On Tuesday, attorney Rod Ponton was testifying in a Zoom hearing in front of Judge Roy Ferguson of Texas’s 394th Judicial District, when he mistakenly engaged a filter on his assistant’s computer, transforming his face into that of a cat.
“I’m not a cat,” Ponton said in a wistful Texas drawl as he struggled to remove the filter, his cat face perfectly capturing the shame and regret he was no doubt feeling.
Those words may well go down as one of the iconic one-liners of the pandemic era. It’s delightful to see a grown man — testifying under oath in a serious legal proceeding — transformed into an animated LOLCAT. And in our post-pandemic world — where absolutely everything seems uncertain — it’s even more delightful that Ponton felt he had to reassure Ferguson he had not, in fact, actually transformed into a cat.
Unsurprisingly, Ponton’s Zoom fail became a meme within hours, and a search for “lawyer Zoom cat” on Twitter already returns thousands of results. It’s great fun to watch Ponton’s transformation. But what if you, too, want to be a cat on your next Zoom meeting (or court appearance)?
Snap Camera has at least 20 similar filters, so you can take your pick of cat faces.
While it’s not 100% clear exactly what app Ponton mistakenly engaged, there’s a theory that the filter is linked to an ancient Dell program, and an old post on the blog ChemBark depicts a seemingly identical cat filter running during a Skype call. I confirmed this by firing up an old Dell laptop from the late ’00s, and loading up the Dell Webcam Central program. Clicking over to the Avatars tab, I found a cat filter that appears to perfectly match the one Ponton used. I also confirmed that the cat filter is extremely challenging to switch off.
The bad news is that unless you want to use a 10-plus-year-old Dell for all your video calls, you’ll have a hard time copying Ponton’s look precisely. But the good news is that you can get a similar effect from Snap Camera, which allows you to apply Snapchat filters to your computer’s webcam. To download the program, visit snapcamera.snapchat.com and press Download. Heads up — you’ll be asked to consent to receive marketing emails from Snapchat.
Download the program and install it. Close out of Zoom, and open Snap Camera. Go to the gear icon to choose settings, and select your computer’s webcam. Press Back.
Now use the search bar to look for a filter you like. Snap Camera has at least 20 similar filters, so you can take your pick of cat faces. Select the filter, and your video feed will transform. See above for how I look as a Ponton-style cat.
Finally, open Zoom (or the video chat program of your choice), start your video, and select Snap Camera as your video source. Your transformed face will appear, and depending on the filter you selected, your face should transform in real time as you move and speak.
In addition to becoming a courtroom cat, you can use Snap Camera to transform into a unicorn, barf rainbows, and more. The app uses the same technologies that many people — myself included — apply to connect high-end cameras to Zoom. Although my filtered Zooms don’t go viral quite as quickly as Ponton’s.
The most important thing you need to know about the cat filter and the thing that Ponton and his assistant will likely not soon forget is that the filter will remain enabled for your next video meeting unless you manually change it. If you find yourself suddenly morphing into a cat mid-meeting, try changing your video settings to use a source other than Snap Camera. Better yet, remember to change your video source back to your standard webcam when you’re done with your meeting where you used a filter and make sure you check your video input source before you start your next meeting. The same is true if you use custom video chat backgrounds.
Now if only we could somehow add a cat filter to the impeachment hearings.
Update: This story has been updated to include new information about the Dell software that includes the original cat filter.