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Adding Flash Video to PowerPoint Presentations

It's worth the effort

PowerPoint has been capable of accepting and playing back videos for quite some time, at least as far back as Office 97. In most cases the process is quite simple. Go to the Insert menu, click on Insert Movies, and away you go. At least in theory.

The reality of the situation is that your success with video in PowerPoint may vary wildly. Sometimes things will play back absolutely perfectly, especially if you use the same computer with the same operating system to create and encode the video, create the PowerPoint file, and play back the slide show. When a single machine is used, your results are generally pretty good, although there may be times when the audio and video lose their synchronization. For the most part, as long as you stick with a single machine, video in PowerPoint works just fine.

But what happens when you develop your video and PowerPoint show on different machines? Perhaps you're collaborating with someone else who is producing the video while you create the slide show. It's possible that they may use a video codec that is incompatible with your machine, such as when a newer version of QuickTime is used for the video, but an older version of PowerPoint is the only one you have available. Or perhaps your presentation looks great on your computer, but when you attempt to take the show on the road and use a different machine, you find that your video fails to play back correctly. Maybe you need to share your completed presentation with a co-worker so they can also use the PowerPoint for presentations. In many of those types of situations, video in PowerPoint can be problematic.

Luckily, there is a solution that works between versions of PowerPoint that eliminates the unknowns and ensures that your video will play back exactly the way you want. By converting your video to Flash Video and inserting the completed file into your PowerPoint show, you can be certain that the video will play back regardless of the computer and even the operating system that is being used.

In this tutorial you will learn:

  • How to set up your project for the best results
  • Options for encoding the video for playback
  • How to insert Flash files into PowerPoint
Preparing Your Project
When you are working with a project such as this, there is a very simple and time-honored principle to keep in mind - K.I.S.S. or Keep It Simple, Stupid. (At least that's what I was taught the acronym meant.)

When you are working with multiple files, it is almost always best to work entirely within one folder. Your PowerPoint file as well as the Flash video and Flash files you need for playback should all be saved into a single folder. There are several advantages to this method:

  • By keeping your files in one location, the task of writing the path to the Flash files is greatly simplified. As you'll see, you need to know the path and file name to the Flash file if you want your movie to play back correctly. With all of the files in one location, you eliminate the issue of having to remember how to write the path. Instead, you'll only need to write the file name when the time comes to insert your Flash movie into PowerPoint.

  • Moving the project to another computer or to removable media becomes much simpler when all the files are in one location. If you need to show your presentation at a location other than your workplace, you can simply copy the entire folder onto a flash drive or CD and take the show with you. Or, if you need to share the presentation with someone else, you can zip the file up and send it to them by e-mail. Either way, having all your files in one location makes them much more portable and easy to work with.

  • If you are using Flash 8 and the video components for producing your video playback movie, you'll need to move the playback SWF that is created along with the movie that holds your video. Once again, having all these files in a single folder greatly simplifies this process and eliminates errors when playing back your file.

    Cross-Platform Compatibility
    Sadly, the latest Macintosh version of PowerPoint does not play well with Flash files that contain videos in the FLV format as of this writing. However, Flash Video is still a great way to incorporate your QuickTime files that may not play properly in the Windows environment. You can do your editing in iMovie and share the files at the size of your choosing, convert the files to FLV, then incorporate them easily for playback in Windows. For video files that need to play on a Macintosh computer your best bet will be to stay with the QuickTime format and insert the movies directly into your presentation.

    Options for FLV Conversion
    If you have Flash 8 Professional, you already own the best tool for converting video to the FLV format. Using the Flash Video Encoder that ships with Flash 8 Pro you can convert your video easily, then use the excellent FLV Playback component to build your SWF file for insertion into PowerPoint. This is the most full-featured option as you can choose from the different playback controllers that ship with Flash 8 Pro to add a sweet little controller that will allow you to start, stop, and rewind your video directly from within PowerPoint.

    If you don't own Flash 8 Pro, you'll need another method for converting your videos to the FLV format. My personal recommendation is Sorensen Squeeze (www.sorensonmedia.com/solutions/prod/comp_win.php), which allows you to create either an FLV file for use in building a Flash project, or, for even faster conversion, you can create the complete SWF directly in Squeeze with the FLV file embedded in the completed file. The only drawback to this method is that there will be no controller available when the video plays within your PowerPoint presentation. You will still be able to use simple controls for playing the video, but you will need to do that by right-clicking on the video and choosing the options presented in the context menu that appears.

    Preparing Your Video in Flash 8 Professional
    For the sake of the remainder of this tutorial, let's assume that you will be using Flash 8 Professional to prepare your video files for playback and that you have already converted your movie into the FLV format. For more on creating video playback files in Flash 8, see Tom Green's Creating a Video Player in Flash Professional 8 (www.communitymx.com/abstract.cfm?cid=12EBE) .

    There are a few things to keep in mind when creating your movie file in Flash if you plan to incorporate them into a PowerPoint presentation.

    First, when choosing the playback controller you should select one of the "Over" style skins rather than an external controller. While the controller will work just fine inside the presentation, the difficulty comes when you need to scale the movie to the proper size. PowerPoint can present a challenge when it comes to scaling your movie to the correct size as it seems to have a mind of its own for creating and maintaining an aspect to the resized movie. In practical terms, this can lead to a gray box appearing around the movie when you attempt to resize the SWF file. Just as bothersome, the controller itself can be cut off when the movie is resized as well, leading to lots of wasted time when you want to get the movie object sized to one that gives the best quality during playback. The best method to avoid this is to simply put the controller on top of the video.

    Second, the computer that you will be presenting on must have Flash Player 8 installed in order for the video to play back correctly. This is not a big problem in most cases. If you simply go to the Flash player download page (www.macromedia.com/shockwave/download/download.cgi?P1_Prod_Version=ShockwaveFlash) using Internet Explorer, the latest version of the Flash Player will be downloaded to the machine in, well, a flash. Just be certain that you allow yourself sufficient time if your presentation will be given away from your normal workplace to check for Flash Player 8 and install the player if needed.

    With all of that said, the actual creation of a video playback file in Flash 8 couldn't be easier. Let's run briefly through the steps.

    1. Create a new Flash document. Save the file in the same folder as your PowerPoint presentation.
    2. Open the Components panel by choosing Window > Components.
    3. Open the FLV Playback - Player 8 folder in the Components panel and drag an instance of the FLVPlayback component onto the stage.
    4. Name the component MyPlayer in the Properties inspector.
    5. Click on the Parameters tab in the Properties inspector.
    6. Click on the Browse button in the contentPath category of the parameters listing as you see in Figure 1.
    7. In the Content Path dialog box, enter the name of your FLV file. You can also click the Browse button to browse to your file location. (Remember that it is recommended that the FLV file be located in the same folder as the PowerPoint file for ease of use.)
    8. Be sure to check the Match source FLV dimensions checkbox as you see in Figure 2.
    9. Click on the Browse button in the Skin category of the parameters listing as you see in Figure 3.
    10. Use the dropdown menu in the Select Skin dialog box to choose one of the available playback controller skins. Remember that due to the particular way that PowerPoint sizes and resizes Flash movies, one of the "Over" styles is recommended.
    11. Click Modify > Document.
    12. Click on the Match Contents radio button to have Flash automatically size the movie correctly.
    13. Click File > Publish. Your movie is now ready to insert into your PowerPoint presentation.
    When you publish your movie in Flash 8 you will create two files that are needed for the playback of the completed movie. The SWF file that will have the same name as the source FLA file and a SWF file that matches the name of the playback skin. Both of these files are necessary and should be located in the folder containing your project files.

    Inserting a Flash File into PowerPoint
    Now that your Flash movie is ready, it's time to insert the Flash file into your PowerPoint presentation. This involves a toolbar that most people don't use very often, if at all, but other than turning that toolbar on, there isn't anything in this process that is difficult. Let's see how it's done.

    1. Save your PowerPoint presentation in the same folder where your Flash files are located.
    2. Go to the slide where you want the video to appear.
    3. Click on View > Toolbars > Control Toolbox.
    4. Click on the More controls button that you see circled in Figure 4.
    5. From the menu that appears, select Flash Shockwave Object as you see in Figure 5.
    6. Your cursor will now change to a crosshair symbol. Drag our rectangle onto the slide that is approximately the size of your Flash movie. You'll resize the object once the movie is loaded.
    7. Right-click the white box that represents your Flash object on the slide and select Properties from the context menu. The Properties dialog box will open.
    8. Click on the button next to the Custom field at the top of the dialog box as you see in Figure 6.
    9. In the dialog box that appears, you will insert the name of the SWF file that contains your movie. Once again, this is another place where the wisdom of keeping all the files in one location is seen as there is no Browse button or automatic method of setting the path to the file. In order to insert the Flash movie file, simply place the name of the SWF file that you published from Flash in the Movie URL field as you see in Figure 7.

      Figure 7 shows the default settings that appear when a Flash movie is inserted into PowerPoint. Notice the Play and Loop checkboxes are selected, which will autoplay the movie when the slide is shown, and will loop the movie back to the beginning when it is finished - but only if no controller is present. You will probably want to experiment with these settings to see which works best for you. Note that you can choose to embed the movie into the PowerPoint file, but if you are using a playback controller with Flash 8 video, then the controller SWF file must still be present in the same folder as the presentation.

    10. Click OK.
    11. Test your slide show by choosing Slide Show > View Show. Your movie will load and play when the slide opens. When you end the show you will see the last frame where the video stopped inside the PowerPoint slide.
    12. It's likely that you'll need to resize the Flash object on the stage to get the best quality from your video. You can do that by clicking once on the Flash object on the slide and using the resize handles to change the size of your video as you see in Figure 8. Your presentation with a slick little video included is now ready to go.
    One thing to keep in mind is that PowerPoint will remember the movie's position every time you play your slideshow. To ensure the video plays from the beginning, be sure to rewind and save your file before you make that big presentation.

    Conclusion
    As you have seen here, inserting Flash files containing Flash video is fairly easy, and definitely worth the effort if you want to ensure consistent playback of your video, no matter where you show it. By inserting a Flash movie with an embedded video file inside, you can be certain that whether you need to move the presentation onto a Flash drive or CD to show at another location, your movie will open with its audio intact and play back perfectly. Not only that, but you'll also have the nice controls that are available in Flash 8 just in case the people watching your show are so impressed that they want to see your video over and over again.

    Article courtesy of Community MX. For more quality articles such as this one, go to www.communitymx.com

  • More Stories By Kim Cavanaugh

    Kim Cavanaugh has been teaching and writing about web design software from Macromedia for over 5 years. He has written two books about Dreamweaver and Fireworks, collaborated on books about Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Flash and Contribute, and continues to write extensively about Studio MX tools for CommunityMX.com. In addition to his tutorials at CommunityMX, you can find more of his tutorials at his Beginner's Guide website (www.dw-fw-beginners.com) and read about things that interest him at his BrainFrieze blog (www.brainfrieze.net).

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