How to Escape PowerPoint Video Hell

 In Legal Graphics, Tools and Tech

Screen Shot 2013-06-19 at 11.02.01 AMI’ve been thinking a great deal about PowerPoint recently, and not in a good way. At Cogent Legal, we have been working hard on a number of cases that involve extensive use of PowerPoint for the client, and I often feel that getting PowerPoint to do anything involving multimedia is like trying to make a car into a boat: You can do it, but it’s a lot of work, and there will be lots of problems.

On the one hand, you can look at PowerPoint as a rich and “powerful” program in that it allegedly allows you to do so many things. The problem is that it often only purportedly does them, or it does them but not very well. This is especially true when you try to create PowerPoints that include videos. Having learned the hard way a number of lessons on the PowerPoint multimedia front, I thought I’d share them with you all so you don’t have to get caught in PowerPoint Hell—or if you do, you’ll know how to get out of it.

One reason Keynote is great: One of the things I love about Keynote (Apple’s alternative to PowerPoint) is that for videos, you pretty much drag them onto the slide from your browser and choose “play automatically” in the animation section. Keynote supports MP4 videos, which have the best quality for the compression, and it seamlessly moves from one animation slide to the next without skipping, blacking out or other annoying things. Keynote also automatically embeds all videos in the file so all you have to do is transfer that file to anyone, and all the videos work and play just fine.

Link Not Found error message in PowerPointThe problem with videos in PowerPoint: PowerPoint, on the other hand, has a history of problems with multimedia. Up until a few years ago, PowerPoint did not “embed” any of the videos or sounds you put into the presentation. This meant your presentation would work just fine on your office computer that “links” to the video. But, we’ve all seen people giving presentations and stammering that “they don’t know why the video is not working,” and they discover that the laptop they are using for the presentation does not have any of the video files that were “linked” but not “embedded” in the PowerPoint.  The user would need to do a special kind of “save presentation” function to make a separate file with all the videos that would have to be transferred together with the PowerPoint file, or else it would not work.  Needless to say, this often gets screwed up.

An extreme example of Windows Media Pixelation

Screenshot of an extreme example of WMV format pixelation

Supported Video Formats: With the introduction of PowerPoint 2010 and the new 2013 for PC, so long as you save your video in the ppxt format (which is the default), it will now embed the video. You might say, “Problem solved!” right? The answer would be, “not by a long shot.” The main problem now relates to this supported video format. PowerPoint 2010 and 2013 for PC now do support MP4 videos (so long as you download the Apple Quicktime plugin), which is good, but the versions of 2007 and earlier do not at all. PowerPoint has its own video code, which means that any video must be supported by that version of PowerPoint. For 2007 and before it really only supports Windows Media and AVI files.  WMV (Windows Media Video) files are simply awful quality and look bad, and AVI files are huge (and I mean really huge) video files that are not compressed at all, which are simply too big for anything but the smallest clip.

Having spent numerous hours trying to get WMV to play correctly, I personally have given up on that format completely. Our office has had nothing but trouble with it being jumpy, bad quality and other problems. So you might say, “I should just buy PowerPoint 2013 and use MP4, right?” So here is the issue: You can make a PowerPoint using 2013 and use nice-playing MP4 videos, but when you get to the conference, the supplied laptop might be running 2007. None of your videos will play.  So be sure to bring your own laptop to use, or if you must use someone else’s, then test out your presentation on it beforehand.

Placing a video in PowerPoint: Using PowerPoint 2013, you can simply drag a video file into the slide and it will now embed the file (so long as you save in ppxt). However, you will often (but for some odd reason not always) see a sound icon and no picture. If you go to the animations panel and choose “play automatically,” you will see the sound icon flash at the start of each slide, and then the movie starts. It is really not good looking. If you see this, you must go to the movie settings (which you can get to by double clicking on the movie itself), and make a “poster” of the first frame.  This will show in the slide instead of the icon.

In animations panel under the “Start” menu you can choose “play with previous,” which means that it will start automatically when you go to the slide; or you can choose “on click” that starts when you click the button again. On click can be useful if you want to see the poster view first to introduce the video before playing. You can also choose “after previous” if you want the slide to do some other animated function before playing the video. You can use the delay field to indicate that you want any type of animation, including playing a video, to be delayed any period of time before starting.

Practice, practice:  Now after all this work setting your video up to play correctly, I strongly suggest the following: Put your file on a thumb drive and try it on another computer! It’s very important to know if you have correctly embedded the files since you never know what might go wrong with a presentation and you might need to put it on someone else’s computer.

What computer should I use to present?: Just so this post does not come off like a screed against Microsoft, I have to mention something that I really like. I recently purchased the Lenovo Yoga 11.6 inch laptop with the I5 Processor, Windows 8 and PowerPoint 2013. Having not used Windows 8 before, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the interface. However, what I loved was the touch screen with PowerPoint 2013. With this combination, we could embed the high quality MP4s and make nice use of hyperlinks to navigate throughout the presentations. With the touchscreen, the presenter can simply touch the navigation with their finger and go right to the pointed location. It has all the best function for a presentation of my iPad with the touch screen, but also the full Windows 8 for everything else you want a computer for. I like the way you can make a “tent” of the Yoga so the presenter can easily see and use the computer while presenting.  I also like the 3 pound weight and very small size for ease of travel (it is obviously a very small screen, but I don’t mind that since you can generally set your computer up right next to you). In short, for those who present and want a small laptop with Windows 8, I highly recommend it.

Give Keynote on your iPad a try: If only more of the legal profession would make the switch. If you haven’t tried Keynote yet, I invite you to check out my earlier blog post, “Keynote for Attorneys: Tips to Try this Alternative to PowerPoint for Case Presentation.”

If you have any other PowerPoint multimedia problems, and/or solutions you have found to working with multimedia elements in PowerPoint, I would love to hear them in the comments below.

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Showing 10 comments
  • blakedue

    I created a “VM” for Windows 7 64 bit. I installed Office 2013. I’m trying to watch a presentation from the Microsoft Web site “ RZ102925062.aspx? CTT = 1 “.

    The file in question is a presentation “Discovering Word 2013.” I saved the presentation on my VM. When I open the presentation, I can see the different slides of powerpoint. However, the slide where you have a video, does not start. A message says “sorry … we can not play the media file”

    But if I click on the video and select “TRIM” (cut the video) from video tool’s menu, I can view the video. It works.

    So why am I unable to view the video in my slideshow?

  • Tammy Anne

    I use power point 2007 with Windows 8. My videos play, but they have no sound! Any ideas?

  • Brian Deacon

    When i play embedded videos with power point 2013 power point crashes!!!! i am running windows 7. somebody help me please.

  • Jessica

    My videos work just fine in my powerpoint (2007) in windows 8, until I open in up in slideshow view. Then the video turns into a small window in the upper left hand corner of the movie box. Any ideas?

  • Bob Sullivan

    To prevent video hell in PowerPoint, move the video files to the same folder as the presentation before inserting them into the presentation. The reason is this: If you add a video that is located in the same folder as the presentation, the link to the video only includes the video name. If you add a video from anyplace other than the folder in which the presentation is saved, the link to the video includes the full path back to the drive letter. This means that the video will never work once you move off the original computer with its original file location.

    My complaint with PowerPoint is that it creates gigantic movies and that overlaid sound clips don’t really work. I created a PowerPoint with a soundtrack that plays through the entire video, along with video clips with sound. The combined sounds worked perfectly in PowerPoint when running the PowerPoint show, but when saving to a movie file, the soundtrack “jumped” each time the sound from the video clips came in. I ended up using a shareware program called Video Pad Video Editor that allowed me to do everything I needed to do, including saving the finished product as an MP4.

  • EddieS

    I have a WMV movie I created in Windows Movie Maker and I’d like to to run in a loop on a single slide in a PowerPoint presentation using PowerPoint 2007. The problem is the file format of the WMV file does not work correctly in a loop in PP 2007. I’ll buy whatever I need to make this work right. I have a VBA script that collects customer information in a kiosk environment. If it means upgrading PowerPoint no problem. I have a video that runs perfect in this configuration. It’s an AVI file. Converting to an AVI file is not as simple as it would seem. AVI is a file type, a container. The enclosed CODEC is what makes the video work in PowerPoint. If I cant convert to the correct CODEC with all the right frame rates and such, it will crash and not repeat or “loop”. I’m desperate for a solution, I have to have this presentation finished in one week. I’ve been struggling with this for about 3 weeks now already. I never guessed it could be such a problem since I already had a video that played perfectly. Its just that video is not relevant anymore. Help.

  • mrpahl

    Big problem with the new 6 Keynote… the negatives are near unanimous by power users… So we are stuck with Tweedle Dee and Tweedly Dum… PowerPoint or Keynote… Help!!!!

  • John Olah

    Morgan, I ran into many of the problems with PowerPoint that you describe a number of years back. Much to my horror, the night before a case involving a very large claim, we discovered at 1:00 a.m. that there were red Xs where the videos and photos had been linked. We had to relink all of the videos and photographs. Lesson learned. I commenced using TrialDirector. A brillian tool for trial lawyers.
    It is time consuming to set up your documents and highlight them in TrialDirector, but well worth the time invested.

  • same

    Morgan – NOw I got the download perfectly. It is too technical for me, but I could see there are a lot of problems with presentations (which I have seen at meetings).
    I’ll just refer those people to you for their education. Mom

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