We’ve all been in Zoom video conference meetings that drag on longer than a bad movie. Unfortunately your boss insists upon seeing your face among the dozens of other co-workers carefully listening to updates on the TPS reports.
Suffer no more, office drone! Use this sure-fire method to get out of boring meetings by feeding Zoom pre-recorded video of yourself instead.
Perhaps you’ve seen this method in movies, where the hero defeats the terrorist by inserting a fake video feed into the surveillance system, fooling the guards while the prisoners are freed.
For this trick, you’ll need nothing more than the webcam-equipped PC you already use for Zoom video. However, it needs to be a modern laptop made for working from home, with a CPU with a minimum of 8 threads to play back the video background. Pretty much any Intel 7th-gen or equivalent Kaby Lake R laptop will do it, as well as older quad-core computers. Basically if your computer can’t meet the Zoom virtual background requirements, it won’t work for this trick. (Don't despair! We have other funny Zoom background tips you can try.)
Start up Zoom
To create our looped video we’ll use Zoom itself, which you can download for free from the Zoom Download Center. We recommend that you always have the same background, so as not to tip off your boss, or simply use one of Zoom’s virtual background still images. From Zoom’s main screen, click the orange New Meeting button.
Record your loop
Center yourself in the frame. While looking at the camera, press Alt+R to begin recording, or click the Record button at the bottom of the window. Zoom will indicate that it is recording in the upper-left corner (don’t worry, this doesn’t show up in the video itself). Keep looking at the camera. Blink your eyes, and slightly tilt or nod your head from time to time, to signal that you are indeed paying attention. Make sure it’s the ‘I’m listening’ nod, not the ‘I agree we need to come in on Saturday’ nod.
While you need to make those small, subtle motions to appear alert and present, this is not the time to overdo it. Don’t make any sudden moves, or strong expressions of excitement or agreement, that might cause your boss to notice you and ask for your opinion. Also don’t grimace, smile, or show any emotions that indicate you want to participate. Yes, just be yourself at any staff meeting where you’d rather be at lunch.
Record yourself doing this for maybe a minute or two, then press Alt+R to end the recording, or use the Stop Record button.
When you exit the meeting by pressing Alt+Q, Zoom will automatically convert the recorded video and then open the folder where it is stored. Copy this file to a folder of your choice.
Edit your loop video
Zoom unfortunately inserts black frames at the beginning of recorded video. This will cause the screen to black out for just a second every time it restarts. While some people may chalk it up to videoconference weirdness, this known behavior might make your boss suspicious.
We used Windows 10’s built-in Video Editor to remove it. It’s actually part of Windows' underrated Photos app, and should be included for free in the more recent builds of Windows. Just click the Windows button and search for Video Editor.
In Video Editor, Click + Add under the Project Library, select From this PC, and point it to the location where your Zoom recording is stored.
Drag to Storyboard and Trim
To trim the video, drag it from the Project library to the storyboard. Normally you’d string multiple videos together here in the Storyboard, adding music or effects, but all we need today is to trim the black frames. To do that, right-click on the video you just dragged into the Storyboard and select Trim.
Windows will now open that individual file in the Trim mode, which lets you cut off sections you don’t want. First grab the little circle and line-scrub cursor on the timeline on the bottom and drag it just past the black screens in the video. Once that’s done, drag the blue trim indicator below it to match the scrubber. Video Editor will cut off anything before the blue trim indicators on either end of the video. If, for example, you flubbed a portion of your recording at the end, you can trim it by dragging the trimmer on the right to a cut-off point.
Click Done in the Trim mode, which will bring you back to the main Video Editor screen. Select Finish video in the upper-right corner of the Video Editor. Windows should default to 1080p and High Quality. Accept this, then select where you want the finished video to go. Windows will now export the video.
Add your loop to Zoom
The last step is to add the video back into Zoom. To do this, start Zoom (it’s likely minimized in the Windows system tray, so double-click it), and you should be presented with the familiar four icons. Click the gear icon in the upper righthand corner of the Zoom window. Select the Virtual Background category on the lefthand side, click the + button and select Add Video.
Point it toward the location where your edited video is. We recommend that you put any Zoom virtual backgrounds in one place that won’t be moved. Zoom will always look to this folder for your backgrounds, so if you move that folder in a desktop cleanup, your backgrounds will go missing.
Cover your webcam
There’s one final step, and that’s to cover your webcam. Remember, this virtual video background is a video of you paying attention. Zoom will automatically place anything from your webcam over this video, so your boss will immediately know something is up if you’re on the screen twice. If your laptop has a privacy shutter, close it, or just put some opaque tape over the camera.
You’re now ready to join that boring company meeting. When you connect, your boss and coworkers should see the video of you and never know the difference. Make sure to mute your microphone, as anything you say won’t match the video on the screen. We do recommend a longer video, so the point where the cut in the loop happens won’t occur that often. You can also try to be in the exact same position when it loops, so it's nearly seamless. Most coworkers and bosses won’t be paying close attention, and any visual artifact will just be attributed to a hiccup in the stream.
While you could technically just take a nap during the meeting, we do recommend that you at least monitor the audio on the feed. That way you can hear if your boss wants your input. If this happens, you can lean in close to the camera and then rip the tape off. This will superimpose your live image over the video background of yourself. You could also disconnect, switch to the same still image background you used for the video loop, and then reconnect. Most people will attribute it, again, to the hiccups of the videoconferencing world we live in.
If you really wanted to get fancy, you could connect a Bluetooth headset to your laptop, mute the mic, then walk out on the patio to leaf through that collection of Vibe magazines you’ve been meaning to read, while still being able to listen to the meeting.
If your office is like most though, your boss won’t ask for your input, because why ask for something you’ll just ignore?