By Ryan | March 10, 2014 | 0 Comment
I had an idea this week while on show site. I’m willing to bet a fair number of you reading this have used Microsoft Powerpoint in a live presentation setting. Many of you have also had a production crew to support you. Judging from the praise and thank you’s at the end of the show, those that have had a high level of support understand that a lot goes on backstage and front of house, to make sure your presentation is smooth and just like you practiced at home or in the office. A big part of that deals with communication from graphics (the realm in which your powerpoint technician resides) and their counterparts in audio and video. Unfortunately, the tools provided in PowerPoint leave a lot of presenters not wanting to “push it” by adding interesting content, such as audio or video.
This is mostly due to a few translational problems from your computer, to the one that the show is operating from. I will add a post later explaining why this is the preferred setup for most production companies, but for now, just trust me when I tell you that everything can work perfect if you follow a few rules. Which, again I will explain in detail, but for now, the basics are just having enough time to work with your file. So, assuming that you turned in your talk early, and you do have videos or audio, it’s safe to assume that you have already heard the video or audio on an identical preview computer, or that very one in the room. This brings me to the point of the idea I had. If everything has worked up until now, you should be confident that your video and or audio files will be seen and heard in the room.
Backstage, the graphics operator is using what is called “presenter mode”, which shows the current slide, and the one coming up, or they are using a second computer in slide sorter mode to follow along and preview what is coming. This method works fantastic for knowing when a speaker change is about to occur, when an award is to be given, or when a slideshow is coming to an end. Sometimes it also works to see when a video is coming, like when the first frame of the video is black, or there’s an obvious movie frame visual on the slide. But not all movies have audio, and not all non-movie slides are silent. Audio engineers do not like the risk of unwanted noises, so they often have the computer input muted. It is up to Graphics to give the audio engineer the heads up that sound is about to play. And, unless your operator really knows this slide deck, through uninterrupted repeated rehearsals, or a lot of free time, a visual of what sound may be coming would be helpful.
This is the idea I had. It would be nice if Microsoft would add a volume icon like this: this: or this: or this (for muted sound): right before the slide plays, but also in the slide sorter to easily locate when audio needs to be unmated for playback. It’s a simple small thing, but if does not exist right now. So, in the mean time, if you want to take action to help your Powerpoint technician, let them know what slide numbers will have audio, or what videos you would like muted. Writing them down with slide numbers really is the best way, until Microsoft decides to read this post and make that change.