Want to live like Dobbo? Tweak the Zoom app and you can

If you don’t want video callers to see how you live, download the backdrop you wish you had

We went to sleep with Claire Byrne crouching in her garden shed, and we awoke to the vision of Dobbo in his gracious library.

Bryan Dobson tweeted a picture on Monday of him broadcasting on RTÉ Radio 1 programme Morning Ireland from home. “This is a first! Presenting @morningireland from the dining room.” And there he was with great bookshelves behind, and him dapper and braced and perfectly groomed.

That’s putting it up to us.

Maybe he was wearing his pyjamas under the table, we all hoped (and wondered where he got his shelving). He later joked, “The Morning Ireland series editor claims I buy the books by the yard! James Joyce is top left. The Picador’s are Eric Newby. Shelves built by Oakline, Ranelagh. Couldn’t imagine presenting MI in my dressing gown. Stay safe all. B”


Gracious as always.

And while Dr Ciara Kelly also broadcast her Newstalk radio show from home, in contrast poor Claire Byrne was on her eponymous TV show Monday night recovering from Covid-19 in the shed, and your heart would go out to her.

In a surreal twist on an ever more surreal world, there she was interviewing guests sitting in the RTÉ studio, and she trapped in her shed for the second week in a row, this time thankfully coming out the other end of the coronavirus. (I don’t recall it being explained why she was in the doghouse rather than indoors.)

There’ll be some who wondered: was Dobson’s room real? Can’t you buy rolls of wallpaper printed with photos of bookshelves (or masses of other images)?

In the new reality of remote, how do we handle things when your communication is visual? When having a Zoom conference, maybe we want to shield others from seeing the chaos that is our lives, or shield ourselves in our tatty “leisurewear”. It might be a desire for privacy, or maybe we all just wanna have some fun in this mad, mad, disturbing time, and live virtually in a different environment.

But you don’t need to go to the trouble of wallpapering a corner of your room: you can digitally remodel so you are contributing to that work meeting from wherever you like.

Truly, Covid-19 means its time has come for Zoom, the video-conferencing app. One of its lesser known features, which can be either useful or amusing, is one where you can change your Zoom background. Apparently you choose and save the image of a setting you fancy. Then you go into Zoom and press a little arrow (bottom left hand corner, beside the Stop Video button). You click the plus symbol (+) to add your picture.

Presto, and the world’s your lobster.

So you could choose to converse from your standard fancy kitchen:

Or a wacky wooded tiny room:

Or an arty setup:

But seeing as you can be virtually videoconferencing from anywhere, why not push the boat out? You might have secretly bought Luggala without letting everyone know.

Or maybe you moved in with the President at the Áras.

You could be renting a great gaff from Irish Landmark Trust (the site indicates they are still operating, with precautions, through Covid-19).

But if you can't manage it till this has all passed, you could background Batty Langley Lodge in Leixlip, Co Kildare.

For all your colleagues or friends know, you could be living a secret life in a ringfort, like this one you can rent from irishheritage.ie.

You don't have to say anything while conferencing, but you could give them the impression that you are self isolating in a lighthouse by using a backdrop from Clare Island Lighthouse - or Wicklow Head Lighthouse.

Or you could be in a round tower like Victoria Drummond Tower, part of Monasterboice House and Demesne.

You could even rent one of these pads for real when this Great Unpleasantness is over.

You can Zoom-conference from outdoors, but rather than your back garden, why not replace the view of your compost bin and yard with the Powerscourt waterfall, or Blackrock diving tower in Salthill, Galway.

But if all else fails, try old tech, standing in front of a favourite picture, and play with perspective and computer camera angle, to fill the frame behind you.