Summary: Manually changing the background SWF images in Articulate Presenter published files can add spice to your presentations.

Difficulty:
Medium

Making your presentations beautiful

Sometimes, you want to go that bit further and really impress your clients. Well, one way to do that, is to swap that static, boring background in your PowerPoint slides for an animated one.

This works great in PowerPoint, but if you start converting those presentations with Articulate Presenter, then the chances are, your publishing will get stuck and at best you’ll have a presentation without those animations. So how about hacking your files (again) and getting those animations to appear just how you want them to?

Demo 1

Have a look at this quick demo I put together in about an hour or two. It gives you some ideas of what you can do.

Background Demo 

View Demo

All the backgrounds were created from looping videos I had and which I converted to Flash (SWF).

Demo 2

Background animations can also be useful if you want to add labels or text to describe a video. This is not supported if you insert your video at the slide level. Have a look at this example where I have simply placed a background video to provide the backdrop for a short lesson on sharks. 

The demo is actually completely non-interactive and lasts about 4 minutes so if you have a bit of time on your hands, watch it until the end. It plays with transparency effects and the background video and shows just a few of the many things you can do with an animated background.

Notice the blue transparency over the video to allow text to be read more easily, plus the transparency of most of the images and callouts.

sharks1

View Demo

 

(Incidentally, I had intended this demo to have an interactive menu to go from question to question or at the very least to go back to the start but for some mysterious reason, I lost my original PowerPoint file and that reminded me how important it is to keep a backup of a project PowerPoint file.

It is better to be paranoid about losing a file than not backing up at all and being sorry later. In the end I salvaged the published files I had produced, deleted some slides and put it in its non-interactive state that you see above. Editing published files without the original project files will probably be the subject of another article.

Another thing I would have done in this demo is to have a non-animated background for my first slide to avoid the sharks appearing before the title slide appears.)

How do you do it?

So what do you need to produce background animations with Articulate Presenter.

  • A program capable of producing SWF files at a particular size and ideally capable of converting video too.

    I am not going to give you any names but most SWF creation programs or video converting software should be able to create a SWF file at a size of 576 x 432 pixels. This is the magic size you will need to be able to integrate it perfectly into your presentation in Presenter 5. (NOTE: If you are using Presenter ’09, you need to create your SWF file at the size of 720 x 540 pixels)

    The other option, of course, is to create your background SWF using Articulate Presenter. Simply create your background as you would like it to appear by designing it in PowerPoint. Make yourself an extra slide and call it background or better still, create a special presentation which you will use to create your background SWF.

  • Videos to use as backgrounds.

    You can of course create your own. Film a scene that relates to your content but make sure there is not too much movement or this will distract the student from your main content. Convert to Flash at a size of 576 x 432 pixels for Presenter 5 and 720 x 540 pixels for Presenter ’09.

Think  about design

  • You will need to create your PowerPoint presentation first but have in mind what kind of background you want to show in your slides.

    * Do you want the background showing in all slides, or just in your title slide, for example?

    * Do you want to have different background effects or just one?

  • Once you have determined where you want your background animation(s), then you need to use a common layout for those slides that will have a common background.

    Each unique layout that you use in PowerPoint will create a unique background slide.

    So if you are using multiple background animations, you need to keep a track of the layouts you are using. You can change the actual way the layout has been arrange afterwards, but PowerPoint will give it a particular background and Articulate Presenter will convert it accordingly into a background SWF file in the published files.

  • Once your PowerPoint file has been completed and published with Articulate Presenter, you then simply swap the existing background SWF files with the ones that you have specially created.

    I often make my custom background SWFs in third-party software and copy DIRECT to my Articulate Presenter published files folder once I have published with Articulate Presenter. Of course, every time you publish in Articulate Presenter, you need to republish your custom background SWF files. If you have created your backgrounds with Articulate Presenter in another presentation, then you just need to copy those over the originals.

The background SWF files are located in your published files folder.  Open the data folder.

sharkfilestructure

 

Then open the SWF folder.

 

sharkfilestructure2 

The background SWF files are distinguished by their names. They begin with "bg" and in PowerPoint 2007 and Articulate Presenter 5.3, they have the name "bgd1l1.swf" where the last digit represents the slide on which the background first appears. In PowerPoint 2003 or PowerPoint 2000, they have names similar to: "bgsm1.swf"

sharkfilestructure3

Once you have replaced the existing background SWF files with your own custom files, then launch the presentation with the player.html file and you’ll be able to see your new animated presentation.

Don’t republish with Articulate Presenter or you will lose all the manual changes you have made.

Then upload your presentation to your server or your LMS.


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29 Responses

  1. trondk says:

    if you are on macosx (using VM Ware to run Windows and Articulate) then there is a free tool called Quartz Composer that will let you create som fantastic backgrounds that can be exported to quicktime and then converted to .swf. I have used it to create backgrounds for presentations and create screensavers. Quartz Composer is a part of xcode (free download).

    Take a look at this
    http://www.zugakousaku.com/index.php?ref=study-quartz-en-sample-0

    /trondk

  2. [...] How to Create A Background Animation For Articulate Presenter By daveperso Once you have replaced the existing background SWF files with your own custom files, then launch the presentation with the player.html file and you’ll be able to see your new animated presentation. Don’t republish with Articulate … Daveperso’s Hackers’ Blog – http://daveperso.mediaenglishonline.com/ [...]

  3. Lisa says:

    I really appreciate this post. I know you wouldn’t give names for the .swf converter, but I would be grateful if off line, you’d be willing to recommend a couple. There’s a sea of converters out there and its difficult to choose a good one, that’s not too expensive.

    Any input would be great!

    Again, thanks for these tips!
    Lisa

  4. daveperso says:

    I would go for a cheaper conversion tool for basic needs. There a number of free tools one of which is Format Factory ( http://www.formatoz.com/) which seems to be ok. It’s main drawback, as far as I can see, is its inability to silence or edit the audio in a video file. Cheap software includes VIDEOzilla, On2′s Flix Standard. I would download a trial first to check that it converts and works fine on your machine.

  5. Lisa says:

    Cool. Thanks so much for the recommendations. I really do appreciate it!

  6. Peter says:

    Format Factory actually does allow you to silence audio. Just use the “Custom” setting.

  7. daveperso says:

    Hi Peter, thanks for your comment. Format Factory released an update to their program a month or so ago which does indeed allow you to silence the audio now. Thanks for pointing this out.

  8. [...] menu. However, you might be able to modify the workaround in the link below for your needs: How to Create A Background Animation For Articulate Presenter For more information on adding Flash files with Articulate, please see the link below: [...]

  9. Mdw says:

    Hi Dave,

    Is the output ratio of 576 x 432 suitable for Presenter ’09 too?

    I have a SWF file, converted to that size using Format Factory but it doesn’t take up the whole slide, only one corner of it.

    Any suggestions would be appreciated…

  10. daveperso says:

    Thanks for bringing this up.

    No, the output ratio has changed for Presenter ’09. It is now 720 x 540.

  11. Mdw says:

    Okay, thanks for the info.

  12. Mdw says:

    One more question: Does it matter what the FPS of the SWF is?

    I’ve seen it referenced that Presenter works best with 30fps swfs, but I’d like to keep the file size down by cutting out frames. Would it make any difference?

  13. daveperso says:

    I am not sure on that question. You’ll have to try it out. Presenter ’09 now works at 30 fps but it is possible that you could manually insert 15 fps animations in the background. You need to see if it affect the other output, audio, movies, animations. I personally would still opt for the 30 fps, just to be on the safe side but it might work.

  14. [...] and one in the slide. This is not supported but you can find instructions on how to do this here: How to Create A Background Animation For Articulate Presenter 5) Create a single Flash movie from your two independent Flash movies and insert that into [...]

  15. [...] of which becomes the background for subsequent slides. The only way to do this seamlessly is to change the slide background swf in the published "swf" folder. If I insert the swf on each slide, the background "blinks" with the slide transitions. [...]

  16. [...] Flash animations Yes it does work. I wrote an article about this some time back for Presenter 5. As Justin says, for Presenter ’09 the dimensions are now [...]

  17. [...] 2: Le même SWF sur un fond de SWF (voir cette article pour des informations (en anglais) sur comment créer des animations de [...]

  18. Arvind says:

    Hi Dave,

    Many thanks for this post. I created a swf file in Snagit , with Text Pop-up hotspot and replaced the existing background file in the DATA folder. When I run the presentation, everthing works well but the left outline(border)in the player skin disappears.

    I used 720×540 dimensions and AP ’09. Please Advice.

    • daveperso says:

      Hi Arvind,

      Are you able to test with a regular non-Snagit SWF to see if it works ok? This would eliminate errors in your Presenter settings as being the cause of the issue. If it just happens with the Snagit SWF, then that suggests that the Actionscript or code in the Snagit SWF is interfering with the Articulate player for which there is little you can do. Also make sure you are using the latest version of Snagit. The earlier releases of version 9 were causing errors. When I have a second, I’ll give it a try myself.

  19. Arvind says:

    Dave,
    I used Snagit 9 to create the swf and when I tried with a swf file created with camtasia the problem was no more. Still , Since I can’t create pop-ups using Camtasia, I’m trying to create a SWF using some other software.I’ll update once I solve this issue. Thanks a lot, for your prompt reply.

  20. [...] As far as the background, after publishing the course, I swapped out the background .swf with a custom .swf.  It’s similar to what Dave Moxon describes in this blog post about adding animated backgrounds. [...]

  21. Corey says:

    What if the movie I want to play in the background isn’t a full screen, I want just a clip running in the background, and want to be able to put other objects on top of it as necessary. I want to create two backgrounds, both have the same background colors, but my title slide will have a larger bar with animation video in the center of the page, and my slides will have a smaller bar with animation throughout the rest? I have the video’s converted to SWF files, however, I am unsure how to put the background together with the video now if I were to use your suggestion and replace the SWF in the published file. I do not have Flash, or any other place I can “layout” the image and video together to save as one video file.. Does that make sense??

  22. daveperso says:

    Hi Corey, Thanks for the question! If you create an animated background slide, then you create any objects you like on top. So the viewer does not need to see that the whole background is a movie. Basically your slide backgrounds will need to be on the slide itself (just duplicate from one slide to another). You mustn’t use a master slide for your slide backgrounds.

    The easiest way to create your background animation and do the layout with the image and video is via Articulate Presenter. Create a PowerPoint file and then place the video and image on the slide (using Import Movie on the Presenter menu for the video). Publish the presentation (the single slide) and then extract the slide1.swf in the data/ swf folder of your published files. That is your background animation in the correct size (540 x 720). Then follow the article above and replace the background of your final presentation with this slide1.swf file. Be sure to change the name of course.

    Let us know how you get on!

  23. Jeff Redman says:

    I have a few slides on which I want to run the animation. The first slide on which it appears is slide 3, but when I get to slide 3 it appears that the animation on slide 3 has already been running for some time (from the moment the first slide loaded, I think).

    So…
    1) does/do the background animations all run continuously in the background from the moment the presentation starts?
    2) is there any way to make the background swf start with the slide it is on?

    Thanks, JP

    • daveperso says:

      Hi Jeff, You’re right. The background animations start playing as soon as the presentation is started and they loop so they are really better suited to general “atmosphere setting” movies rather than a specific video with a beginning and and end. If you need the movie to start when the slide is launched, then I would try working with the standard Input Movie option in Presenter (ie. on the slide rather than in the background) or else use Quizmaker to give you a background video effect as described in this article.

  24. [...] How to Create A Background Animation For Articulate Presenter – Dave Moxon’s Articulate … [...]

  25. Melissa says:

    Hi Dave

    This is a great post and perfectly addresses what I am trying to achieve, but I seem to be falling at the last hurdle. I have swapped out the published .swf background image for the one that I have created, but once I launch the presentation with the player.html file the background does not appear. When I click on the ‘Thumbnails’ tab in the Articulate player it shows a background on that slide. Any ideas of what I might be missing?
    Thanks

    Melissa

  26. Tracie says:

    This is the best blog I have ever seen. Clear, concise , and excellent demos.
    Thank you very much!

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