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PowerPoint vs iMovie for Creating Transitions
Pages: 1, 2

PowerPoint transitions: a creative approach

Once you have your images loaded into PowerPoint, resist the urge to create the transitions one by one. That's a waste of time.

Rather, let PowerPoint create your transitions when you export the movie using the "Make Movie" command. In the export dialogue box you'll see a radio button marked as "Adjust settings ..." Choose it and hit "Next." You will then be presented with another dialogue box that allows you to set a number of parameters including adjusting the dimensions of your movie, creating transitions, adding a soundtrack, and even writing the credits.

Dialog box screen shot.
The "Make Movie" export dialogue box in PowerPoint 2001 provides you with a wealth of QuickTime tools.

After you export your presentation and open it in QT Player, pop the hood and take a look at its structure in the "Get Info" or "Get Movie Properties" dialogue box (depending on whether you have version 4 or 5 of QuickTime Pro).

Also in QuickTime Authoring:

Feds Discover the PowerPoint-QuickTime Connection

Digital Still Cameras for QuickTime Movies, Part Two

Digital Still Cameras for QuickTime Movies, Part One

Amazing Media Player Brings PDA Video to Life

QT Authoring on Native Mac OS X

You'll see that PowerPoint has created three video tracks to achieve the effect of a cross-fade transition between each of the frames. It's really quite ingenious what they've done. By using layers manipulation and a few tricks in graphics mode, they created the illusion of sophisticated transitions between frames without generating any new media.

See for yourself by dissecting this sample created with PowerPoint.

PowerPoint uses the layering capability of QuickTime.
PowerPoint uses the layering capability of QuickTime to create the illusion of cross-fade transitions between still images.

The downside to this approach is that it isn't as portable as other methods of creating transitions. What do I mean by that? Well, let's say that you want to further compress this presentation to serve on your web site.

If you compress the movie using the Export command in QT Pro, or by using Media Cleaner, your presentation will get flattened into one video track. As a result, guess what happens? That's right, your transitions go away.

Even if you extract all three video tracks that make up your PowerPoint slideshow, compress them individually, and then reassemble them using the exact same layer positioning, it still may not work. Plus you've spent quite a bit of time doing so.

So what's our take-away here? Creating QuickTime presentations with PowerPoint are great when you're going to be displaying them on your computer, via CD (or other media), or on web sites where users have quite a bit of bandwidth.

But if you're looking for a highly compressed presentation that can be downloaded via modem, I think the "flattened" approach to transitions is better. Let's take a look at how iMovie can help you with these.

Creating transitions with iMovie

Related Reading

iMovie 2: The Missing ManualiMovie 2: The Missing Manual
By David Pogue
Table of Contents
Sample Chapter
Full Description

If you haven't cozied up with a copy of iMovie 1 or 2, go get it right now. It is one of the most valuable multimedia tools I've ever used, and you can get version 1 for free and version 2 for only $49 US.

To assemble a slide show in iMovie initially takes longer than with other tools such as PowerPoint, but in the end you have a very versatile movie that can be served any way you want.

This flexibility becomes very apparent in the transition arena. iMovie actually builds its transitions from scratch, taking information from the two pieces of media that are transitioning, and then creates a third video clip that is positioned on the same layer as the original segments.

The advantage to this method is that when you're compressing your movie for streaming on the Web, your transitions are not layer-dependent, so they remain intact when flattened.

Take a look at this sample video clip created in iMovie. When you view the movie properties, you'll see that there's only one video track, not three tracks as in the slideshows created with PowerPoint.

As a result, I can use any video compression method that I want to shrink the file size to the point that I can serve it on the Web to modem-connected viewers.

QuickTime Transition Samples

• Presentations created with QT Pro's Image Sequence command don't have transitions as shown in this example.

• You can create elegant transitions, such as these cross-fades, as illustrated in this sample authored in PowerPoint 2001 for the Mac.

• iMovie builds transitions from scratch as shown in this example.

• If you want to see the entire movie of a tradeshow floor being constructed then destructed, try this slideshow authored in PowerPoint 2001. File size is 4 MB and the movie time is 1:30.

The downside to using iMovie compared to PowerPoint is that I don't have as much graphical flexibility when preparing the individual frames, and that I have to build each transition by hand instead of having them "gang-generated."

The best tool for the job

In the end, choosing which application to use to create your presentation depends on where your movie is going to be presented. The QuickTime tools in PowerPoint are very impressive and accessible to just about anyone who wants to make a QT movie to distribute on media.

On the other hand, I think iMovie is a terrific tool for creating movies to be distributed via the Web or on video tape. Either way, I want both applications, plus others I'll be discussing in future columns, in my multimedia toolbox.

See you next time!

Derrick Story is the author of The Photoshop CS4 Companion for Photographers, The Digital Photography Companion, and Digital Photography Hacks, and coauthor of iPhoto: The Missing Manual, with David Pogue. You can follow him on Twitter or visit

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