I was supposed to give a presentation at Mountpoint in Vancouver today. Unfortunately, I wasn't at Mountpoint in Vancouver. I was at home, dealing with some stuff that I'll probably write about some other day. The first idea was to have me videoconference in and do things that way, but I spend a lot of time doing that and if I've learned one thing it's that you can't really count on network conditions remaining good enough to ensure a smooth experience. That doesn't get any better when one end's a home network and the other end's a conference network, I'm sure. Thus, the organizer and I agreed that I'd record the main content of the presentation and then be available live at the end for questions. That way, even if the network really took a dive, it wouldn't totally ruin the experience.
It was a bit more of a pain than I'd expected, but the result was also better than I would have thought. For one thing it's nice to do the delivery in the comfort of my own environment instead of up on stage, and to re-do it as necessary. I'll probably do this some more, both internally and within whatever open-source communities I'm part of. It seems like a particularly nice option to have as a remote worker. It's not interactive, but even a good writer probably speaks more fluidly than they write, plus you can add graphics and even animations if necessary.
So why all the moaning? Because it's PowerPoint, and because it's a Mac. There is a way to add narration to slides within PowerPoint, but apparently saving that isn't supported on a Mac. Thanks, Microsoft or Apple or both of you. Grow up, get over your walled-garden ways, and work together to satisfy users' needs. With that option eliminated, the next one seemed to be to use QuickTime. That brings its own set of problems, because both PowerPoint and QuickTime each have their own ideas about managing displays, and they don't agree. In the end the process isn't all that difficult or complicated, but it's very finicky. One wrong step and things won't work. Most often, QuickTime will freeze up. Then you have to do a little dance of force-quitting QuickTime, moving PowerPoint from one display to another to clear up some semi-hidden bit of display state, and restarting QuickTime. *sigh* So here's the process I ended up with. I'd record a video about it, but recording a video about recording a video doesn't seem like it would work that well.
- Start your PowerPoint presentation in window mode on one monitor, without the speaker console on the other.
- Start QuickTime.
- Move the little QuickTime control window to the same monitor as the presentation, if necessary. In my case it is, because I use an over/under configuration with the presentation in the upper (external) monitor and QuickTime comes up in the lower (builtin) monitor.
- Tell QuickTime to start a screen recording.
- Click on the presentation twice - once to tell QuickTime to record that screen, once to get mouse focus back to PowerPoint because Macs are stupid about focus.
- Wait several seconds because QuickTime doesn't seem to get its audio shit together for that long.
- Start speaking. Continue speaking until you're done. Try to make slide transitions as quiet as possible. Don't touch the mouse because it doesn't stay hidden like it should (something I realized half-way through my own presentation but I was too lazy to re-do the whole thing).
- Use the little menu-bar icon on the presentation display to end the recording. This should bring up a QuickTime window to view the result.
- To save, export to whatever formats/sizes you want. Saving only seems to save to some place/format that only QuickTime itself can use.
I couldn't figure out how to make this work with the presentation in full-screen mode, which would have been a bit nicer, but the fighting between PowerPoint and QuickTime over who gets to control displays got too intense. It wasn't worth it. I honestly spent more time trying to coax these two into doing the right thing than I spent actually recording my presentation. Hopefully, now that I've done it (and written about it) you won't have to.