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Microsoft PowerPoint 2010 : Incorporating Motion Video - Understanding Video Types

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12/25/2012 5:50:44 PM

Three cheers for Microsoft for increasing the number of video file types that PowerPoint supports! Presentation developers have long been frustrated by PowerPoint's inability to accept certain file formats, but that problem is largely in the past now. PowerPoint 2010 supports the formats listed in Table 1.


What's the difference between a movie and a video? There really isn't any. PowerPoint uses the terms interchangeably.

PowerPoint treats most video types similarly, in terms of how much control you have over their appearance and playback, except for the final two in Table 1: Adobe Flash Media and animated GIFs. Both of these deserve a bit of special discussion.

Table 1. Supported Video Formats
FormatMost Common ExtensionOther Extensions
Windows Streaming Media.asf.asx, .wpl, .win. wmx, .wmd, .wmz, .dvr-ms
Windows Video.avi 
Windows Media Video.wmv.wvx
MP4.mp4.m4v, .mp4v, .3gp, .3gpp, .3gz, .3gp2
MPEG.mpeg.mpg, .mp3, .mlv, .m2v, .mod, .mpv2, .mp2v, .mpa
MPET-2 TS Video.m2ts.m2t, .mts, .ts, .tts
QuickTime.mov.qt, .dv
Adobe Flash Media.swf 
Animated GIF.gif 

1. Adobe Flash Media

Flash media (.swf) is a very versatile format for creating animated, and sometimes interactive, demos and games. Other names for this format include Shockwave or Macromedia Flash. (Macromedia was the company that developed Flash; they were acquired by Adobe.)

Flash media is commonly used in education because of its interactivity. Not only can a Flash clip show movement through a process, but it can accept mouse clicks from a viewer. So, for example, after illustrating a process, the clip can offer a multiple-choice quiz for review, with the viewer clicking on the answers.

Flash is unique in PowerPoint in that it is not embedded in the file like other video formats; by default it is linked.

PowerPoint does not offer a full set of controls for a Flash clip; you can't trim it, for example, and you can't set it to fade in or out. However, you can place a Flash clip on a slide, resize it, and control many appearance aspects of it, such as frame color.

2. Animated GIF

Animated GIFs are not really videos in the traditional sense. An animated GIF is a special type of graphic that stores multiple versions of itself in a single file, and flips through them in sequence, like an animation created by flipping the corners of a book. When the file is displayed — on a presentation slide, a Web page, or some other place — it cycles through the still graphics at a certain speed, making a very rudimentary animation. You cannot control the animation of an animated GIF through PowerPoint, nor can you set it up to repeat a certain number of times. That information is contained within the GIF file itself. PowerPoint simply reads that information and plays the GIF accordingly.

PowerPoint's Clip Organizer comes with many animated GIFs that have simple conceptual plots, such as time passing, gears turning, and computers passing data between them. They are more like animated clip art than real videos, but they do add an active element to an otherwise static slide.

It is possible to convert an animated GIF to a "true" video format such as AVI. However, you can't do it using PowerPoint alone; you need a conversion utility. Corel Animation Shop will do this (www.corel.com), as will many GIF-editing programs.

3. Choosing a File Format for Your Video Recordings

You may not have a choice in the settings used for the recording of live video or the file format. If you do have a choice, AVI is among the best formats for use in PowerPoint because of its near-universal compatibility. There may be compatibility issues with video in some MPEG variants, such as MPEG-2 and MPEG-4, because you might need to install a separate DVD-playing utility or a specific codec to handle those formats.

On the theory that Microsoft-to-Microsoft always works, the Windows Media Video format (.wmv) is also a good choice. Because Windows Movie Maker creates its videos in this format by default, it's a good bet that they will work well in PowerPoint.

4. Balancing Video Impact with File Size and Performance

Clip quality is usually measured either in frames per second (fps), which is anywhere from 15 (low) to 30 (high), or in kilobits per second, which is anywhere from 38 kbps to 2.1 mbps. You might experiment with different settings to find one with acceptable quality for the task at hand with the minimum file size. For example, with Windows Movie Maker, a wide variety of quality settings are available.

When you are recording your own video clips with a video camera or other device, it is easy to overshoot. Video clips take up a huge amount of disk space, and inserting large video clips into a PowerPoint file can make that file very large. Even if you choose to link the clips instead of embedding them, the clips still take up space on your hard disk.

Depending on the amount of space available on your computer's hard disk, and whether you need to transfer your PowerPoint file to another PC, you may want to keep the number of seconds of recorded video to a minimum to ensure that the file size stays manageable. On the other hand, if you have a powerful computer with plenty of hard disk space and a lot of cool video clips to show, go for it!

After you have completed the bulk of the editing work on your presentation, you may wish to use the File Compress Media command to decrease the resolution and/or increase the compression ratio on the media clips in your presentation. Doing so may result in a minor loss of playback quality, but may make the difference between a presentation fitting or not fitting on a particular disk.

If you are linking clips instead of embedding them, place the video clip in the same folder as the presentation file before inserting the video clip. This creates a relative reference to the clip within the PowerPoint link to it, so that when you move both items to another location, the link's integrity remains.

5. Locating Video Clips

Not sure where to find video clips? Here are some places to start:

  • Your own video camera. You can connect a digital video camera directly to your PC, or connect an analog video camera to an adapter board that digitizes its input. Then you use a video editing program to clean them up and transfer them to your hard disk. Most video cameras come with such software; you can also use Windows Movie Maker (free with Windows XP and Vista).

    If you have Windows 7, Windows Movie Maker is not included. However, you can download it for free from this link: http://download.live.com/moviemaker. You might want to download it anyway, even if you have a version already in Windows XP and Vista, because that way you'll get the most recent version.

  • The Clip Organizer. When you're connected to the Internet, you get the whole collection as you browse. Most of these are animated GIFs, rather than real videos.

  • The Internet in general. There are millions of interesting video clips on every imaginable subject. Use the search term "video clips" plus a few keywords that describe the type of clips you are looking for. Yahoo! is a good place to start looking (www.yahoo.com). Some clips are copyrighted or have usage limitations, but others can be used freely; check the usage information provided with the clip.


    Whenever you get a video clip from the Internet, make sure you carefully read any restrictions or usage agreements to avoid copyright violations. If you create a presentation using copyrighted material in an unauthorized way, you or your company could potentially get sued.

  • Commercial collections of video clips and animated GIFs. Many of these companies advertise on the Internet and provide free samples for downloading.

  • The Internet Archive (www.archive.org). This site contains links to huge repositories of public domain footage on all subjects, mostly pre-1960s material on which the copyright has expired. Warning — you can easily get sucked in here and waste several days browsing!

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