This year I’m expanding my toolkit by learning new tools to create videos that inform, instruct, and entertain. The written word still has merits, but many times a short video can quickly convey information, especially to visual learners. This time I used PowerPoint tools to create an MP4 video, but decided to experiment with embedding voice or video recordings in the slides.
PowerPoint enables you to create a slide deck that you post to the Microsoft hosting site. You can set up the slide deck to run in a continuous loop or to be activated by a presenter or a user (say in a kiosk scenario).
PowerPoint tools enable you to record a voice clip for one or more individual slides (or import a recording to run during the slide show, or starting from a particular slide in the slide deck). I played around with this feature when setting up my slides. I used the Notes feature on each slide for my script. I used my laptop’s native recorder to record my narration on some of the slides. I imported photos, and some videos with sound.
I used PowerPoint features to practice my slide show, and timed how long to spend on each slide. I had some learning curve working out the timing. Some of the slides have two embedded audio files (one of my narration, and the other from the video). I finally realized that I needed to click the slide multiple times to activate each of the audio elements before they would play. This seemed a little awkward, but I can see how it would give a presenter options for controlling when sound is played (or skipped), so it made sense from that point of view.
I also got into a quagmire of having multiple recordings playing over each other at the same time during a playback session. I’m not sure whether that was due to my learning curve, or if the timing mechanism might be a bit buggy. I worked it out eventually by deleting voice recordings and starting a fresh session. There is also the mystery of why the “adding salt and cabbage to water” sequence plays twice. Again, I have to remind myself that the tool and settings are for presentations so my adaptation may cause trouble.
The instructions seemed to indicate that I could use my saved practice times to create the video, but that’s not what I experienced. I exported my slide show to MP4 format, but my concise one minute and 20 second video ended up being 4 minutes and 38 seconds long, with lots of time spent languishing on each slide. Even though I practiced my timing, and saved the settings, the resulting video still seems to spend the same amount of time on each slide. I also found that the quality of my laptop recorder is not very good (or I haven’t found the right settings yet). You can see the finished results above (hint: to save yourself some aggrevation, move the player head from marker 00:08 to 1:00).
Even though the results are a bit of a fail, it was still a great opportunity to see what PowerPoint has to offer. Sometimes it’s just best to use a tool as it was intended (in this case as a slide show creator rather than as a tool for generating videos with embedded audio). Still, it is fun to experiment and try using a tool in new ways. Sometimes that does pay off!