In recent days, I prepared an e-portfolio for a product offered by my Company. The e-portfolio was prepared in 2 formats – Slidecast and Movie (WMV format) – using tools already available on my desktop, free tools available online and a daily use digital Dictaphone.
I truly am amazed by the variety of options available to make an audio-visual; ease of use of these tools and the flexibility with which they can be applied/combined with different applications.
I share here my experiences with making and using these audio-visuals.
As you may have guessed, the slidecast had two main components – A text document and a voiceover. The text document was created using Microsoft’s Powerpoint and the voiceover was recorded using a simple digital recorder – in this case an everyday use Dictaphone that records in WMV format.
In order to integrate the text and the voiceover, I uploaded the Powerpoint onto Slideshare. However, before Slideshare can be used to integrate the Powerpoint with the voiceover, the format of the voiceover had to be changed from WMV to MP3. This was easy enough with Audacity – a free software available online. Audacity is an awesome software that allows one to do a lot of great stuff like background noise reduction, enhancing pitch, speeding up the playback and integrating multiple tracks. All these were necessary as recording with a Dictaphone does have its limitations and quality enhancements were desired and much required.
After conversion from WMV format to MP3 (using my nonexistent RJ skills), I uploaded the voiceover onto Slideshare. It was at this stage that my nightmare began. The voiceover would just not upload and I would be bombarded with error messages, the most common of which were:
- uploading errors onto Slideshare; and
- my computer’s shockwave crashing, repeatedly.
It so turned out that the uploading errors were related to the antivirus installed on my computer, and once I has turned it off, the task was accomplished without much fuss. I also discovered that the problems I was having with shockwave were related my using Chrome as my browser. Apparently, uploading a voice file onto slideshare is a resource intensive exercise and the way chrome works it enhances the problem – as a result, my computer simply did not have enough resources to function properly. Once I switched to using Microsoft Explorer, the problem vanished.
My next challenge related to synchronising the Powerpoint slides with the voiceover, which was easy once I got the hang of it. Slideshare being compatible with WordPress, there was not much problem in uploading the document onto my website.
Friends, whom I asked to critique the slidecast, indicated that they faced some problems when they tried to view it on my website. The main problem (apart from production issues) related their ability to load and view the slidecast, which being resource intensive would not load properly or would load after appreciable time had lapsed, a fact that was validated by the repeated crashing my computer’s shockwave when I tried to access the webpage using Chrome.
Based on the feedback, I decided to prepare another audio-visual, this time in Movie format. In this case, the Powerpoint file and the voiceover were integrated using Windows Movie Maker – software that is available on all windows based machines. However to use Windows Movie Maker, the following have to be kept in mind.
- Powerpoint slides need to be saved in JPEG File Interchange Format, which is easily done using the saveas function
- The voiceover should be in WMV format, which was the original format of my audio recording. However for the purpose of the Movie, I used a WMV version from Audacity (as the audio needed cleaning-up).
Once I had the JPEG files and the WMV audio file, the integration was easy. Windows Movie Maker has some neat features and allows an impressive title slide to be made and the transitions between slides using animations. The Movie was then uploaded onto YouTube to convert it into flash video format after which it was uploaded onto my website.
One aspect to note here is that when Powerpoint slides are converted to JPEG they lose a certain something in quality. However the Movie format is less system resources intensive and works better in Indian conditions, which is plagued by slow internet connectivity.
Overall, both Slidecasts and Movies are easy to make. The preference for one format over the other is dependent of one’s individual needs including available system resources and speed of connectivity.