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Videotaping Live PowerPoint Presentation

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Clint Jackson
Videotaping Live PowerPoint Presentation
on Nov 6, 2009 at 11:24:24 pm

I need to video tape a live presentation of a speaker using PowerPoint.

Any suggestions on getting the best picture, especially the lighting? It seems like either the speaker is too dark or the PowerPoint screen is blown out and is not readable.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Videotaping Live PowerPoint Presentation
on Nov 8, 2009 at 8:10:54 pm

It is very hard to light for both the screen and the speaker at the same time when shooting single-camera. So don't, unless you have a good budget. Light and set camera for the speaker primarily and lock your iris manually. You are taping this, so you can add the powerpoint back during post in much higher quality than grabbing it off the screen with the lens and fighting bad light levels and contrast and keystoning of the screen, etc.

You must obtain a copy of the powerpoint show from the speaker, preferably in advance. Or bring blank media to copy it off at the event, this is why you come in early to set up.

Shooting with two cameras lets you optimize each shot for the subject it is on, nice if you can afford it and useful if there is no way you will be able to obtain the slides later... but adds time to the edit in synching up the tracks to fake a live switch. If you can't score a dedicated second camera for the screen, often you can tap into the video cables feeding the projector, and record the slides to a DVD or video tape on a deck you bring along. A scan converter is more elegant for this, and you can buy one as cheap as $100, but you may be able to just use the S-video or composite video tap coming out of their laptop, or out of the projector. Advance scouting will tell you what setup you face and what adaptations you will need to make.

When shooting these things single-camera, I only occasionally put the speaker and the screen in the same wide shot, as a way to keep track where in the slide show he is. But I import all the slides as tiff files in post and use that when I need to show slide text. In that setup, you can alternate between speaker full-frame, slide full-frame, and a 2-box of speaker cropped into a box next to the slide. This looks very neat and fancy even if the material isn't. Shooting with one camera only, if you are smart about when you make transitions, you can pop the shot back and forth between tight and wider single shots, knowing that the slide graphic will cover the transition. That lets you make it look like you had more than one camera, and the changing of framing helps add a visual punctuation to sections of the speech.

Don't try to make slow smooth zooms in this case, disengage the servo and make it instant flicks in or out, bam, bam, bam, zooming manually in the split seconds where the speaker takes a pause for a breath or has just finished a complete thought. Less bad footage to have to cover that way. You hold a medium as the speaker intros the slide. When he's into point number one, BAM, pop to a tighter close-up for that and hold it during the other bullet points. As he's wrapping up the bottom bullet, BAM, zoom back out for the shot where you hope he'll make a transitional remark or two, then repeat. For major section shots, You can widen out to let some of the slide screen creep into a third of the frame, but always expose for the talent first.

I light with a softened spot and take care to flag off the light with barn doors and black foil to a confined area of the podium so as not to throw spill onto the screen. I position my lights off to the sides so as not to blind the speaker looking forward to his audience.

Editorial comment follows:

If you are just shooting the slides with nothing but voiceover reading the slides, not adding any additional information or analysis, then this is not television, it is somebody reading an email or pdf out loud. It is radio, with pictures. They could make that themselves at their desk with a copy of camtasia. There is really no reason to shoot that, other than someone is making you do so. You should advise the client as tactfully as you can that they are not harnessing the true power of the medium by reading aloud to people who all went to college and can read much faster than that. Unless the speaker adds something more than what is on the slides, you are wasting everyone's time and money.

Often, if they understand that, they still may not care; programs that are that simple are often something mandated to satisfy a check box on some form upstairs, and everybody just has to slog thru it. But that doesn't mean YOU shouldn't care: always strive to make even a tedious thing like this the very best you can; add value, even if they don't immediately appreciate it. The better you can polish these... um, works, the more status you build with the clients until eventually they respect your opinions on how to make the thing better. Sometimes the best advice to give is to honestly say the subject matter is better served as print documents or self-navigating hypertext and not a linearly-viewed video.

If they understand that you are a communications professional, trying to advise them on how best to solve their communication problem, rather than just accepting their money when they don't really know what they want or could have that's better for them... well, the times I have done this, it only added to my reputation and client rapport that they knew I was truly looking out for their best interest and best value, even if it meant "losing" an immediate sale. I've got a secret for you - usually winning their trust and respect this way pays off bigger in the end than just mutely accepting the crap assignment without a peep. Now, after all of that has been said and done, they may still insist you go ahead and do the crap work. Then you do it. With a smile.

But at least you can sleep well, knowing you tried.

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Neil Myers
Re: Videotaping Live PowerPoint Presentation
on Jan 12, 2010 at 2:48:39 am

You make several good points about the futility of reading a bad PowerPoint. I couldn't agree more.

That said, there are occasions when a client needs a recording of a PowerPoint preso recorded and put online. Let's assume, for a minute that the PPT is actually well written and that the script does more than just read the text on the screen.

You mentioned Camtasia in your reply almost in a pejorative sense, but I think that is actually good advice and probably a better solution in the case I've described (and perhaps what the original poster is looking for).

We are actually setting this up right now for a client. They will run Camtasia to capture the preso's and then send to us. We will clean the capture up and add a professional voice over along with a standard intro and exit. It is inexpensive for the client and they get a nice professional version of the PPT for those times when the presenter cannot be there.

Neil Myers
Connect Public Relations
CS4 Master Suite, 3DS

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