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Freaky People Productions http://freakypeople.ca Visual Design + Production for Live Events Wed, 26 Oct 2016 18:36:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 Powerpoint 2011: Improvements http://freakypeople.ca/2011/powerpoint-2011-improvements/ http://freakypeople.ca/2011/powerpoint-2011-improvements/#respond Tue, 08 Mar 2011 17:52:42 +0000 http://freakypeople.roki.ca/?p=157 I’ve just purchased my version of Powerpoint 2011 for Mac, so this article will continue to be a work in progress.

Unfortunately the ribbon interface has migrated completely over to the Mac edition (goodbye sidebar!).
Fortunately, the ribbon doesn’t suck as much as it did in Windows Powerpoint 2007, and is starting to be usable.

Big plus:

  • Compress image dialogIn the Picture menu, there is now a Compress option, that allows you to crop out unnecessary image sizes, automagically! If the presentation is to be used primarily for presenting on LCD screens, select CompressBest for viewing on screen (150ppi), and watch the file size disappear, especially mining professionals who use massive high-res core samples or doctors with x-ray charts.

 

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Powerpoint 2010 treats – (Actually) Embedded video, masking, and more! http://freakypeople.ca/2011/powerpoint-2010-treats-actually-embedded-video/ http://freakypeople.ca/2011/powerpoint-2010-treats-actually-embedded-video/#respond Sat, 05 Mar 2011 22:56:01 +0000 http://freakypeople.roki.ca/?p=141 It a common issue with Powerpoint: you want to play a video inside your presentation. No sweat, simply

'Insert' > 'Movie' > 'Movie from File',

and lo and behold you have a movie playing from within Powerpoint. Well, assuming it’s compatible. But I digress.

My issue has always been the terminology of the command. You’ve selected Insert, and yet nothing has actually been inserted. Instead, a link has been made between that specific slide and the movie file. This is a hard link, and will break if you change the relationship of the PPT file and the MOVIE file.

The reliable workaround for those in the know has always been to place the PPT and the Movie together in the same folder before linking, and always carrying them together as a package.

This hasn’t stopped people from arriving at my Speaker Ready Room with a weenie 300 kB PPT file insisting that the movie is embedded (read: inserted) in their presentation and that it “worked at the office”.

I blame Microsoft for their misleading menus names. However, they have recently redeemed themselves on two fronts:

  1. Microsoft Powerpoint 2010 now actually embeds the movie into the PPTX file. This is the default behaviour.
  2. A Powerpoint 2010 PPTX file, with an embedded movie, is backwards compatible to Powerpoint 2007.

This is great news, since we will be in transition from 2007 for a while, and it will also encourage more adoption to use the current PPTX format.

I’m still waiting for an opportunity to try out some of the other video features of Powerpoint 2010 (masking, in/out times and other effects), and will report back after some experimentation.

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Quick audio recording with QuickTime http://freakypeople.ca/2010/quick-audio-recording-with-quicktime/ http://freakypeople.ca/2010/quick-audio-recording-with-quicktime/#comments Sat, 18 Dec 2010 19:27:40 +0000 http://freakypeople.roki.ca/?p=97 If you have a Mac at your conference or event and need a quick recording solution, consider QuickTime. To ensure that the recording is the best quality possible, there are a few extra steps you should take before hitting ‘record’. First we’ll review what you need to get started. Next we’ll look as setting levels, and finally we investigate export options.

What you need:

  • QuickTime 7
    Snow Leopard OSX 10.6 comes with QuickTime X, but you may also have QT7. It’s buried in your /Applications/Utilities folder. If it isn’t, go get it from Apple.
  • a license for QuickTime 7 Pro.
    To unlock the editing and recording powers of QT7 you need a CA$37.99 license from Apple. Buy it online and unlock QT7 immediately.
  • an audio input and output
    macbook audio in/out jack

    The tie-fighter icon is the line in, the headphones are out.

    All Mac towers, iMacs, Mac Minis and most MacBooks and MacBook Pros:

    • These machines have both an input and an output 1/8″ mini stereo jack. This allows you to get audio into the computer while simultaneously monitoring your record with headphones.

    2010 Macbook Air, MacBook and MacBook Pro 12″:

    • These computers come with a single jack, marked for headphones, that can serve as either an input or an output, but not both. In this configuration you can’t simultaneously monitor the recording, which is not really a wise idea. If this is something you plan to do regularly, consider buying a Griffin iMic or similar to expand your I/O options.
  • Audio adapters to get into 1/8″ mini-jack. 3.5mm (~1/8If you’re coming out of a professional console, you will encounter 1/4″ phone jacks, XLR jacks, and maybe even an RCA phono tape out. To avoid most issues of impedance, balanced/unbalanced signal, phantom power and the rest, stick to the 1/4″ plugs wherever possible.
  • A set of headphones. Nothing fancy required here, but they should be better than chintzy earbuds if you want to be able to detect 60-cycle ground hum other recording artifacts.

Setting it up

  1. License your Quicktime. In Snow Leopard, open Quicktime 7, select ‘QuickTime Player 7' (the application menu) --> 'Registration…‘ and type in the info Apple emailed you when you paid for it.
  2. Plug in the audio. This is a line-level input, so set the output level of the audio source to whatever seems close to unity to start.
  3. Open your Sound preference panel.Open System Preferences [Apple Menu --> System Preferences…, then click Sound]. There are 3 menu bar options along the top: select Input.

    Never let the blue dots get all the way to the right!

  4. Select your input source. Select 'Line In', or you might end up recording your own conversation through the internal mic of your MacBook!
  5. Set your input level. Move the (admittedly rather arbitrary) ‘input volume' slider, while watching the ‘input level‘ meter below. This is digital recording, so never let the level reach the right side of the meter. In fact, professional recordings aim for -20dB (with a peak no higher then -6dB) which is (I’m guessing since I haven’t formally tested it) likely about halfway in.
  6. Open Quicktime Player 7.
  7. Set your recording preferences. Open QuickTime Player 7 --> Preferences… [command-comma on the keyboard get you there fast], and open the Recording pane.
    QuickTime Player Preferences
    Ensure that Microphone: is set to Built-in Input: Line In. Also, choose your audio quality: either Good/Better/Best (which all record the audio to  AAC 128 Kbps CBR 48KHz sampling), or Device Native (which will record audio as PCM 2117 Kbps CBR 44.1KHz sampling). Close the Preferences window.
  8. Create a new recording. Select File --> New Audio Recording.
    QT7 New Audio Window
    The window is simple and easy to monitor your recording. On the left is the elapsed time, on the right is the file size, and in between the two is another entirely subjective audio VU-ish meter. It might seem obvious, but make sure you see signal here.

    PLEASE NOTE: The audio level in the QuickTime window will appear quieter than it did in the Sound Preference Panel. Is seems that the QT meter has a much wider average than the Preference panel, and if you turn up the volume too loud you will clip. The lesson? Set your levels using the Sound Preference Pane, and then leave it alone. Mark where it sits in the QT recorder, and keep it there.

    The QT level (left) shows lower than the Sound preference panel (right). Also the sound panel shows both peak and averaged levels.

    The other two bits in the record window are the record button (big red circle), and the audio monitor volume. This slider has no effect on your recording levels, but instead sets the listen volume for your headphones. It’s turned all the way down by default. Here’s why:

  9. Listen to your input. By default, QuickTime has disabled your audio monitor. This is to prevent your microphone from picking up its own sound and creating a feedback loop. But it’s pretty important to actually hear what you’re recording, and not rely on watching a crappy VU. The solution is simple: first plug in your headphones, then turn up the volume using the sound level on the bottom left. Listen for clipping, distortion and any hum or buzzing that might ruin the recording.
  10. Hit record. Press the big red button and you’re off to the races.

Post-production

Your recording is rolling, you’ve seen the levels on the VU meter, and taken a listen to make sure it’s clean. Now what? When the event is finished, press the ‘stop’ button to create the audio file you’ve been making. The record window will automatically convert into a playback window of an MOV file saved to your Desktop.

Wait. An MOV isn’t an audio file, right? Even worse, QuickTime by default can’t export to MP3 either. However, there are solutions at hand.

  1. Export as AIFF or WAV, then transcode to MP3 from iTunes (This solution is a bit of a hack job, but doesn’t require any extra downloads.)
  2. Download a LAME MP3 encoder (This takes a little bit of setup, but then you will be able to export directly out of QuickTime.)

Option 1:

  1. Configure iTunes:
    • Launch iTunes, and open ‘Preferences’ (command-comma).
    • In the ‘General‘ tab, click ‘Import Settings…
    • Import Using: MP3 Encoder‘.
    • Settings: Custom. Now pick an MP3 standard you’re happy with based on file size versus bit rate. For multi-day conferences, I record 96 kbps monaural. Click ‘OK‘ to get back to the Preferences panel.
    • If you don’t want to copies of your work cluttering up your iTunes Library, click the ‘Advanced‘ tab, and uncheck the ‘Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to library‘.
  2. Open the MOV file you recorded. Drag the file onto iTunes and it will appear in your playlist.
  3. Convert it. With the file selected, select ‘Advanced --> Create MP3 Version‘. When finished, you’ll hear Apple’s ‘I’m done‘ chime and see a duplicate of the file you just encoded in your iTunes window.
  4. Find it. Right-click the new file, and select ‘Show in Finder‘. A Finder window will open showing your newly minted MP3 file. Drag it onto a memory stick, or email it or whatever you need to do.
  5. Delete the iTunes shadow files. Now that you’re finished in iTunes, it’s safe to delete the files from the Library.

Option 2:

  1. This website keeps a Mac OSX version of the LAME MP3 encoder, and will install it as a QuickTime component. Here is the direct download link.
  2. Install it. You will need your Administrator password.
  3. Restart QuickTime 7.
  4. When you choose ‘File –> Export’ (command-comma), you now have the choice of ‘Sound to LAME MP3’
  5. That’s it!
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Mac DisplayPort won’t output to some switchers (UPDATED) http://freakypeople.ca/2010/mac-displayport-wont-output/ http://freakypeople.ca/2010/mac-displayport-wont-output/#respond Wed, 15 Dec 2010 19:13:14 +0000 http://freakypeople.roki.ca/?p=89 UPDATE: Since meeting with Benoit Lamy at Analog Way I’ve been shown that it is possible to avoid this problem, without additional external devices. As of firmware version 5, it is possible to disable HDCP individually on each digital input of the Diventix II.

If you’re using a Apple Macintosh computer with a DVI or HDMI output, simply turn off the HDCP (in the Diventix: INPUT -> DHCP -> DISABLE.

If you’re using a Blu-ray player (or similar) that will not function without HDCP confirmation, ENABLE it. Be warned though, your ENTIRE workflow then needs to be HDCP compliant.


I’ve experienced this problem on and off since the DisplayPort MacBooks first came out. Plug in a DP to VGA adapter, and you’re off to the races. Try using a DP to DVI adapter, and many commercial devices (Analog Way DiVentix for one) will not receive the signal.

I knew it was due to the HDCP protocols (the same copy-protection used to keep you from making digital copies directly from your Blu-Ray player), but never really understood some of the peculiarities of when it does and doesn’t work.

Then I stumbled upon Steve Wylie’s blog Serial Digital. Not only does it explain the phenomenon, but in the comments you’ll see useful workarounds to the issue.

Essentially they boil down to three:

  1. Don’t use a HDCP enabled output. So stick with the VGA/XGA you’ve loved for so long. But then you miss living in full digital glory.
  2. Use a cheap Cat-5 to DVI tranceiver pair to trick the Apple machine into thinking no HDCP is required.
  3. Use a Gefen DVI Detective or similar EDID-locking device, as long as it doesn’t pass through HDCP information.

What I’d like to know is why there isn’t a better way for Apple to protect it’s precious content, without protecting MY regular ol’ boring content. I own it! Let me display it without protection. Please.

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Inserting Adobe Shockwave Flash animation into PowerPoint (and other oddball video formats) http://freakypeople.ca/2010/inserting-adobe-shockwave-flash-into-powerpoint/ http://freakypeople.ca/2010/inserting-adobe-shockwave-flash-into-powerpoint/#respond Fri, 01 Oct 2010 17:04:48 +0000 http://freakypeople.roki.ca/?p=53 Jan Schultink, the blogger behind Slides that Stick er… Sticky Slides has a very short post showing how Powerpoint can be told to play multimedia that might normally choke it.

It’s mostly pictures, but here’s a written summary for reference:

  1. Open the Control Toolbox. It will float over your document.
  2. View -> Toolbars -> Control Toolbox

  3. The bottom-right icon (looks like the web designers hammer and sickle motif, with an ellipsis) opens, and you can select ‘Shockwave Flash Object’
  4. An empty placeholder box will appear. Right-click and select ‘Properties’
  5. Powerpoint Control Toolbar detail

  6. A long, vertical properties widow will appear. Key fields to update are:
    • EmbedMovie = True
    • Movie = [the movie name] Keep the flash file in the same directory of the presentation to avoid certain death!
    • Playing = True
  7. That’s it! It may be flaky still, so it’s best to use this method when you’ll be the one presenting the deck
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Blackberry + Google IMAP (apps or GMail) changes for the better http://freakypeople.ca/2009/blackberry-google-imap-apps-or-gmail-changes-for-the-better/ http://freakypeople.ca/2009/blackberry-google-imap-apps-or-gmail-changes-for-the-better/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2009 18:44:09 +0000 http://freakypeople.roki.ca/?p=55 Since becoming a Blackberry last August, I’ve let my computer inbox overwhelm me. The biggest problem with BIS email on the Blackberry (or so I thought at the time), was that there were no folders for sorting. Your options were three-fold:

  1. keep in the inbox
  2. delete the sucker
  3. save it in the saved folder

Once I got used to reading the message and ignoring it, I missed my folders less and less. Problem is, I did need to keep project emails on my computer for reference, email addresses not in my address book, etc.

They need sorting, or tagging, or something! Badly.

But, trouble was, I had already read them once, and since the BB and my computer were both POP (aka dumb) mail, they had no way of knowing what the other was doing.

Flash forward almost a year, and there are over 1000 unread email in my computer. But I’ve read them, I tell myself… quickly on my BB.

I recently bought a new computer, and rather than move my overwhelming pile of ca-ca email over to the new machine, I wanted a better solution.

Step 1: Migrate to GMail

My web host (Netfirms) has blithely promised IMAP email for over a year, and recently showed up on a blacklist for a few of my clients mail servers, so the deal was done: it was time to move.

I set up a Google Apps account, authorized my domain with them, and then pointed my MX records over to the GMail sever. And waited. And hoped. And… success! Mail started appearing the next morning.

Step 2: Enable IMAP

IMAP is a 2-way mail checking protocol, meaning that any changes you make at one end (i.e. your computer) will be reflected at the other (i.e. your web-based email client). This means a message read on any IMAP aware device will be marked as read everywhere else.

In the past, I’d checked GMail through my blackberry using IMAP, and it was slow for mail to arrive. It did manage to sync read messages and deleted messages, but that was it.

In getting ready for the newly transferred account,  found this message from Google.

It says that IMAP access through Blackberry is still not supported. So I went over to Bell’s Blackbery portal and updated the account on my Blackberry automatically (no options, just email and password). I’d assumed that it would be the usual POP-style mail without syncronizing, but faster than the other way.

Surprise, I was wrong. A message deleted on my BB ended up in the Trash on my Gmail web account. Then I found this message from RIM (the Blackberry folks) saying that as of May 6, 2009, the default sync to Gmail was IMAP, and that it is as fast as POP had been previously.

Accessing the Gmail webmail account using IMAP provides the following new benefits to BlackBerry Internet Service subscribers:

* Elimination of sent email messages appearing as received email messages in the message list on the BlackBerry smartphone. For more information, see KB10332.
* One-way synchronization, from the BlackBerry smartphone to the Gmail webmail account, of read and unread status, sent items, and deleted items

The catch?

Users of the old IMAP need to delete and re-integrate their accounts with Blackberry.

So IMAP didn’t actually need to be enabled on Gmail for my Blackberry, but for my MacBook, it did.

To enable IMAP email on the Google platform (apps or Gmail):

  1. Settings -> Forwarding and POP/IMAP -> Enable IMAP
  2. click the Configuration instructions for tips to configure Apple Mail.app to play nice with Gmail.
  3. don’t forget to configure Trash, Junk and Draft behaviour as well – this ensures Gmail will integrate correctly with Mail.app

Enjoy!

Although this will not staunch the flow of email puking out of your computer/Blackberry/web browser, it will ensure that you could possibly get away with only touching each email once, and not sorting piles separately in each location. Now if only I could get folders in my BB inbox… well, there’s always the Gmail Blackberry app to go digging through my folders/tags.

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Powerpoint Media Workarounds http://freakypeople.ca/2009/powerpoint-media-workarounds/ http://freakypeople.ca/2009/powerpoint-media-workarounds/#respond Sat, 06 Jun 2009 19:22:06 +0000 http://freakypeople.roki.ca/?p=45 <This article is still in progress>

Your movie won’t play. Now what?

  1. Convert it to a format that Powerpoint can embed
  2. Link to it from Powerpoint

We’ll talk about each option briefly, and discuss the best way to avoid these problems altogether in the future.

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Can presentations play nice with multimedia? On-site troubleshooting tips http://freakypeople.ca/2009/can-presentations-play-nice-with-multimedia-on-site-troubleshooting-tips/ http://freakypeople.ca/2009/can-presentations-play-nice-with-multimedia-on-site-troubleshooting-tips/#comments Sat, 06 Jun 2009 18:48:26 +0000 http://freakypeople.roki.ca/?p=33 You decide to take the plunge and embed a sales video into your Powerpoint presentation. It looks good, and plays well on your own computer at work, but when you get to the conference to test it, you see nothing but a black (or white) square where your video used to be.

Here are a few places to start your troubleshooting if you don’t have the benefit of a technician to help you.

We’ll start with the most common mistakes (and often most easily fixed), and work our way into more obtuse and arcane problems.

#1: Did you bring the movie clip?

I know it’s called embedding, but Powerpoint doesn’t really keep a copy of the media file — you need to bring both bits with you. Read my suggestions for multimedia pre-flight preparation to make sure your files all arrive in one piece.

#2: The link to the movie is broken

If you see a black box where your movie should be, and double-clicking the movie in the edit window causes a “cannot find file” error, Powerpoint has lost track of the movie.

Did you put all of your movies and the Powerpoint file into a single folder (good), or were they spread out in sub-folders or in other locations on your hard drive (bad)? If you have movies in separate folders, moving the presentation (to a flash drive, to another folder) will break them.

However, If you have already linked them this way, all is not lost. If you dump all the linked movie files into the same folder as the presentation file, Powerpoint will ignore the path, and link to them again. Remember, no subfolders! Thanks to Denise C-R for this great solution.

If there are only a few movies, the fastest solution can be to simply to re-embed the files from scratch:

  1. Delete the original movie placeholder
  2. Insert the movie again (remember [alt][i][v][f] gets you to the insert video dialog)
  3. Size it appropriately
  4. Test your presentation one final time

#3: The movie only plays on one screen. (while mirrored)

So, you ran your presentation a dozen times on the plane, and it was perfect. At the conference however, you click the movie, and can see it playing on your laptop screen. Only, halfway through the clip you look up to see that the secondary display is showing a big black rectangle where your movie is supposed to be.

What Powerpoint devilry is at work here?!

Actually, the fault likely lies with your laptop graphics card. When you are playing to 2 screens, even when the screen is mirrored, your graphics card has to split its resources to drive each output. Some cards don’t have the punch to render DVD or multimedia video on both screens simultaneously.

The fastest solution is to toggle your screen so that the output is only to the external monitor. This will overcome this issue, but you will lose the ability to see your laptop screen, which may be a deal-breaker if you use it as a local monitor to see your slides.

Another solution is to reduce your graphics card hardware acceleration.

In XP, do the following: right-click the desktop, select [Properties]. In the last tab [Settings], click [Advanced]. Select the [Troubleshoot] tab, and drag the ‘Hardware acceleration‘ slider until the 3rd click from the left. [Apply] it.

Load up the PPT slide with the embedded movie, and be sure that you’re outputting to both screens. Can you see the media on both? Great.

Keep in mind, changing this setting may impact other software that relies on hardware acceleration, i.e. certain DVD player software. I always find it’s a good idea to make a notepad document on the desktop with the game-day changes I’m making so that I can remember how to undo all the damage when the show is over.

While you’re at it, did you ensure that:

  1. Your energy saver settings are to ‘Presentation’?
  2. Your screen saver is off?
  3. Your power adapter (all the pieces) is in your computer bag

#4: You get a white rectangle where the movie should be

Oddly, if the file and path name to the movie are longer than 128 characters, the file might not play. Microsoft says very little about this problem. Consider that the typical path to your desktop, c:\Documents and Settings\username\Desktop\ uses up about 43 of those suckers, leaving you with 80+ characters to go, including the file extension (i.e .wmv).

#5: You get a white rectangle where the movie should be (and the filename thingy doesn’t apply)

This is typically an issue where a movie was linked on a comuter that did have the ability to play it, and then moved it to a computer that doesn’t. When you try to play the movie — BAM! — white square. How does this happen? Well, Powerpoint on a Windows machine relies on the MCI (Media Control Interface) to run content. It could be that:

  1. Your video codec (.divx is a good example) is not part of the Windows MCI player’s repertoire. On the original editing machine, extra codecs may have been installed that are not available on the presentation machine.
  2. You created the slide deck on a Mac. On Apple machines, Quicktime is responsible for what MCI does on a PC, so Quicktime movies (.MOV, .M4V, etc.) will embed into your Mac-based presentation, but will not play if migrated over to a Windows machine. This also includes certain image files (.TIF and .PDF) which are handled by Quicktime and the Mac OS natively, but are not supported by Microsoft Powerpoint on PC.

To check whether your movie file will play inside Powerpoint, load the MCI player directly,

Start - Run, and in the command line type “mplayer.exe” (or “mplayer32.exe” for WinNT)]

then try to open the file in question. If it plays, great! It will also work within Powerpoint. If not, you will need a workaround.

What about Windows Media Player or Quicktime?

Windows Media Player is a different animal than MCI player, and may be able to play your video clip. If this is the case, Microsoft provides suggestions on how to play media clips in PowerPoint by using Windows Media Player. Or try here. Or read our article on Powerpoint media workarounds. This will also work with Quicktime files.

In Conclusion

I can tell you from experience that even running through this list sometimes will not solve the problem. I can only emphasize the need to provide consistent computers throughout a conference, and provide a speaker ready room to your presenters — a location to test out their presentions in a “live” environment, complete with projectors and show computers, and maybe a coffee station in the corner. Test it out and then don’t change anything

It takes the pressure off your presenters and allows them to stop worrying about technical problems and focus on engaging their audience.

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Slide navigation in Powerpoint: Sponsor Loops http://freakypeople.ca/2008/slide-navigation-in-powerpoint-sponsor-loops/ http://freakypeople.ca/2008/slide-navigation-in-powerpoint-sponsor-loops/#respond Tue, 13 May 2008 02:57:46 +0000 http://freakypeople.roki.ca/?p=18 Need to run a sponsor loop for a reception, but also need a specific slide or two during some brief remarks? You can do both from within the same presentation. No jumping to the desktop!

  1. Create the slide deck for the sponsor loop
  2. Select your transitions and slide duration as per normal
  3. Ensure that looping is set under [Slide Show], [Set up show]
  4. Insert your (let’s say 2) static slides at the beginning of the deck
  5. Ensure that these 2 slides have no slide duration
  6. Right-click these two slides and click ‘Hide slides’

Okay, to recap: We now have a presentation that will automatically transition through all but the first 2 slides in perpetuity.
When the time comes to stop the loop (often the sponsor or client goes to the podium to make a few quick announcements), call up the static slide by number. (i.e. for slide 1, while your show is running press [1][enter], for slide 12, press [1][2][enter], etc.)

Voila! Because there’s no need to jump to the desktop, there’s also no need for a still-store or switcher. To start up your sponsor loop again, simply advance into the loop, or select the first slide in the loop (in our example, slide 3).

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Embedded movies in Powerpoint: Tips, Tricks & Pitfalls http://freakypeople.ca/2008/embedded-movies-in-powerpoint-tips-tricks-pitfalls/ http://freakypeople.ca/2008/embedded-movies-in-powerpoint-tips-tricks-pitfalls/#comments Sun, 27 Apr 2008 03:12:03 +0000 http://freakypeople.roki.ca/?p=17 If you’ve sat through many Powerpoint presentations recently, you’ll have noticed they are more multimedia than ever before. Embedded movies, youtube links, audio files… they can liven up a presentation, but also require more preparation for both the presenter and the technician.

I strongly recommend to event and conference managers to provide an audio connection for all laptops, and ensure the show computers have been tested with multimedia. Whether you’ve offered it or not, presenters today assume that they can walk in with a flash drive full of video clips, audio files and external web links.

How do you properly prepare for this? Read on for common pitfalls and manageable solutions.

Powerpoint used to be a real dog when it came to playing clips inside of a presentation. Now that you mention it, it still is…

In the early days of multimedia, wise presenters wouldn’t even try to embed their clips, but would jump out of their presentation, open an external media player to show their clips, and then try to navigate their way back to the slide they abandoned back in Powerpoint.

The result from the audience’s POV?

They’re forced to look at your desktop wallpaper while menus and chrome expand and contract around the clip until it might finally fill the screen. And good luck getting back to your original slide without incident.

Solution? Embed your videos directly into Powerpoint.
Easy? Er, sort of, but not really.

#1: The Multimedia doesn’t actually embed.

Just because you clicked ‘insert’ from the menu (Microsoft’s term, not mine), doesn’t mean it’s actually inserted into the .ppt file.

It isn’t.

This means you must bring both your media file(s) (.wmv, .mp4, .mov, .avi — more on this later) and your presentation files (.ppt or .pptx depending on your flavour of Powerpoint) to the show.

Managing your media

The single best practice to start managing your multimedia presentations is this:

Before inserting anything, place all your parts (audio, video, Powerpoint) into a single, flat folder.

The link between the media and the presentation file is based on absolute pathnames, except for files in the same folder as the linking presentation. Keeping your files in the same folder (remember, no subfolders!)

  1. Keeps it simple
  2. Simplifies transport (drag the folder onto your memory stick and go)
  3. Makes it obvious to the event convener or technician that there are multiple parts to your presentation.

Powerpoint quick tip (PC only): [alt], [i], [v], [f] pressed consecutively will call up the insert video dialog box; mnemonic: [i]nsert [v]ideo from [f]ile

#2: Things can still break on-site

Okay, so far so good. Your movies play inside your presentation on your own computer, but unless you have an LCD projector and full conference A/V setup in your basement, you still need to check it in situ. Why?

  1. You may not be presenting on your own computer. Larger conferences usually prefer using a common computer (often controlled by the technician), in order to speed up the changeover between presentations.
  2. Even if you are using your own laptop, your graphics card may disappoint you when it has to share its resources among two screens. Whenever possible, plug your laptop into an external monitor ahead of time and run your presentation through. Pay special attention to video clips — often they will only play video on the local screen while displaying a black box on the secondary display.
  3. Live presentation are Murphy magnets — any number of weird gremlins can appear, and it’s always wise to have a backup plan for technical failures and holdups. A story or anecdote in your pocket can buy precious troubleshooting time for your technical team. (“While the techies sort this out, has anyone else wondered where the 5¢ bag levy is going?”)

If there aren’t any presentation techies around to help you, you can try these tricks and tips to troubleshoot common reasons multimedia breaks in Powerpoint.

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Editing copy haunts you for always. http://freakypeople.ca/2008/editing-copy-haunts-you-for-always/ http://freakypeople.ca/2008/editing-copy-haunts-you-for-always/#respond Thu, 24 Apr 2008 07:22:40 +0000 http://freakypeople.roki.ca/?p=22 Reading the ten typographic mistakes everyone makes at Christopher Phin’s Receding Hairline blog, brought back vivid — and occasionally painful — memories of editing copy at my University paper. In particular the vicious division in the comments to the article, between those urging Christopher to both keep up the fight, and to “get a life”.

See, the thing is that people who gravitate to jobs like editing copy or designing layouts at a weekly paper, working for peanuts — Joey’s pizza, actually — is that we’re obviously anal-retentive and naturally procedural. I think that this gravitational tendency to being correct and accurate actually helps me lose friends be attentive to the details while looking over show scripts or editing corporate messaging in videos. This dual need to be attentive to detail while looking for overarching patterns can only be developed through practice and use.

Actually, that article landed in my RSS feed at just the same time as I read an article in Today’s Parent about the loss of handwriting in Canada’s curriculum. In it, Helaine Becker points out that if we can’t express ourselves on paper with speed and more importantly without thinking about the act of writing, then it’s difficult to develop ideas as our memory is overrun with the act of writing and not the thought itself.

A raft of studies indicates that the process of learning to write properly builds an important skill called automaticity: the ability to write without having to think about each letter. Kids who don’t write with automaticity have to focus on forming letters instead of honing their ideas.Helaine Becker, Today’s Parent, January 2008

I wonder how often the input medium (computer keyboard, Bic pen or irritating cell-phone number pad) interferes or changes with the intended expression? I’m new to web posts in general and WordPress (the software underpinning this site) in specific, and I know that I’m constantly stopping mid-thought to see if something is going to appear how I intended. Well, I doubt I can blame Ms. Mackie, my second-grade teacher, for not running blogging drills in ’84.

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teleprompters http://freakypeople.ca/2008/teleprompter/ http://freakypeople.ca/2008/teleprompter/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2008 00:31:52 +0000 http://freakypeople.roki.ca/2008/presentation-zen-the-art-of-the-teleprompter/ An insightful overview of teleprompter tips, sightings during the US presidential primaries can be seen here, at Garr Reynold’s site, Presentation Zen.

Teleprompters allow for speakers to present without the apparent use of notes. Keep in mind however, that there is a learning curve, and without preparation can appear to be more stilted or wooden than reading from visible notes. The teleprompter operator listens to the presenter and adjusts the speed of the words so they flow naturally. Additionally, this allows the presenter to ad-lib, or go off-script, without worrying about the script running away from them.

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Netfirms supports pretty permalinks http://freakypeople.ca/2008/netfirms-supports-pretty-permalinks/ http://freakypeople.ca/2008/netfirms-supports-pretty-permalinks/#respond Wed, 26 Mar 2008 19:43:59 +0000 http://freakypeople.roki.ca/2008/netfirms-supports-pretty-permalinks/ With no announcement at all, it seems that Netfirms has decided to support WordPress permalinks without having to resort to this plugin hack. Unfortunately, it also broke the existing plugin, which Joelika managed to figure out before me.

I haven’t followed up to see if this means that other .htaccess commands are now available to be used, but at least the site is up again.

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Google Maps causes Safari 1.3.2 to crash http://freakypeople.ca/2008/google-maps-causes-safari-132-to-crash/ Tue, 25 Mar 2008 18:34:18 +0000 http://freakypeople.roki.ca/web/google-maps-causes-safari-132-to-crash/ Discovered yesterday that an update in the Google Maps API causes older Safari systems (1.3.2, the most current for OS X 10.3) to crash. Hard.

Luckily, after wading through plenty of ranting about why old browsers should be kicked to the curb (not a particularly useful solution if you’re trying to make your page interactive AND compatible for your audience), I found an easy tweak that in the short term will stop a hard crash. Without resorting to a browser detect, or rendering a static version of the map.

There’s a post in the Google Map API group that suggests changing the header code API version from
<script src="http://maps.google.com/maps?file=api&v=2&key=your_key_here" type="text/javascript"></script>

to
<script src="http://maps.google.com/maps?file=api&v=2.s&key=your_key_here" type="text/javascript"></script>

This tells Google Maps to load up the latest stable (.s) version of the API, currently 2.73 instead of the latest 2.101

API information and update history can be found here.

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Resources for production visuals http://freakypeople.ca/2008/resources-for-production-visuals/ http://freakypeople.ca/2008/resources-for-production-visuals/#respond Tue, 18 Mar 2008 20:53:49 +0000 http://freakypeople.roki.ca/video/resources-for-production-visuals/ Frankly I’m tired of scouring the net for tips on fixing a Powerpoint bug, projector alignment or maintenance code, only to lose the link or scribble the info on a sheet of paper to be lost in the wash. <again!>

So, the plan is thus: over the next while, I’m going to pick through my bookmarks, del.icio.us and facebook feeds and develop a comprehensive database of useful places on the web for the work that I do. Seems only fair (after going to all that effort) to share it someplace to be useful to others in my predicament. The additional benefit is that I can’t lose it. I think the Internet is too big for even the jumbo laundromat washer to swallow.

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