The long title of this post is: “What you need to know about making a narrated video from your PowerPoint Presentation, using the tools built-in to PowerPoint, and then making the video available to your students.” That’s a little longer than the blog post address bar would accommodate, so I shortened it, but that pretty much says it all. I’ve posted on this topic before, but since I am conducting a workshop on this topic tomorrow I thought it was time for a refresher. This time around I’ll take a step-by-step approach and keep it simple.
Step 1: Create the PowerPoint Presentation.
This goes without saying, but this is the obvious first step. I would say that while creating your presentation think about it’s oral presentation. PowerPoint is a speaker’s aid, not a stand-alone content delivery tool. If you want your students to read the slides to get critical information, then you are using the wrong tool. Use Word instead and convert your Word document to a PDF so that it will be accessible to all your students, whether they own Word or not. Word can be every bit as graphical as PowerPoint and lends itself to long-form textual explanations. It is the appropriate tool for delivering content meant to be read. The corollary of this is that PowerPoint without it’s narrative component—the speaker’s part—is the inappropriate tool. I don’t know how many cryptic, bullet-point-driven lecture presentations I’ve seen presented as basic PPT or PPTX files within Blackboard, from both instructor or (more likely) publisher generated content. Without the narrator, that is, you the teacher, they are of little value. If you are going to use PowerPoint to relay information to students, I suggest that it will be far more effective if you include your lecture, or narrative, so that students will get their learning cues from the source: you. In my opinion, stand-alone, un-narrated PowerPoint is of little value.
Step 2. Therefore, after your presentation is complete, narrate it using PowerPoint.
To do this you will need a microphone attached to the computer you are using. We recommend a USB microphone. We have had very good success with the Revolabs xTag wireless USB mic, though they are a bit pricey (in the $200 range). Palomar College Academic Technology will check out these microphones to faculty members. A more affordable USB microphone/headset that we have had extensive experience with and can vouch for is the Logitech Clear Chat Pro, which has apparently been rebranded by Logitech as the H390 headset, which retails for about $40.00.
Assuming you are using a Windows 7 system, be sure the microphone you are using is selected as the default recording device. To check, open the Control Panel and select Sound. You can use the Sound > Recording tab to select the default recording device and to set it’s default levels.
Record your narration in PowerPoint using the SlideShow tab.
Now just give your presentation while you narrate. PowerPoint will record your narrations, along with all slide animations, transitions and effects. The narrations will be associated with the slide to which they belong, so when you conclude a slide wait a couple of seconds until you click to proceed to the next slide. In this way you will not “clip” the audio. Do not speak during slide transitions. When a new slide loads, wait a couple of seconds before you begin speaking. With a little practice this will begin to feel normal. Remember, if you make a mistake, you can always come back and re-record one or more of the slides individually by clearing the narrations associated with them and re-recording, so just continue with your presentation. Even more importantly, remember that several short presentations are better from the pedagogical viewpoint than one long one.
Step 3. Create the Video Using PowerPoint
After you have completed the narration and have been returned by PowerPoint to the Edit screen, click on the File tab (i.e., what Microsoft but nobody else in the world calls “Backstage view”). Select Save & Send > Create a Video
In the Create Video panel configure your video. By “configure” I mean select its resolution and tell PowerPoint to use the timings and narrations you just recorded.
With respect to resolution, you have three choices:
- Large (960 x 720) what Microsoft recommends for Computer and HD Displays
- Medium (640 x 480), what Microsoft recommends for burning a standard DVD;
- Small (320 x 240) what Microsoft recommends for (remember the Zune) video.
Forget 320 x 240. It’s too small to read the text on the slides, assuming you use text. It’s only use might be in sending a thumbnail preview to a collaborator or approving authority.
640 x 480 is what they call “near DVD” quality, and is good enough for general Internet video, but I favor the highest resolution possible, 960 x 720. The larger and clearer the slides are, the better, especially if you include map or diagram references that require close inspection. At Palomar College we have excellent bandwidth resources, so choosing the highest bandwidth for materials to be viewed on campus is a no brainer. Of course most students will view from off campus, so you may want to choose the 640 x 480 to reduce the bandwidth requirements on their end of things. Most students at our college use Cox.net as their Internet provider, and bandwidth is more than adequate, in most cases, for the highest resolution. If you decide to distribute the video via YouTube (see below) don’t worry about it and choose the highest possible resolution. YouTube will re-encode anyway. If, however you are uploading to a Palomar College web space or Blackboard itself, you may want to go with the 640 resolution. Also, there is nothing preventing you from encoding twice at two different resolutions.
Before clicking on the Create Video button, do not be confused by the dialog field that says “Seconds to spend on each slide” followed by the 5.00 control. This only applies if you choose NOT to use your own narrations and timings.
Now click Create Video. First you will have to name the video and tell Windows where to save it. I recommend including a reference to its resolution in its name, like MyVideo640x480.wmv, so that when you look back over time you will easily be able to identify video resolution by glancing at the file name. Now you are ready for the actual video creation process. It takes a good long time, so sit back and wait. You will see the “Creating video” status indicator in the PowerPoint status bar.
As I say, this process will take a good long time, depending on the resolution you choose and the length of your presentation. This is another reason that several shorter presentations are better than one long one.
After your video is created, you will have a WMV file, a Windows Media Video file.
I have created a screen video from a PowerPoint presentation that illustrates completely how to do this, if it still seems confusing. I have embedded it here:
Step 4: Upload the video so that your students can view it.
This is where things get a little complicated, but I will sort them out for you and make a recommendation.
There are three possible upload scenarios I am going to discuss:
1. Upload to YouTube;
2. Upload to Palomar College (or your school’s) web space;
3. Upload directly to Blackboard.
I strongly recommend, for a bunch of reasons that you choose number 1: upload to YouTube. This is by far the easiest, most universal method for distributing your presentations. I know some faculty members do not want to do this, for various legitimate reasons (e.g., they are not sure of the copyright status of some of the materials they have used; they do not want non-class members to view their materials; they do not want to make their intellectual property public; etc.). As I say, YouTube is easiest and if you do not object, upload there. YouTube accepts WMV format uploads and will re-encode them at several bandwidth targets. Then all you have to do is use the mashup tool in Blackboard to link to your video on YouTube.
If you don’t want to use YouTube, the next best solution is to upload your video to your college web space. At Palomar College any faculty (or staff member, for that matter) can have unlimited web space. Just contact Academic Technology if you do not already have this set up.
Once your web space is set up, use an FTP program, like SmartFTP or WS_FTP, or better yet, a copy of Expression Web 4, we are site licensed for this product, and it is available free for home use through our Academic Alliance storefront. We support secure FTP. If this is a concern, contact us for details, though in most cases it will not be a concern.
Once your video is uploaded, be sure to make a note of it’s URL. Let’s say your is named “Lincoln17.wmv” and you have uploaded it to your web space on a server named “daphne.palomar.edu” and placed it in a folder named “Lincoln.” The URL to your video would then be:
(Your id goes where the “tgray” goes in the URL above).
Now, there are a couple of problems with linking to a wmv format video like this. To link from within Blackboard, use a URL link (if you are using Blackboard 9 and SP7 or lower, or what used to be called an “external” link in Blackboard 8, or what is now called in version 9.1 SP8 a “Web Link”—can’t you at least stay consistent Blackboard???). If you don’t know how, it couldn’t be simpler. Here is a video made at the time these things were called “URL’ links.
The real problem with linking directly to a WMV file is that the Mac does not directly support this format, you need a helper app from Flip4Mac, which means you will have to supply a link for your students to get the helper app. Here are links to the Windows Media Components for QuickTime, or Flip4Mac utility, from Microsoft and from Telestream (and be sure to get the free one, not the for-pay one).
Now you have introduced a technology hurdle for your students. At our college you can refer them to the Academic Technology department for help, at other schools your mileage may vary. If you want to avoid this unpleasantness, I would recommend using a free video converter utility from Any Video Converter to convert the file to MP4 format before uploading. This is a far more universal format.
Your third option is to upload the video directly to Blackboard. Once again, before doing this you MUST convert the file (using the utility mentioned above) to MP4 (or some other) format because Blackboard does not directly support WMV format, a problem that the Blackboard folks really ought to remedy. The down side to this strategy is that if you have a lot of these videos they will inflate the size of your Blackboard course. Remember that you have a 2.5GB course limit. After exceeding that size your course can no longer be successfully archived or exported, and you will need to do it in chunks.
To do the actual embedding, create an item and then use the visual textbox editor tools to embed either MPEG/AVI content or QuickTime content. It will be the rare user that does not have QuickTime already installed, but even if so, a player using the MPEG/AVI choice will invoke a player associated with MP4 file types on the user’s computer, either Mac or PC. Be sure to specify the player dimensions (640 x 480, etc.) when configuring the embed. If you have problems with this, or your students report problems playing the video, you can always simply upload the file to Blackboard as an MP4 file, and then create a file link to it. This really just duplicates the Palomar web space approach, except completely within Blackboard. I mention this alternative, though, because as time goes on any embeds that depend on plugin architecture in browsers, like the two mentioned above, will become more and more problematic.
That’s pretty much it. I know this seems rather long and complicated, but that’s because I have tried to anticipate several upload options. The actual video production process is simplicity itself, and your only real problem here might be speaking over slide transitions with resulting “clipped” off audio. Remember, pause before and after beginning the narration of a particular slide. Once you have decided on your upload path (YouTube is best, let me say again) this also becomes simple.
Of course, there are other options for capturing, narrating, and producing video from your PowerPoint presentations—Camtasia, for example—but I wanted to outline a procedure that does not depend on a for-pay program except PowerPoint itself.