If you want to play high-quality videos in your powerpoint slides, this is a must-read to avoid embarrassing black box during your presentation.
- How does Powerpoint play videos?
Powerpoint doesn’t uses windows media player for video playback by default. Instead, It uses Media Control Interface (MCI). That means even if your videos play fine on windows media player, it has nothing to do with whether they will render fine in your presentation.
Take-away message: So you should always test your videos on MCI first!
Microsoft has an article explaining the How in details here.
- How to test videos on MCI?
You may test your machine set up by manually starting the MCI player and playing the media file. To do so, for Windows XP, click Start > Run and type “mplayer2.exe” in the command line box and click OK. This will start the MCI player (Not the Windows Media Player) used by PowerPoint. You may then open your media file in the normal manner and play it. If the media fails to play in the MCI player it will not play properly in PowerPoint. (Note, Microsoft removed the MCI executable from Windows Vista, however the functionality is the same in PowerPoint.)
- Crap, my files don’t play on MCI, now what?
Solution 1: Convert videos to .wmv and disable Hardware Acceleration!
Convert all your videos to the powerpoint-friendlier windows media format(.wmv). To do so, you may download Windows Media Encoder, which is a great tool that does the convertion for free.
However, .wmv isn’t the entire magic solution. When your videos are encoded at a high bit-rate for quality purpose, MCI might fail to render properly. This is partly due to the DirectX technology MCI uses. To work around, you need to disable or turn down Hardware Acceleration.
- Click on Start > Control Panel.
- In the classic view, double click on the Display icon.
- Select the Settings tab and click on the Advanced button. The Advanced Settings dialog box appears.
- Click on the Troubleshoot tab.
- You can disable the hardware acceleration completely by dragging the slider to the extreme left of the scale. Or you can also choose to turn down the hardware acceleration by selecting an intermediate value.
Now your videos should play fine in MCI, thus Powerpoint.
Solution 2: Convert videos to .mpg using QuicktimePro and that’s it!
MCI doesn’t support quicktime .mov files, but it supports MPEG-4 very well. So this solution uses QuicktimePro to convert all videos into MPEG-4 format. Notably, I’m using H.264 codec as it’s currently one of the best codecs out there. Here are the detailed steps:
- Open your video in QuicktimePro
- Select export… under File
- Choose Movie to MPEG-4, and click Options
- Choose H.264 for Video Format
- Set Data Rate to 4000 kbits/sec (this is suffice quality for most videos)
- Set Image Size and Frame Rate accordingly
- Hit OK to convert
- Change the file extension from .mp4 to .mpg so that Powerpoint can recognize the file as video for insertion
Once converted, there is no need to disable hardware acceleration, and the .mpg videos should play properly in MCI.
I personally recommend Solution 2, as no performance needs to be sacrificed, although you need to have QuickTimePro.
Solution 3: Bypass MCI & just Embed Windows Media Player
If the aforementioned MCI trick doesn’t work for you, there is another route: bypass MCI and just embed Windows Media Player in a PowerPoint slide full-screen. Here are the detailed steps:
- Go to the slide where you want your video to appear.
- You will need the control toolbox to be displayed. Click View > Toolbars > Control Toolbox, click on the last icon which should be “More Controls”. (For PowerPoint 2007, Click Developer tab. Under Controls, click on the icon “More Controls”.)
- Scroll to the bottom and click Windows Media Player. Cursor changes to crosshairs.
- Start at the top left corner and draw a box that covers the entire slide. Right click in the middle of your slide and select Properties. This will bring up the properties dialog box.
- Double-click fullscreen so it is set to True. In the URL setting, enter the filename of your video (include the path if it’s in a different directory).
- Close the dialog box and you are done.
If you have many videos to show in your slides, this solution could become tedious as you have to embed the windows media player for every slides you wanna play video on.
To this end, I would really hope Microsoft to step up and solve this. MCI issue has been there for over 10 years, and the success of PowerPoint urges MS to really perfect it.
If the solutions don’t work for you, feel free to comment/email me.