Audio slideshows are something I’ve included in my practical teaching for a little while. The combination of images and well recorded audio is, for me, a compelling form of content and it can be an easy video win for non-broadcast shops.
When I work with the students and journalists exploring the concept, I try and look for free or cheap solutions to the production process. In the past I’ve used everything from Windows Movie Maker to Youtube’s simple editor app to put packages together. But this year when I was putting the workshops together, I wanted to focus on social platforms and go native video on Instagram.
Video on Instagram
It’s not the first time I’ve looked at Instagram video. A few years ago, having seen a presentation about the BBC’s Instafax project (in 2014!), I had a look at cheap and free tools to use to create video for Instagram. But things have moved on — like the BBC’s use of Instagram.
So I started to look at how I might use the combination of accessible tools with a view to doing an update on that post. I found my self thinking about Powerpoint.
When I talk to students about video graphics, I often point them to presentation apps like Google Slides and Powerpoint as simple ways to create graphic files for their video packages. They have loads of fonts, shapes and editing tools in a format they are familiar with (more of them have made a powerpoint presentation than worked with video titling tool!). The standard widescreen templates are pretty much solid for most video editing packages, and you can export the single slides as images. So I took a quick look at Powerpoint to remind myself of the editing tools. Whilst I was playing around with export tools, I discovered that it had an export to video. So I opened up powerpoint to see how far I could go and about an hour later and some playing around and I had the video below.
I worked through the process on a Windows version of Powerpoint, but the basic steps are pretty much the same for a Mac. If you’re on a MAC then Keynote is also a good alternative which will do all of the stuff you can do with powerpoint but with the added bonus that it will also handle video.
Here’s what I did. (You can download the Powerpoint file and have a look I’m making that available as CCZero)
You can see a video walk-through of parts of the process or scroll down for more details.
- Open Powerpoint and start with a basic template
- Click the Design Tab and then select Slide Size > Custom Slide Size(Page Setup on Mac)
- Set the width and height to an equal size to give us the Square aspect ratio of Instagram. Click OK. Don’t worry about the scaling warning
You can now play around with the editing tools to place text, images and other elements on each slide.
The tools to add shapes and text are pretty straightforward, but one effect that seems popular is ‘typewriter’ style text, where the words animate onscreen. Luckily thats built in on Powerpoint.
- Add a Text box and enter the text. Make sure you have the text box selected not the text
- Go to the Animations tab, select the text box and click on Appear.
- Open the Animations Pane in the tool bar
- In the Animations pane right-click on the text box (it will be named with any text you’ve added) appropriate animation and select Effect Options
- In the Animate text select by word. You can speed the text up using the delay setting (Note. You can’t do this with the Mac version).
For the rest, its worth experimenting with basic transitions and animations before you try anything too complex. Once you start to get separate elements moving around you’ll need to think about text as separate elements — you’ll end up with ‘layers’ of text; but that’s no different from a video editor.
A common feature of Audio Slideshows on Instagram (and other social platforms) is that the text drives the story; the audio is often music or location sound that adds a feel for the story. In this example I used sound that I recorded on the scene but you could use any audio e.g. a music track.
You can also adjust the timing of slides to match the audio or just to give you control over the way slides transition and display.
Exporting your video
Once you’re happy with your presentation you can create a vide version:
- Click the File tab
- Select Export > Create a Video
You have a few choices here. The quality setting allows you to scale the video. Presentation quality exports at 1080×1080; Internet quality 720×720 and Low Quality at 480×480. I went for Internet Quality as it kept the file size down without compromising the quality too much.
You can also set the video to use the timings you set up in each slide or to automatically assign a set time to each slide. Which one you pick will depend on the type of video you want to make.
Getting video on Instagram
Instagram has no browser interface for uploading. So once the video is exported, you’ll need to transfer the final file to your mobile device. I didn’t struggle emailing files around but you might want to look at alternatives like WeTransfer or GoogleDrive as a way of moving the files around from desktop to mobile device.
It’s worth noting, even belatedly, that your video doesn’t have to be square. Instagram is happy with standard resolutions of video. You could use a standard 16×9 template and Instagram will be fine. I just wanted to be a bit more ‘native video’. But there is nothing stopping you setting up templates for Twitter video (W10cm X H5.6cm Landscape video) or Snapchat (W8.4 cm X H15cm — Portrait video).
There are limitations to using Powerpoint;
- You need Powerpoint — It’s an obvious one, but I recognise that not everyone has access Office. That said. It can also be the only thing people do have! It’s a trade off.
- Its not happy with video — If I embed a video into the presentation, Powerpoint won’t export that as part of the video. According to the help file there are codec issues. I haven’t experimented with windows native video formats which may help but it seems like a bit of a mess. It’s a shame. It will take an MP4 from an iphone and play it well. It will spit out an MP4 but it won’t mix the two! Those of you on a mac, this is the point to move to Keynote. Keynote is quite happy to include video.
- Effects can get complicated — once you get beyond a few layers of texts then the process of animation can be tricky. In reality its no more or less tricky than layering titles in Premier Pro. The Animation Pane also makes this a little easier by giving you a timeline of sorts.
- Audio can be a faff — The trick with anything other than background sound is timing. Knowing how long each slide needs to be to track with the audio can add another layer of planning that the timeline interface of an editing package makes more intuitive.
- It’s all about timing — without a timeline, making sure your video runs to length is a pain. With the limitations of some platforms that could mean some trial and error to get the correct runtime.
But problems aside, once you’ve set up a presentation to work, I could see it easily being used as a template on which to build others. The slideshows are also pretty transferable as media is packaged up in the ppt file.
It’s not an ‘ideal’ solution but it was fun seeing just where you could take the package as an alternative platform for social video.