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Feds Discover the PowerPoint-QuickTime Connection


About three hours into my flight back from Washington DC, I started digging around in my e-mail, hoping to find something interesting to read. Fortunately, I uncovered this gem titled, "IP: State Dept. Web: new movie, report on terror."

It was a note on the Farber mailing list from John Aravosis that read,

"I thought your list might be interested in knowing that as part of the public diplomacy war, the State Department's office of International Information Programs (IIP) just today released a new QuickTime movie and glossy report called the "The Network of Terrorism," about the war on terrorism. Both products are pretty slick, and worth a look (they also contain some good info regarding the case against Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda -- and the report has been translated into over 30 languages, since in many countries they haven't even seen most of the pictures of the WTC attack that we take for granted now)."

I saved the note, and as soon as I got back to bandwidth I downloaded the huge 45MB movie. I was curious about two things: first, is the movie engaging and effective, and second, what Web multimedia tools have caught the government's eyes these days?

You'll never guessed what they used ...

The movie wasn't "fast start" enabled, so I had to wait for the entire 45MB file to download before I could see the first frame. Clearly this persuasive presentation is aimed at high-bandwidth users with powerful computers.

Once the movie began to play, I discovered that the 4:02 minute video was actually a slide show combining text, images, and music. Anyone who reads this column knows that I'm an unabashed fan of slideshows, and I believe that if QuickTime has done anything for photographers, it's finally given us the tools to bring our still pictures to life and make engaging presentations with them.

As I watched the elegant transitions flow from one to another, it reminded me of an earlier column I had written about using PowerPoint (PPT) for QuickTime authoring, PowerPoint Vs iMovie for Creating Transitions. The government must have stumbled across this cool use of PPT just like the rest of us.

To Fast Start or Not

Here's the original QuickTime movie published by the State Dept. It's 45.1MB and has no fast start (you better have bandwidth!). In comparison, here's a recompressed version (4.4MB) that uses the QDesign Music 2 and Photo - JPEG codecs, has fast start enabled, but alas, no cross-fade transitions. What's the better way to go? You decide.

The irony is that I had just finished taking a preliminary look at the beta version of PowerPoint X for Mac OS X. The Microsoft team has continued to better integrate PowerPoint's tools with the QuickTime media layer. By doing so, they've put QuickTime authoring within the reach of business professionals and students who wouldn't normally consider creating these types of cross-platform presentations.

One of my favorite features in the latest version of PPT is the ability to choose either QuickTime or PowerPoint transitions for your slideshows. If you know that your final product is going to be a QT movie, then you can use its native transitions right from the get-go. Sweet.

The nicest thing about all of this is that PowerPoint gives you a terrific canvas for adding text, backdrops, graphics, and effects -- all within one easy-to-use environment. You can save your master file as a PPT presentation, allowing you to go back and change it at any time. Then, if you want to stream it on the Web or distribute to a wider audience via CD, you can export it to QuickTime.

But there's always a catch ...

Comment on this article Have you discovered any nifty workarounds for creating fast-starting QuickTime movies with PowerPoint?
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Also in QuickTime Authoring:

Digital Still Cameras for QuickTime Movies, Part Two

Digital Still Cameras for QuickTime Movies, Part One

Amazing Media Player Brings PDA Video to Life

The trip wire that creators of "Defend" stumbled on wasn't really their fault, that is, the absence of the "fast start" capability for their PowerPoint presentation saved to QuickTime.

Here's the problem. Even though the "Save to Movie" feature in PowerPoint includes some nice setting options, a key one that's missing is "fast start." You might say to yourself, "Well, that's no problem, I'll just export it again in QuickTime Pro and activate that option when I recompress it."

Well, you can certainly do that, but PowerPoint X creates transitions (using sprite tracks) that don't survive the QT Pro export process, and you get a fast-starting movie with no transitions, just cuts.

I've combed the preferences settings in PowerPoint X, and haven't found a way to include "fast start" in the original export. If it were there, then that would solve our problem. It's true, you'd always have to export directly from PowerPoint to get both the transitions and the "fast start" capabilities, but that's not such a bad tradeoff for the ease of creating sophisticated slide shows in a user-friendly environment. But alas, to my knowledge, no "fast start."

So where does that leave us? In my opinion, I really like having the QuickTime options in PowerPoint X, but if the final destination for your project is the Web, and you're using PowerPoint, then you're going to have to choose between slick transitions or "fast start." Personally, I think "fast start" is more important. This doesn't rule out using PPT for QuickTime authoring, not by any means. But you need to be aware of the trade offs going in to the project.

By the way, LiveSlideShow 2.0 was just released by Totally Hip Software, and they've incorporated a "Save to Web" feature that not only assembles the QuickTime file for you, but writes an additional HTML page for displaying the movie. Very nice. (I won't even mention that you can now add a soundtrack to your presentation in LSS...)

So, let me know what you think. If you've developed any helpful workarounds when using QuickTime Pro and PowerPoint together, please submit a TalkBack and share it with our readers.

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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