Microsoft Producer for PowerPoint 2003 Review

Making a PowerPoint presentation at an event any time soon? Looking for a way to deliver the presentation to people who won’t attend the event? All you need is a camcorder and a free 47 MB plug-in to PowerPoint called Producer. Producer is a tool that creates Web page presentations, with talking head narration, coordinated and timed to your existing PowerPoint slides.

How To:

The steps are simple: (1) Shoot yourself giving the presentation, (2) Use Producer to synchronize your slideshow to the video of your presentation and (3) Let Producer create the Web pages with your presentation. The Web pages can then be uploaded to the Internet, placed on your company’s intranet or distributed on CD-R.

If you already have video content you want to use, it is easy enough to import it into Producer. Producer can even capture video, depending on your hardware. You can load your PowerPoint presentation into Producer, hit play and record video from your camcorder directly to your hard drive as you give the presentation.

Our Tests

We test drove Producer on an HP xw4000 workstation with a 2.8GHz Pentium 4 CPU and 512MB of RAM running Windows XP Pro. We were pleased with Producer’s usability, speed and the resulting presentation. We first chose a template from Producer’s many offerings. The screen layout for most templates puts the PowerPoint slideshow on the right side of the screen, with a smaller video window on the left. Others make the video window dominate or you can use only a sound track and slides only, not showing a video window at all.

We chose the encoding settings Producer recommended (using Windows Media 9 codecs) for Web delivery to DSL and cable modem users. We placed a video of a lecturer giving a presentation about choosing microphones into the Video track of Producer’s timeline and then dropped the relevant PowerPoint slide show into the Slide track. When we clicked "Synchronize," a dialog box opened that asked whether we wanted to "set" or "preview" slide timing. We chose "set," then clicked the play button. This played the video from the timeline. We clicked the "Next Slide" button to advance slides at points cued to the video presentation. We found that we could now advance slides faster than about one per second, but that rate should be fast enough for most PowerPoint presentations.

Publish

When we were satisfied with the synchronization of our project, we clicked "Publish Presentation." In about ten minutes, Producer rendered and output our five-minute presentation to a set of HTML pages, JavaScript, GIF, JPG and Windows Media files into our folder. When we clicked the "Play" link on this Web page, the browser played the video and synced the slideshow to the video exactly.

Navigation controls were also available and we could play the slideshow from beginning to end or jump to various slides with video by clicking on the slide titles in the presentation outline.

One caution: many viewers will need to download the 3.75 MB MS Office Animation Runtime before they can watch your presentation. Producer worked well, was easy to use and created browser-based content from our video and PowerPoint assets ready to publish.

TECH SPECS


Version: 2003

Platform: PC

Operating System: Windows 2000, XP

Plug-in For: MS PowerPoint 2002, 2003

Processor: PII 400MHz

RAM: 128MB

Additional Requirements: audio/video capture device

Printed Manual: no

Demo Version: not applicable

Upgrade: not applicable

Download Size: 47MB

URL: www.microsoft.com/office/powerpoint/producer/prodinfo/default.mspx

STRENGTHS

  • Free
  • Presentations play on Mac and Windows
  • Automatic encoding, sychronization

WEAKNESSES

  • Windows authoring only
  • Viewer will often need a 3.8 MB download

SUMMARY

Producer 2003 is a free plugin for PowerPoint that exports presentations to a Web friendly format, complete with voice narration or talking head video.

Free Download

Microsoft Digital Media Division

One Microsoft Way

Redmond, WA 98052

www.microsoft.com

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