I've been re-listening to Mark Goodacre's podcasts on Mark and was sad to hear that he's now given up using video clips in lectures because they're too prone to go wrong. I've been there, done that and suffered the humiliation. However, when you have a bona fide excuse to a clip from Life of Brian to an audience largely unfamiliar with it, then it's just a crying shame if you have to pass it up.
As it happens I've not been allowed to leave it alone. Aside from my own need to use clips when I speak, part of my paid role also includes doing it for others. And then make it easy for someone non-technical to get it to work on the day. So I've had to push on through, and over the last year or two I've learnt a lot, made some discoveries and now feel I've pretty much honed the process to a relatively easy state. In the, somewhat optimistic, hope that I have I thought I would share what I do so anyone wanting to incorporate clips into future presentations can do so as well. You have to download a few pieces of free software, but once you've done that you should be away.
The key trick is to incorporate any potential clips into PowerPoint. I know PowerPoint is the Ryan Air of presentation software (everyone slags it off but uses it anyway) and I know that smug mac types will be reading this safe in the knowledge that everything they do is better than if they did it on a PC, but here's something for us lesser mortals. I for one actually like PowerPoint. It's a tool that's widely abused, and the majority of presentations are just awful, but if you take your time to "get it" then it's a great, if somewhat flawed, tool.
One of these flaws is that even in the more recent versions of PowerPoint, the only reliable video file type it can handle consistently is WMVs. But it's well worth doing, because once you've set it all up in the relatively pressure free, serenity of your office, then all you have to do is click for the next slide. You don't have to insert, wait for them to show all the different video logos, trailers, menus etc. (or hope that it's remembered the correct place to resume from). You don't have to open a new piece of software and drag the screen into the right place, or change the source on the video projector. You don't have to make sure you're alert so you stop it in the correct place. All you have to do is press the down arrow. Once.
So here's a quick guide as to how to get video clips converted into WMV files so that you can import them in to PowerPoint and start your clip just by clicking for the next slide.
Rambling over. Useful bit starts now
There are two major ways of doing this. It's worth getting both in your arsenal in case there's a problem with one or the other.
Method 1 - Import from YouTube
This has now become super easy thanks to the later versions of RealPlayer. If you don't have that on your PC already, then you need to download it. RealPlayer, bless 'em, have now incorporated two additional pieces of software into their free version, "Converter" and "Trimmer". They are both simple and do what they say. It also has a widget so that if you are watching a video in Internet Explorer it pops up to ask you if you want to download it. This means that you can download things off some other sites as well as YouTube. So you need to get Real Player. Generally I use Mozilla rather than IE, but most people have a copy of it anyway, and besides I think RealPlayer also allows you to just type in the URL and it will download it for you, anyway...
So here's what you do:
1 - Find the clip in YouTube. Watch in IE and when the box pops up (or if you right click) select "Download this video". The video will begin downloading.
2 - Open RealPlayer Trimmer. Find the video file you just downloaded and drag it into the Trimmer window. You then use the sliders to cut it down to where you want it. You can do this to within a second or two so it's not a hugely refined editing tool, but for lectures / presentations it's more than enough. Save this as a new file.
3 - Open RealPlayer Converter and drag the new file into the window. Then in the "Convert to" box select the WMV profile, set where you want to save it and go.
4 - Then open PowerPoint. Choose "Insert" and "Movie from File" (precise wording here will vary depending on version). I tend to use start automatically, but sometimes put a slide in before hand. It saves faffing around with a mouse trying to click in the right place. You can expand the video to a larger size and sometimes you have to change the width relative to the height (click on and drag in one direction only). You can hone this by watching the video through and looking for anything that should be a circle (sun, moon, car tyres etc.).
And there you go. Could hardly be more easy (although I suspect there is the odd short cut). However the downside is that YouTube vids are frequently low quality so here's a better way for higher quality clips.
Method 2 - Import from a DVD
This is obviously a little more tricky as DVD companies don't want their product to be pirated. But if you own the DVD you are using then I don't think that morally there's any difference. It's just a matter of convenience.
But to do this you have to download a few pieces of free software. The first is Handbrake. I have to admit this seems to work better on Macs, but I've recently discovered a critical setting I was overlooking before and so I think I should be fine now. However, just to be on the safe side I would also recommend using Freestar DVD Ripper. It's not quite as good as Handbrake, and sometimes you have to play around with the setting to get rid of unwanted subtitles, but it tended not to have the problem I now hope I've overcome with Handbrake. It's a useful second option.
You also need to download Any Video Converter which out of everything I've mentioned today is the software I've been using the longest (except for PowerPoint obviously). Once you've got those you're ready to go. Here's how
1 - Place DVD in drive and open Handbrake/Freestar. Select the chapters you want to rip and any other settings (it's worth playing around with these). Make sure you go to "Video filter" and select "Deinterlace". If it offers you a choice fast is usually OK. If you fail to do this it might go all odd looking. It's also worth keeping the video's size the same as the original. Click "start".
2 - Open Any Video Converter and "Add Video". In the "Video Codec" box on the right hand side choose "WMV V9". If you have a relatively recent version of this you should be able to trim it to the correct length here as well using the "start time" and "stop time" options on the right. Also worth making sure the video is the same size. If you need more volume this is the time to fiddle with that too (under "options".
3 - Then, as above, open PowerPoint, choose "Insert" and "Movie from File". See up their for tips. If you've done it this way there should be no problem making the movie fill the whole screen without a drop in quality. Note: for some reason the opening still that PowerPoint shows you when you've imported it is significantly lower quality than the film itself so don't worry if it looks a bit blotchy.
Having said all that here are a couple of other things to bear in mind.
1 - This is an easy process, but it's not necessarily quick. It's worth doing it whilst you are doing something else as the various stages take a while to complete once you click go/start.
2 - It's well worth watching your film before you're done. I think you end up doing it quite a few times naturally but critically do it once in the context of PowerPoint before you finish it, and once before your lecture in the actual room, this gives you a chance to check that you've plugged the sound in correctly and that everything is OK. You can then relax a bit more knowing that it should all be OK. And the beauty of it is that you don't have to rewind, or hope the DVD player slips into standby and so on. You just return to the relevant slide and click again.
3 - There is, however, one pitfall to avoid, which hopefully these checks will highlight. Unlike picture images, PowerPoint doesn't embed a copy of the video into the PowerPoint file. It only remembers the link, and how you've set it up to run. So if you're planning on taking your presentation along on a memory stick or a CD, or even if you've just saved the video on a drive which won't be available to you when you give your presentation, be careful. If you forget this you might end with no video.
It's easy to avoid though. You just need to make sure that both the presentation file and the video file(s) are all on your laptop / memory stick, and that your presentation is looking for them in the place where you've stored it. If you prep it all on your own laptop anyway this should be no problem (unless you move everything), but if you are using a memory stick / CD just be aware of that one.
4 - Next - legalities. I've written this to help those who are planning on using video clips anyway. But just because you can do it, doesn't mean that you are allowed to. I have no idea what the legal situation is in most countries. In the UK and many other places you can buy a licence from Christian Video Licensing International (CVLI). It doesn't cover all films, and technically you are still meant to be using the DVD rather than ripping a clip, but things are different for different contexts and countries so find out what applies where.
5 - Lastly, I have a couple more things to say about the much maligned PowerPoint. Yes, it's often bad, but it's also a very powerful tool for something that the average person can do without too much hassle. It's really worth getting to know. The best piece of advice I know for crafting presentations is to try and think of your slides as a billboard. Use a high impact image a small amount of text. Unlike some, I do think bullet-pointed list have their place - particularly if you are giving out lists, but always include a few high impact images. My mate Lee Jackson is a consultant on this kind of thing, and you can view a presentation of his on designing presentations, with a few top tips at slideshare.net which he's also had published in PSA magazine. And if you've not seen this video yet, then you really should.
The other thing is that very recently someone sent me a link to some new presentation software called Sparkol. There are costs involved with this but it's for add-ons rather than the basic cost (so you can get a feel for it) and it looks like it might be a good way to progress in the quality of your presentations. I've not tried it yet, but plan to do so very soon.
As the Bible says, pride comes before a fall, and typically just a few days after posting this I tried to use method two on a couple of films and had to resort to a slightly more complicated workaround. I can't remember precise details, but I had to use another free piece of free software - Windows Movie Maker - to trim one clip and I think I may have used RealPlayer Trim to do the other one. Obviously this has no bearing on the YouTube method, but I thought it would be worth noting that this sometime requires trying a few different combinations. See further notes for Mac users in the comments below