In the last issue of TechTrax, Sun, Shine and Storm created a Photo Album presentation
within PowerPoint to share their photographs. Now they would like to add a sound
score to the presentation—something that spans across slides.
First of all, if they need to span a sound across slides, the sound (or music)
needs to be capable of looping—you don’t want to insert something that has
an abrupt beginning or end. Several vendors create readymade looping music scores—here’s one of them:
Before we start, here’s a word of caution. The sound-across-slides feature
is not suited for all sorts of presentations—here are some guidelines:
Do not include a background musical score in a company presentation that
has a presenter speaking before an audience.
You can use the sound feature in a presentation that has no live presenter—although you would want to choose a soft, understated background score.
You might want to avoid using a background score in a presentation that’s
intended to be converted from PowerPoint to online rich media content.
For trade shows and exhibition kiosks, try to use upbeat and striving music
rather than monotonous, weary tunes.
Background musical scores are great for Photo Album presentations—since
music typically feels good along with a sequence of still pictures.
You can also use music to great advantage within presentations that get
distributed on CD.
Unless you are a professional who is certain about the entire concept,
never use a background score in a presentation that includes narration.
A musical background score can be a pleasing accompaniment to a presentation
that’s being shown during the lunch hour or tea break in a convention—for example, a product photo-album presentation or similar. Also, when the
music stops, the audience knows its time to get back to their seats.
Whatever you do, remember this trick—turning off the music in any presentation
can be as easy as setting the volume bar to mute—so there’s no harm in including
music in any presentation.
It’s a good idea to assemble the sound files in the same folder as the presentation
even before you insert the music within a ‘saved’ presentation. This ensures
that PowerPoint does not lose its links if you move the presentation to another
system, since you can copy the entire folder to another machine.
Having said that, let’s begin with inserting a musical score that spans across
slides in PowerPoint. These instructions are specifically for PowerPoint 2002,
but should work with earlier versions on both the Windows and Macintosh platforms.
Open a new or existing presentation in PowerPoint and navigate to the first
slide. Choose Insert | Movies and Sound | Sound from File… or any of the
three other options (sound from CD, Clipart Organizer or record a sound).
Depending on the insert sound option you choose, PowerPoint may ask you
if you want the sound to play automatically. Accept this option.
This will place a sound icon that looks much like the volume control icon
on the Windows taskbar. Right-click this icon and choose ‘Custom Animation’
from the resultant context menu.
The custom animation task pane towards the right of the PowerPoint interface
will now be activated. Within the pane, you’ll find the name of your sound
file listed. Click the downward pointing arrow next to the sound file and
this should reveal another menu. Choose ‘Effect Options’ within this menu.
In the Effects Option dialog box that opens next, you’ll find two tabs—Effects and Timing. Within the Effects tab, opt to play the sound from
the beginning and type ‘999’ in the ‘Stop playing after’ number option,
since ‘999’ is the highest number that PowerPoint accepts.
Within the Timings tab, choose to ‘Start after’ the previous event with
a delay of 0 (zero) seconds.
Thereafter, you can drag the sound icon anywhere off the slide since you
might not want the icon to be visible while you are playing the presentation.
Remember to save your presentation.
PowerPoint 2000, 2002 and 2003 can insert MP3 sounds, but PowerPoint 97 cannot—so you might want to convert the MP3s to WAV if you are using PowerPoint 97.
Also, changed MCI (Media Control Interface) settings can play havoc with the
way PowerPoint handles sounds and video—look at the MCI settings section of
this URL for some troubleshooting advice if PowerPoint refuses to insert the
Using the techniques listed above, PowerPoint can accept sound files in various
formats including WAV, MP3 and WMA. More often that not, you can use WAVs—although MP3s and WMAs occupy less space since they are compressed, a key advantage
if you need to email your presentations. Since we are discussing sending presentations
by email, here’s a tip. Never send presentations by email unless the recipient
is expecting them in the mailbox. It’s a good idea to archive the presentation
and linked sounds within the same folder to a zip file and upload it somewhere—thereafter, email the URL.
Sun, Shine and Storm did not have to do much this time—much of the techniques
discussed above were accomplished in less than 5 minutes. Next time we’ll have
something more involved when we take a look at an amazing add-in that brings
a little of Photoshop into PowerPoint.