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#29-More Options for Adding Audio Narration to PowerPoint Slides

May 12, 2003

LTA Overview

If I were a student taking a distance course, I believe one of the better ways to get acquainted with my instructor would be via a narrated PowerPoint presentation. I’m not talking about an instructor reading directly from the slides. I’m talking about the kind of presentation that makes you feel that the instructor is talking directly to you, adding comments, and making you feel as if you were actually sitting in the classroom with the instructor and getting to know him/her. There are several options for posting this presentation but, not all of them are practical. PowerPoint files can be large, especially when narration is included. This can make the delivery to the student an overwhelming challenge. The key issues we have to address are the size of the file that the end user has to download and whether or not “special software, plug-ins” etc. are required to be able to view the presentation. Let’s take a look at some software packages and options that I have evaluated for Internet use.


Leona Barratt
Faculty/Staff Development Specialist
Information Services
University of Nebraska-Lincoln


An earlier LTA (Week #5) described how it is possible to add audio narration to PowerPoint slides and then save the results as a QuickTime movie. This solution still works very well for Mac users, and once the QuickTime movie has been saved, it can be easily viewed by using the free QuickTime application installed on either a Windows machine or a Mac computer. Creating the QuickTime movie is not such an easy proposition for Windows user, however. For this reason, alternatives were sought that produced similar results for the creation of narrated PowerPoint slides. One of the solutions involves the use of RoboDemo. A second involves using a software product called Camtasia, and the last of the three solutions involves the use of a product called Impatica for PowerPoint.

PowerPoint offers the ability to save a presentation for the Web creating .html documents. With a few mouse clicks you can save your presentation as a web site. The only problem I had was that the file sizes of the accompanying audio were between 3-5 MB. Still, this is too large for web use.


Our PowerPoint file is 41 MB. Many students are still using modems to access the Web and a 41MB file would even be a challenge for those who had fast Internet connections. Keeping this in mind, I looked at ways to reduce the size of the PowerPoint file as much as possible and still have acceptable appearance and acceptable sound.

I decided to look at video screen recording packages that could make shockwave format files. The first one was RoboDemo software which takes the PowerPoint presentation and creates a shock wave format (SWF) file that almost all Web users can view. I did find there was a limit to the size for the SWF files. I learned that SWF files have a limit of about 13 minutes (not a RoboDemo issue, but an issue with the nature of SWF files). With the audio, my PowerPoint presentation was 14:43 making me have to break up the files.

When I exceeded the limit it caused my movie playback to stop. I had to jump through a couple of hoops to get around this problem. I divided the presentation into two parts. I had the first part link to the html page that I had created for the second part. The result was almost seamless, but did involve this extra work. I did find RoboDemo very user friendly and very editable. I really liked the frame structure of the software that allowed me to easily edit each slide of my presentation. This software permits the addition of text boxes, mouse movements and more but we’ll just concentrate on saving the document as is in a .swf format. I liked the ability to be able to add narration as single units for each slide by doing a screen capture. This would allow me to go back and easily change the narration on a particular slide at any time I wanted.


The result was a 2.27MB file that easily meets our needs.
http://www.ehelp.com/products/robodemo/ (Update: link no longer active)
Cost $599 with a May 2003 special of $449.

Update: January 2005
RoboDemo has been purchased by Macromedia and has been renamed Captivate. Current pricing is $499, and software information is available at http://www.macromedia.com/software/robodemo/.


Camtasia Studio was another package I tested. Camtasia was easy to use but did require a two step process for my desired results. I first used the Camtasia Recorder option to capture my PowerPoint file. This created an .avi file of my presentation that was 55.5MB. (Ouch) But then I could use the Camtasia Producer to select from several formats including my desired .swf format. The only part that would be a problem is narration. If I made a mistake while narrating I could ignore it, or I would have to start recording over again. My end result was a 2.5 MB file, again suitable for our needs.

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My resulting file was a .swf of 2.5 MB.
http://www.camtasia.com Cost $349

Impatica for PowerPoint

I also tested a software package called Impatica for PowerPoint . This was perhaps the easiest package of all. Being one who doesn’t like to open a manual this was very straight forward and intuitive. I simply selected my PowerPoint presentation and processed. In this case, Impatica created a java file for me not a .swf file. Java is a programming language expressly designed to distribute applications on the internet. Java also will run on most computers and creates small fast files.

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My resulting file was only 1.6 MB. Less than the other two but again limited editing ability as with Camtasia. For a narration mistake I would have to edit my PowerPoint file and start my recording process over again.

Cost $299

PresentationPro for PowerPoint

Thanks to Mark Freeman of the University of Technology, Sydney, Austalia, I have added another program that does a spiffy job of using the effective shockwave format for Powerpoint files. PresentationPro is a simple interface that also gave me good results.

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I downloaded and installed the trial version of PowerCONVERTER. After searching around the desktop for an icon to start PresentationPro and checking in my programs folder I felt a little foolish when I noticed the PowerCONVERTER executable right inside PowerPoint! I guess I wasn’t looking for something SO handy.

Again I had a very simple interface to save my Flash file. I did find that my .aif audio files didn’t work but my .wav files did. Again the software was only available for the Windows platform. My resulting file size was 2.3 MB.

Cost $299

All of these software packages include other features like text boxes, hyperlinks and all have a free trial download. I would suggest trying a couple of these to see which you are most comfortable with.



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