Black screen of Zoom
January 12, 2021 12:14 PM   Subscribe

I am having a problem with Zoom - when I try to start a call and the screen often (but not always) completely black. The obvious fixes don't work (see inside for what I tried) If I reboot my computer it works, at least for a while and then it doesn't. This never happens with other conferencing programs. I'm considering using zoom as my primary conference software if I can just solve this problem or at least predict when I'm going to need to reboot.

My set-up: a MacBook Air connected to an Apple Thunderbird display. The laptop is closed so there is only one screen and one camera active. Latest versions of both zoom and MacOs.

My camera is turned on (I know because if I turn it off, I see my photo, when I turn it back on the screen is all black again) and when I double check the video input, it has the correct camera.

This never happens with the specialized conferencing I usually use (and want to give up for cost reasons) or Google Meet or FaceTime.

At first I thought the problem was that the other conferencing software wasn't releasing the camera. Or maybe it got confused if I unplugged the display (to take my laptop to another room) and plugged it back in but no. For example, yesterday the only thing that I used my camera for was zoom calls. I rebooted before the first call and the next two were fine. I know for sure that I didn't use any other conferencing software nor did I unplug the monitor. When I tried to use zoom again in the evening, I got nothing but the black screen and nothing helped short of a reboot.

posted by metahawk to Technology (8 answers total)
This is semi-random, but have you tried doing this with the laptop open? What shows then? Nothing?
posted by bluedaisy at 12:40 PM on January 12, 2021

I have seen this happen when another application (i.e. FaceTime) believes it "has" the camera, even when the camera is off.
posted by lucasks at 12:48 PM on January 12, 2021

Do you have the most recent version of Zoom?
posted by See you tomorrow, saguaro at 1:28 PM on January 12, 2021

if your camera is set to HD, turn that off. Also, before opening zoom, quit any big processing-power apps. Sometimes when zoom is low on memory it stops accessing the camera.
posted by Morpeth at 1:43 PM on January 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Some quick answers:
- I do have the most recent version of zoom
- It happens even if i haven't used any other camera using apps since rebooting (and I don't automatically restart open apps with the reboot)

I mostly use browsers and Microsoft Office - I didn't think those were big processing power apps? Also it doesn't stop accessing the camera in the middle, it is either a problem when I start the zoom call or I'm OK.
posted by metahawk at 2:59 PM on January 12, 2021

Facebook and other apps that run in browsers can be resource hogs so close whatever you can. Office varies; a medium sized Excel sheet can use a fair bit of resources, so, again, close what you can. Reboot daily. I have been using a remote virtual machine, and it's much happier if I reboot before launching it.
It might help Mac experts if you post the version of the OS you're running.
Zoom support
posted by theora55 at 3:04 PM on January 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have the same problem; it manifests for me on a current Win10 machine and as far as I can tell it's a bug in Zoom that comes up occasionally when somebody shares their screen with me and then unshares.

Symptoms are identical to what you describe, and I do not have reliable steps to reproduce or a solution.
posted by mhoye at 3:32 PM on January 12, 2021

Response by poster: Was able to borrow a webcam at the time it wasn't working and confirmed that the problem seems to be with the way that Zoom interfaces with the camera in the monitor. Pretty sure the problem is with zoom since all other apps seem to work with that camera just fine. No idea what's happening but I just bought a webcam to avoid the problem in the future.
posted by metahawk at 1:44 PM on January 13, 2021

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