As online school becomes a widespread reality across the nation, many teachers/schools are requiring students to keep their cameras on during meetings in order to show they are engaged and paying attention. While I understand the reasoning behind this, I don't agree that it is necessary in every environment.
For example, one of my classes is 100% online even during the normal school year. This class is independent from my school and requires no communication between a teacher and I. For online school, I am required to leave my camera on and remain in a Zoom call while I work on my independent assignments, with no instruction coming through Zoom whatsoever. That is why I was inspired to put together some existing projects out there to loop my camera in Zoom.
The problem with the simple approach
The easy way to loop your video is to add a virtual background of yourself. This will work as long as something is covering your camera. The problem is that when you need to speak up and say something, you have to go and disable your virtual background, and then uncover your camera. This is what that would look like:
As you can see, even with a dedicated camera just displaying black to optimize speed, there is still a noticeable gap in the video.
In order to most quickly switch between a looped video and my real camera feed, I found that OBS was the way to go. With OBS and a virtual camera plugin installed, I can now simply switch between my selected camera device in Zoom to quickly switch between looped footage and live footage. If you are unlike me and only have one camera on your computer, this will also work with a keyboard shortcut to quickly switch between the two in a literal push of a button.
As you can see, this method is much faster! So how does one set it up?
OBS Virtual Camera Setup
In order for this to work, your OS will need to be either Windows or Mac. The steps are nearly identical for both, all though for this walkthrough I will be using Mac.
- Install OBS (free)
- Now, you need to install the Virtual Camera OBS plugin.
For Mac, follow these steps: https://github.com/johnboiles/obs-mac-virtualcam#installing
For Windows install this: https://github.com/CatxFish/obs-virtual-cam/releases/latest
- Now go ahead and film a video of yourself looking at your computer screen with the occasional nod and note. I usually film for roughly a minute, but the longer the clip, the less noticeable it will be that your video is looping.
In order to minimize my chances of getting caught, I have a folder on my computer with a different minute-long loop of me in every different shirt I wear regularly, so that every day my looped outfit will match.
- Now you can open OBS and we start setting it up.
You will need to add your video as a Media Source. To do this, in the bottom of OBS you should see a "Sources" panel. In that panel, remove any existing sources and click the plus. Add your desired video. It should look something like this:
5. Then, to save processing power (and since this is just video not audio), you can optionally go and mute both audio options in the bottom of OBS. My final setup looks something like this:
6. Next, I like to tweak the resolution and frame rate of my virtual device. Zoom video doesn't output in very high resolution or frame rate anyway, so this is really just a measure to help keep your computer running smoothly.
To change these settings, open OBS settings or preferences.
- Navigate to the "Video" settings and change them so that the output is somewhere around 1280 x 720 (or optionally even lower).
- Change the "Downscale Filter" to the fastest setting.
- Change the "FPS" to 10.
Of course all of these settings are entirely customizable and you are welcome to tweak them, these are just what I have found works best for my device. After all these changes are made, my OBS Video settings show:
7. Finally, there should be a Virtual Camera setting in your Zoom. On Mac, if you find the "Tools" dropdown, there is something at the very bottom called "Start Virtual Camera." Before starting a Zoom call, be sure this is turned on and OBS is left running in the background.
Now you're done! You may need to close Zoom and reopen it, but there should now be an "OBS Virtual Camera" option in Zoom. This video looping option should also work for things like Microsoft Teams, Google Meets, and any other collaborative meeting software that supports virtual cameras.
I consider this setup a fairly easy installation process. While it only works on Windows and Macs and requires a fair amount of processing power to run well, it is easily the best method to loop your video in Zoom. With practice, you can learn to watch your movements in OBS so that when you switch to live feed or back to recorded video, you can try to mirror your recorded self so no one notices anything.
And remember, if you get caught, just blame it on the spotty internet.