How to add background music to a PowerPoint presentation

music brain

I held a PowerPoint to Video workshop today, and one of the questions that was asked had to do with presentation background music.  Actually, it was two questions, how do you add it so that it will play for the entire presentation?; and once added, will it be present in the video that is produced when you produce your PowerPoint presentation to video.

To answer the second question first, as long as it is embedded audio in a format PowerPoint understands (wma, mp3, au) yes, it will be present in the video., since PowerPoint 2010 and 2013 actually embed audio and video data in the PPTX file, and preserve embedded elements when a video is produced.  With PowerPoint 2010 the video will be produced in the WMV format.  To save student playback trouble later either upload this video to YouTube (the recommended method) or convert it to the MP4 format, using H.264 codecs before uploading it to your Palomar web space or to Blackboard directly.  This can be done with a number of video format converters, like Any Video Converter, or the open source VLC.

OK, so how do I do it?

Open your presentation in normal view, and go to the slide where you want the music to start, usually the title slide.  Click on the  Insert tab, then the Audio command drop-down and choose Audio from File…

Audio from File

Navigate your file system to find the audio file you want to be the background music.  Note that it must be in an embeddable format (wma, mp3 or au) and must not have DRM (digital rights management), like the files you purchase from the iTunes store and other commercial outlets.  Music downloaded from Amazon does not have DRM.

After selecting your music and clicking Insert a speaker icon with paly bar will appear centered on the current slide (probably the title slide).

Speaker Icon

You can preview your music by clicking the play control.  Don’t worry about moving it this icon.  It will not be visible during your presentation or during the movie you create when you produce your presentation as a video.

With the speaker icon selected, click the Audio Tools tab (which will only appear after you have selected an Audio object) and click on the Playback tab.  Look at the Audio Options group of commands.

Audio Options

We need to change almost everything about this area to achieve our goal of playing continuous background music:

Change the Start: On Click to Play Across Slides, and place a check in the boxes next to Hide During Show and Loop until Stopped.  If your music clip is longer than your presentation you will not need to check Loop until Stopped, but it won’t hurt and it is better to be safe.  Lots can happen during a presentation.  Click the drop-down under Volume and set it to Medium or even Low, depending on the audio settings and speakers where you will be presenting.

If you have professionally produced audio it probably fades in and fades out already, but if it starts abruptly and jarringly use the Fade IN and Fade Out controls and change them to about 2 seconds each.

Fade In Fade Out

Since an audio track is considered a PowerPoint animation, you can check (and control) your settings on the Animations tab.  With your first slide selected (the slide you inserted the audio file on) click the Animations tab, then click the Animation Pane command to turn it on.

Animation Pane

You will see the animation pane appear on the right of your screen.  As long as you do not have any other animations on this slide, your audio file will appear as animation 0 (zero), meaning that it is set to play automatically when this slide loads.  Click the drop-down on your animation in the animation pane and choose Effect Options…

Effect Options

The Play Audio dialog box will appear.

Play Audio

Note that the music is set to play from the beginning (though if you wanted, you could specify the number of seconds into the track where you wanted it to stop, or to continue playing from a certain point).  And that it is set to stop after 999 slides.  This number is larger than any slide presentation, so it really means, keep playing until the end of the presentation.  Note that you can set this to be any number of slides, and end the audio file after 2, 3, 4, etc. slides.  This is one way to play multiple sound files in the same presentation, or only provide background music across a certain number of slides within an overall presentation.

Since we want our music to play during the entire presentation, we do not need to make any changes to this dialog.  I just wanted to show it so that you would know where these controls are.

That’s how you do it.

It is not commonly know, but you can do the same with a video file.  You might want to do this for two reasons: 1) to play the video file as the background to your presentation—generally a bad idea, but with the right video with subtle movement effects if can be powerful; or 2) you want to display your bullet points or other objects across several slides while the video is playing.

Music brain image credit:  The Department of Homeland Security.