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If you go to timeline mode, you can go to your project media panel, click the New Item button and create a color matte. Place that color matte on Video 1 and use Video 2 for your slides or whatever.
If that's the background you're talking about anyway. It's not really clear from your question.
Are you talking about the program's interface? Because that color can be changed also in the preferences.
I think this is what I want. the colour that is naturally behind all the photos and video clips used in a project.
I just tried it and it works in Video 1. If I was to add this colour matte to older projects in Video 2 or 3 or 4, it seems to then run on top and block the images instead of being the background. So, does it have to be in Video 1 to be background?
It does not HAVE to be on VT1, but just as your surmised, it will "block" everything below it. Obviously, with it on VT1, everything will be above it.
To place the "background" on VT1, when you have Clips on VT1, and above, before you drag it to the Timeline, hit Ctrl-a to Select All, and drag everything up one Video Track, leaving VT1 empty. Now, drag your background to it and extend its Duration to fit.