love to hear your ideas, so please let us know what you think is possible anytime and share your craziest Zoom meeting adventure photos with us if you like.