Teams Background Blur Evolves

Teams Background Blur Evolves

Teams Background Blur Now Comes in Standard and Portrait Modes

Introduced in September 2018, background blur was the first video effect for Teams meetings. At the time, background blur was only available for desktop clients with specific hardware configurations that were needed to support processing of a user’s video stream to blur their background.

Since then, background blur has moved to other platforms and has been joined by a myriad selection of other video effects such as Snapchat lenses, green screen, animated backgrounds, and the Maybelline collection (great for reddening lips). If you have Teams Premium licenses, you can even use a mesh avatar as your on-screen representative in meetings. The world of Teams video effects is very different five years after the first tentative step into background blur.

New Teams Supports the Different Background Blurs

I don’t tend to use background blur because I prefer using a custom background image. That’s my excuse for missing the fact that the new Teams client boasts two types of blurring. You can choose from a new option called portrait blur (aka light blurring) in addition the previous blur option, now called standard blur (heavy blurring). I see the options available in the new Teams desktop client but not the web client, recently released in preview.

Standard blur is well known to Teams meeting participants. With this option selected, Teams applies a strong level of blurriness to the background to help maintain the user’s privacy by obscuring details of their surroundings. Figure 1 shows standard blurring in action. You can tell that some objects are behind me, but it’s very difficult to say exactly what those objects might be.

Figure 1: Standard background blur in a Teams meeting

Teams Background Blur – The Subtle Portrait Style

By comparison, portrait blur applies much more subtle blurring to the background. The effect (Figure 2) creates more depth while keeping the focus firmly on the user. According to Microsoft, portrait blur is “elegant” and delivers “a professional and polished appearance during video calls.”

Portrait blur in a Teams meeting

Teams background blur
Figure 2: Portrait blur in a Teams meeting

Well, it’s difficult to make my image more professional or polished, but the differences between portrait and standard blur are certainly very obvious. The images in the background are much more distinct. In Figure 2, you can tell that that the objects are pictures hanging on the wall (some of the covers from my Exchange Server books from the days when printed books were still a thing).

Like all the other background effects available during Teams meetings, you can choose a blurring option from the meeting pre-join screen or from the background effects gallery during a call. Once set, Teams remembers your choice and will continue to use it in future meetings until you select other options.

No Grand Advance, But Still a Useful Update

No one will pretend that the addition of portrait blur to Teams background blur in meetings is the next great advance in computer technology. Instead, this change gives people more control over how their image appears during Teams meetings. I think I’ll continue to use standard blur in calls along with my favorite effects, the brightness and soft-focus filters.

In passing, I should note that control of these filters in the new Teams client is through the Teams settings app. Go to Devices, video settings, and you’ll find the brightness and soft-focus filters under video effects. The green screen settings are in the same place.


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