Simple, Reliable Presentation Software?

by David Battino


Here I'm presenting kamishibai stories at FOO Camp, Tim O'Reilly's annual gathering of technology provocateurs. I cracked up when I saw the photographer's caption: "It's not just geeks."

How do you present multimedia at conferences? For my workshops on Japanese kamishibai storytelling, I use a PowerPoint slide show with about 70 slides. Only the first, second, and last slides contain text, because the point of the kamishibai format is to look at your audience, not turn your back on them to read bullet points. (At FOO Camp last year, I wryly called the technique "PowerPoint for People.")

Later this month, though, I'll be delivering a lecture about my book and DVD, The Art of Digital Music, at a tricked-out auditorium. The bulk of the DVD is 60-second movies of the artists I interviewed for the book. For each interview, I extracted sound bites with Ambrosia WireTap, added original music with Ableton Live to move the stories along, and then synced the audio with photos I animated in LQ Graphics Photo To Movie.

My concept for the presentation is to intersperse video clips from the disc with photos and behind-the-scenes stories, such as why producer Don Was recorded the Rolling Stones on his iBook instead of in his million-dollar Hollywood studio, how I got a stealth interview with Brian Eno, and more.

Tool Time

My dilemma is one we often face with today's cornucopia of creative software: Which program(s) would be best for pulling all those media together and presenting them smoothly? My first inclination was to rerender the movies and embed them in PowerPoint slides, but I won't have my computer with me, so I was worried that the host computer might not be able to keep up. Ditto if I simply built an HTML page and linked to the media files. Perhaps Keynote would perform better, but I haven't bought it yet. (Should I? Please leave a comment.)


Kevin Buterbaugh
2007-05-03 06:08:18
Definitey go with Keynote. Adding multimedia is as simple as dragging and dropping files (want a Quicktime movie? Just open finder and drag the file onto your slide in Keynote). Of course, Keynote also has all the eye candy that Apple products are known for. In fact, the biggest problem I've seen people have with Keynote is not overdoing the eye candy stuff...


2007-05-03 06:16:59
Great read David. I would definitely look into using Keynote. I used it to do a number of presentations for a Graduate class I was take about a year and a half ago. The presentation was on Steve Jobs and Apple. I pulled in a lot of high quality images of Steve throughout his career at Apple and NeXT. I also embedded a number of video clips include the 1984 Apple clip, the introduction of the first Mac, a brain storming session that he had with the folks that would eventually become NeXT, and a few others to help tell his story.

The presentation was a hit. Allot of them wanted to know what software I did it in. The were impressed with the image quality and the fact that I could embed movies into my slide shows. When I got done, instead of handing the professor a copy of a PowerPoint presentation I burned him a DVD that he could pop into his computer to review later.

I think that you will get more Wow for your buck using Keynote then a combination of other tools.

2007-05-03 06:58:15
I don't use PowerPoint any longer, except for some export proofing... And I work in a big-time Microsoft lapdog culture. iWork is much more stable and intuitive once you deprogram yourself. It's inexpensive too. Therefore, I wouldn't hesitate to acquire the current version now even with the next version likely to be released w/ OS X.5 in Oct.
Charlie H.
2007-05-03 08:11:04
I'd love to recommend Keynote, too, but in my experience, there's one big hitch for movie presentation. That is, if you add a movie to a new slide, it will play immediately when you present that slide. There's no way to embed a "play" button or to play the movie when clicked (a la Powerpoint).
That said, Keynote does allow a greater amount of video formats than Powerpoint, and also allows objects to be located in front of a playing movie (like arrows or circles).

However, most computers in the world don't have Keynote installed, and if you're not using your own computer for the presentation, you may be up the proverbial creek. Fortunately, Keynote has a bunch of useful export tools for such an occasion: quicktime movie, powerpoint, PDF, flash, html, and DVD.

I think Keynote is definitely worth a test drive. Despite its flaws, I love it. Hope this helps.

2007-05-03 08:53:45
With movies, things become tricky very quickly, and you tend to rely in third party software, at least when using Windows or Linux (hey, that hapens in my field).

I tend to use pdf as the format for storing and transporting the presentation - that way all fonts are available. I use TeX for designing and preparing my presentations, and good tools exist for LaTeX, even to include movies. You have to be careful with teh format though: mpeg is mostly save.

Using pdf has one other advantage: you can't overdo the eye-candy.


2007-05-03 08:59:42
Can Keynote contain clips from TV shows purchased on iTunes?
Cyndi Danner-Kuhn
2007-05-03 09:59:52
I agree, purchase Keynote, it is much better than PowerPoint!!! I never use PowerPoint anymore. In fact, I have begun using the open source software Neo Office. But Fotomagico is good too. I also use one called eZedia QTI Very easy, saves as QuickTime movie or html. So works anywhere. OK shameless plug, I wrote a book about it. Creating Quality Web Pages and Multimedia Projects with eZedia QTI2.
Ed Eubanks
2007-05-03 10:48:08
Any easy fix for delaying when a movie plays in Keynote: add the movie to the desired slide (via Media), then select it. Go to the Inspector and select the Build pane. Choose ANY effect under "Build In" (I like "Appear" for movies) and then click More Options. Verify that the build is set to "On Click"-- or for really dandy timing, select "automatically after transition" and set a delay time. Problem solved.
John M McIntosh
2007-05-03 12:07:13
So have you considered some open source solutions like Sophie.
phil shapiro
2007-05-03 13:20:37
I like using PowerBullet, a free Windows program that creates Flash format slideshows.
David Battino
2007-05-03 13:31:52
Wow! Thanks for all the advice, everyone. I like blogging for Mac Dev Center because the readers are both knowledgeable and generous with suggestions. I bet Ed Eubanks's tip about controlling QuickTime movie playback in Keynote helped a lot of people today.
John Konopka
2007-05-03 16:41:24
I agree with the many yes votes for Keynote. I have used it for a couple of years now and love it. I give a couple dozen presentations a year on a very technical topic. Keynote gives you subtle control of how your slide appears. It can pop in like the scene changes on the old Batman TV show or it can tip toe in with the softest of dissolves. Everything looks smooth and clean.

If you will use video you could export from Keynote to QT and put that on DVD. Consider using 720P high definition. Keynote comes with several themes predefined at this resolution. As long as you have access to an HD projector or monitor this should provide great resolution.

As a backup you could export from Keynote to PDF. Most computers have Acrobat which can display a pdf as a slide show. You lose the transitions but at least you are not dead in the water. I always carry a PDF of my presentation on my USB drive as insurance.

If you start working from InDesign you can embed QT movies into a PDF and have them play from Acrobat. I've seen it but never tried it. It seems that if you are making that much effort you might as well use Keynote.

I just tried it and found that Keynote does not allow you to import videos purchased from the iTunes Music Store. To do this you would have to capture the movie scene of interest with Ambrosia's SnapZ Pro and use the QT movie exported from that.

Peter Kirn
2007-05-05 12:37:17
How about using Flash directly? I've been doing more with Flash, so I was thinking about switching over to that as my solution. Terrific handling of video, media, and interactivity, plus you can throw in a webcam input for giving people close-up camera action of whatever you're demonstrating.
David Battino
2007-05-05 20:46:34
@Peter: I thought about Flash, but ruled it out for this project because I suspected it would take too long to learn. Perhaps I could export the presentation from Keynote as a Flash file, but I just learned my host is providing a MacBook with Keynote on it (and no DVD drive!).

I keep telling myself that this is the year I'm going to teach myself Flash. I have O'Reilly's Flash Hacks and Flash Out of the Box sitting right here on my bookshelf, and just ordered Flash CS3, so I'm hopeful.

Incidentally, I made a test project with FotoMagico yesterday. The text animations are beautiful (check out the movie at and I loved the OmniGraffle-style snap-alignment. The ability to create audio markers and trigger slide changes with them is handy, but I prefer Photo to Movie's waveform view. Research continues.

Brad Fuller
2007-05-08 20:09:16
I agree with John, try Sophie: