Summary: Manually changing the background SWF images in Articulate Presenter published files can add spice to your presentations.
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?
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.
All the backgrounds were created from looping videos I had and which I converted to Flash (SWF).
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.
(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.
Then open the SWF folder.
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"
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.