Posts Tagged 'web videos'

Let’s Make a Movie! – Creating Videos

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You may want to make a video to advertise your wares or share your ideas on the internet. You can feature videos on your organization’s website, your blog, video sharing sites like YouTube, Vimeo and Dailymotion or media like Facebook or LinkedIn. These sites far outreach any native PowerPoint sharing sites; PowerPoint is not an internet medium.

SlideShare, probably the largest presentation sharing site, actually converts PowerPoint to another form  (maybe Flash) and simply allows you to click through static “decks.”

Designing a Video

It’s easy to use PowerPoint to create a video; however, designing a video is considerably different from the usual conference room presentation.

  • The most obvious difference is that there is no presenter. In the usual circumstances, the presenter delivers the message interactively, supported by the slides. In a video, even with a narration, the crux of the message must be carried by text, images and animation.
  • Web videos are usually short and are have limited goals. For example, the video may be intended to make the viewer aware of a problem or an opportunity and to encourage the viewer to take a “next step” like visiting your website.
  • Animation and transitions are critical in capturing and managing the viewer’s attention. Movement makes your video much more engaging than a series of static “slides.” In fact, today’s viewer expects it.
  • The video may or may not have a narration but will usually employ audio; you will need to synchronize the audio and the visual effects.
  • Obviously, the “source” PowerPoint must be implemented to run autonomously without requiring clicks. The timing involved is an important aspect of the design.
  • To create a video from a PowerPoint file, select Export on the File tab and select Create a Video. I usually use Internet Quality; Low Quality also seems be adequate for internet videos and creates a smaller file. Since you have provided timing (duration) for each slide, the option Use Recorded Timings and Narrations should appear. If not, default timings will be supplied.

NOTE: Interactive “videos” allow the viewer to explore a subject on his own via on-screen navigation. It is straightforward to create this kind of experience in PowerPoint but a converter is required to transform the PowerPoint to an interactive web medium (HTML5 or Flash).  See the iSpring product, for example. I may attempt an interactive video using a converter in a later post.

A Video Project

The project for this post is a variation of a video that I created to promote a presentation design business. I had found that many prospects had not considered the idea of paying a PowerPoint guru even though some were aware that the quality of their presentations could be better. The video was designed to make the viewer aware of the possibilities (about 90 seconds with audio):

Here are a few design notes:

  • These are not traditional corporate slides, with titles, bullets and the usual background, shown in inexorable sequence. Rather, the video is organized as a series of scenes and transitions, leading to a specific conclusion.
  • In particular, the scenes lead the viewer through a series of questions (with implied answers) designed to suggest the shortcomings of operating without a presentation specialist:
    • How important are presentations (important enough not to be treated casually)?
    • Who designs your presentations (and are they appropriately skilled)?
    • Are your presentations overstuffed, wordy, etc. (and are you proud of them)?
    • Do you hire specialists in other communications areas (why not presentations)?
  • Transitions and (in one case) a change in background mark the scenes.
  • The overall tone is light – appropriate for questioning the prospect’s practices.
  • The music is light, but with an insistent rhythm. A light popping sound effect is used for punctuating the punctuation.
  • Movement is featured constantly.
  • Corporate look-and-feel including colors, logos, fonts, etc. can be utilized but, again, avoid the canned corporate template/theme.

Animations and Transitions

The animations and transitions are relatively simple. Most of the scenes are single slides with a sequence of Entrance effects.  I did use several slides to build the “bad design” series; this reduces the number of animated objects on a slide and makes managing the animation easier.

Timing the animations and transitions is critical. You want to maintain the pace consistent with the audio but you also want the content (mostly text in this project) to “register” with the viewer. Since you know the content, you may be inclined to use intervals that are too short for a viewer who is seeing the material for the first time. On the other hand, people can comprehend text or simple images in a remarkably short time. The best practice is to test your video with “outside” viewers to get the pacing right.

In the case of the “bad slides” sequence, I do not expect the viewer to study the example slides in any detail; I just want to give a quick impression. I want to give the impression that there are of a lot of bad slides out there, not focus on any particular form of evil.

NOTE: It is absurdly easy to find examples like this on the net. Finding a well-designed slide is infinitely harder. You may note that most of the examples are from government agencies or educational institutions. I hope this is because these groups are simply more likely to publish on the web rather than that these people are really bad with PowerPoint. What do you think?

Here’s the animation pane for the “who designs your presentations” scene; I have named the objects for clarity:

m1.png

Each text box appears using a Wipe or Stretch, followed by a Zoomed question mark with a pop sound effect. In three cases, an image enters with the phrase (the designer guy, Stella and the kid).

Reviewing animations, transitions (and sound effects) using Slide Show may not be satisfactory if you use a low-powered PC. Animations can be jerky and not reflect the actual timing. Using Preview Timings and Narrations under Create Video will produce smoother results but the timing may not be accurate (more on this below).

All slide transitions use the Advance Slide/After xx:xx option. Typically, the interval is set to cause the transition a short time after the last animation effect. When no delay is wanted, the transition occurs immediately after the last effect. The duration of the transition itself is one of the transition parameters for the next slide.

Sound Effects

I acquired the “pop” sound effect from Soundrangers and used Insert/Audio on my PC to add it to the slide. I set Audio Tools/Playback/Start automatically so that the effect appears on the animation pane (the gray events) and can be coordinated with the animations.

A speaker icon appears on the slide when the sound is inserted. This can be used by a presenter to play the audio manually; since I want to control the sound via the animation pane, I set Hide During Show. I copied the icon to the other slides where needed. For convenience, I positioned the icons near the question marks. Here’s the “who designs..” slide with the “pop” icons:

m2.png

Unfortunately, the sound effect appears on the animation pane as an event with no duration (the pop effect actually lasts for about 0.3 seconds). On the other hand; the Start After option does account for the actual duration (see the red lines on the Animation Pane above). Using audio in PowerPoint would be simpler if the duration of audio playback were actually shown in the animation pane, like an animation effect.

By the way, I used the methods outlined in my series of posts on PowerPoint characters to create the figures on this slide. This is an example of how characters can help tell stories.

Background Audio

The royalty-free music track was also acquired from Soundrangers; the original track is a little more than 60 seconds in length. Given the animation and transition timings, the video will be about 90 seconds long. Obviously, I need to repeat part of the audio track so that the audio will play until the end.

NOTE; You can acquire audio “loops” – music designed to be repeated seamlessly. Since PowerPoint provides a Loop playback option, a loop track can be played seamlessly for an arbitrary length of time. However, if the loop is short, the playback is noticeably repetitive. A track not designed for the purpose with the Loop option will be obviously repetitive.

For my project, the audio track has a definite ending and I want that ending to synchronize with the end of the video. So I Trimmed a copy of the track to the beginning 30 seconds (approximately) and followed it by the complete 60 second track. Here’s a picture:

m3.png

I made a spreadsheet of the slide timings (duration and transition) and adjusted the trimmed track length and the slide timings (in tenths of a second) to get the transition to occur at the beginning of a slide. I applied a Fade Out to the end of the trimmed piece so that the “cut” is less noticeable.

Fortunately, here’s a very nice video from Microsoft that will explain these details so I won’t have to.

ADVISORY: As I noted above, there is no guarantee that PowerPoint playback (Slide Show or Preview Timings) will actually run at the specified rate. Audio plays at the proper rate. As a result, if you use a low-powered PC, you may not be able to synchronize visual effects with the audio in PowerPoint; rather, you may have to create videos to check the timing.

If you want to experiment with a much more sophisticated audio editor, try Audacity® – a “free, open source, cross-platform audio software for multi-track recording and editing.”

Other Video Projects

To help you understand the potential and challenges of PowerPoint videos, here are a few other video projects I’ve worked on:

  • Video infographic  – the client wanted to raise awareness of wireless trends affecting healthcare. I created a web video using the basic techniques described here. A couple of “characters” and animated pie charts and graphs added appeal.
  • Trade show videos – the client used large video screens associated with his trade show booth to attract attention. The design called for a looped series of short vignettes with attention-grabbing text and images.
    • Native PowerPoint can be used in these situations but using video eliminated potential compatibility or performance problems associated with the operating environment at the show.
  • Recreating a web video – a client’s customer had created a video highlighting his operation, including applications of the client’s products. The client wanted a shorter version of the video concentrating only on the client’s contributions. Rather than try to edit the video directly, I extracted the audio using a free web app and recreated the visual scenes in PowerPoint (I had access to the images used in making the video) and exported the result as a new video.
    • This project was complicated by the fact that the client’s company name had changed since the original video was made. Since I recreated the slides, this was easy to fix visually. I did not attempt any sophisticated audio editing but was able to eliminate the old name from the audio track using the PowerPoint tools.
  • Video of live presentation – the client had a video of a sales presentation his company had made at a conference. The video had been made on a phone and did not show the actual slides clearly. I embedded a cropped version of the video featuring the presenter in a PowerPoint presentation and synchronized it with the original slides. The slides occupied the left two-thirds of the (wide) screen and the cropped video on the right third. I exported the result as a video. Voila!
  • I have made hundreds of short videos for this blog demonstrating animations.

So give it a try. You will find that you can make simple but engaging web videos for your organization or just for fun using a tool you already have.

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