Introduction: Zoom-orama: Bringing Whimsy to Online Meetings

About: I'm a 41 year old theatrical designer and educator. I have boundless curiosity, chimerical aesthetic, and Sisyphean perseverance. The results of my whimsical adventures can be found here and on my instagram.

If you've found yourself one of the lucky people to be able to work from home during the pandemic you are probably finding yourself in a lot of boring zoom meetings. Sure we can play with the backgrounds or install third party apps and be a talking potato but as time has worn on the shine of these digital tools has dulled. So what do you do when you are tired of zoom backgrounds, being inside, and not being a 50' tall kiaju? If you're like me you reach for the cardboard and get to cutting. So if you want to join me on the outside looking in come along and I'll tell you how I did it.

Step 1: Tools, Software, Materials


  • Cutting implements(I used a utility knife and a laser cutter)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Tweezers
  • Clip light (not 100% needed)


  • Inkscape(or other vector software)


  • Cardboard
  • Hot Glue Sticks
  • Tape

Step 2: Start Ideation Aka Designing

The idea for this project came to me after a very long and boring meeting. I knew I had to do something to bring some childish wonder and fantastical whimsy to my next meeting. I started by playing with custom backgrounds but the green screen effect left me feeling like I was in a bad B movie form the 90's. If I was going to feel like I was in a B movie. Then I would be in a B movie from the golden age of B movies the 1950's and 60's. It was time to be a giant and maybe even attack something. Since I don't know how to make a growth beam or have any super science projects to go awry. So I came up with the idea for this diorama and set some constraints/goals for my design.

  1. Use materials/tools I had on hand.
  2. Be reminiscent of old school B movies(they make use of dioramas all the time)
  3. Make me giggle

I settled on an office scene. Since I wasn't going to have a lot of room in my diorama office I had to distill down the items one finds in an office to the essentials. I settled on a plant, a desk, and a person. If you decide on a different theme for your diorama just remember to keep it simple. Now that I knew what I was going for I needed to figure out how much room I'd have to work with.

Step 3: Sizing the Tiny Floor Plan

Lucky for me cardboard is a plentiful material. It was time to figure out how to make this all work. The exact measurements for this project will vary depending on your laptop/webcam's field of view. So I'll describe the process I went through and provide my templates but be prepared to iterate and improvise if you decide to undertake this project. To start I cut a notch the thickness of my laptop in two pieces of cardboard and taped a hinge on the back of the cardboard. Then I fired up my webcam and slotted the cardboard V shape over my laptop. I fiddled with how wide the cardboard V had to be to look like walls. With the V the right size I traced the shape onto another piece of cardboard. This is new piece of cardboard was going to be the floor once I cut it out. I cut the floor out and played with its position until it looked good on my webcam. Then I traced the floor lines onto the walls and fired up the hot glue gun and got to gluing. Now that I had the floor and two walls in place I started designing the window and cutouts.

Step 4: Designing Tiny Thing Templates

I used Inkscape to design the silhouettes of the three tiny items. To do this I did a google image search and found some great foundational images. Armed with those images I used Inkscape's trace bitmap function to convert them over to vectors. I chose to use the multiple scans color option. This produces a multi layered vector graphic. Once I had the vector I ungrouped it and separated the parts to find the one I liked best. I repeated this process for each item until I had all the tiny templates I wanted for my office scene. I've included the templates here if you want to skip this process. From there I turned to my lasercutter to cut them out. If you don't have a laser to cut out your templates you could print them out and glue them to cardboard. From there you can use scissors to cut them out. Scissors are 99% less likely to start a fire after all.

Step 5: Glue, Light, and Enjoy

With the cardboard denizens of my office diorama in hand I grabbed my glue gun and attached the window wall to my other walls. It was starting to look like an office. Then looking at the webcam feed on my monitor I grabbed my tweezers and glued the plant, desk, and person into the office scene. I could have called it a day there but the inner lighting designer in me cried out for something more. You might not have noticed before but daylight is a slightly cool blue white while interior lighting is often a warmer white. That is to say if I wanted to look like a 50 foot tall monster outside a window I needed to be in a cooler white light than the inside of my model. Luckily for me my workshop has lots of natural light so I had the cool light covered. In order to get the warm light look in my diorama I set up a clip light and cut a small hole in a cardboard roof for the light to shine through. With that done I was ready to bring some smiles to my next online meeting.

I hope this project brought a smile to your day. I had a fun time making it, a fun time using it, and a fun time sharing it with you. Thanks for taking the time to read this instructable. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did making it.

Cardboard Speed Challenge

Participated in the
Cardboard Speed Challenge