Technology Review: 123PPT VBP
By Eric Albertson
123PPT.com, a long-time supplier of PowerPoint resources (templates, backgrounds, photos, fonts, sound effects, music), recently released the 123PPT Video Backgrounds PowerPoint Add-In, a PowerPoint plug-in that allows you to insert full screen video backgrounds into your PowerPoint presentations, and a corresponding standalone player—the 123PPT Video Backgrounds Player (VBP).
While it is a PC-only application, it works with almost every version of PowerPoint (2000, 2002, XP, 2003, and 2007). The add-in allows you to insert videos into the background of your slides and the standalone player allows others to play your creations without having to install the add-in.
The standard and deluxe versions of the add-in cost $149.95 and $249.95, respectively. The major difference between the standard and deluxe versions (and this is a big one) is that with the standard version you have to use video backgrounds from 123PPT. To be able to put your own movies in the background of your presentations, you must shell out the big bucks for the deluxe version. If you want to try it out, you can download a fully functional (but watermarked) trial version that works for 14 days. The standalone player, is, as you would expect, free.
The setup is easier than most PowerPoint add-ins as the installer does all the work for you (no navigating to the folder where the add-in is saved). It creates a 123PPT Video Backgrounds PowerPoint Add-In toolbar (in PowerPoint 2007 it adds a tab to the ribbon) which is your key to both inserting videos and playing presentations with video backgrounds. It will also install the standalone player on your machine and create a shortcut to it on your desktop.
How It Works
Clicking on the Insert Video Background button launches a wizard that guides you through the process of inserting the videos. It allows you to choose which videos you want, which slides you want them on, how fast they play and whether you want to color them by using what they call a “backdrop” (which is a colored overlay of varying transparency—the gray area in the image at the top of this post was created as a backdrop).
Once you have your videos inserted, you have to click on one of the two play buttons on the 123PPT toolbar to launch the presentation and see your videos (simply clicking on the regular Slide Show button in PowerPoint will launch the presentation but not play the videos).
If you have every worked with video in PowerPoint, you will know that sharing files that have videos in them can be a pain. In order to keep links to videos in tact so that they play for your intended recipient, you must perform file management acrobatics (putting the video in a nearby folder, making sure that the path name isn’t too long, and other time-consuming steps).
The 123PPT Video Backgrounds Add-In has a nifty Pack feature which allows you to package your presentations for easy distribution to friends and colleagues via email, vpn, Internet, or internal network. It creates a self-extracting .exe file that can be sent to others (assuming their email will allow .exe files). When they double click on the file, it will unpack several items including the PowerPoint file, a folder containing the videos and a self-playing .vbd file. Assuming your recipient has the 123PPT Video Backgrounds Player, they can click on the .vbd file and it will play just fine. This is a great time-saving feature if you plan to share these files a lot.
- As mentioned above, the standard version of the add-in only allows you to use video backgrounds from 123PPT. These videos have to be purchased from 123PPT.com. They have collections of sports, finance, spiritual, and swirly motion graphic background videos. Each collection costs $99.95 and contains 12 different video backgrounds. If you don’t have the means to create your own videos, perhaps this is an option for you.
- As opposed to other video-in-PowerPoint solutions, you CAN put graphics and text over the video background. This is really great and opens up lots of possibilities. We did notice though that if you create a transparent box and put it over the background, it will not display as transparent when the file is launched. But, you can use the little known “fill with background” feature in PowerPoint to create some nice effects.
- This add-in will only play the videos full-screen. There is no option for re-sizing the video. So, if you want the video to play at any size other than full-screen, you may need a different solution. Perhaps embedding a .swf of your video might be better for your particular needs.
A Word of Caution
This technology, while very cool, can easily be used for evil. It is not a good idea to just throw motion backgrounds into your presentation. This add-in is best for a very subtle in-slide motion, motion on a splash screen, or a special one-off video slide. We do not recommend adding swirly moving backgrounds to every slide in your presentation. While 123PPT claims that this is “the future of PowerPoint,” that kind of distracting element will actually diminish your effectiveness as a presenter. People will either be distracted by the background or be lulled into some sort of hypnotic state by the constant movement on the slides.
Remember the principles of slide:ology. The most important thing in the room is the audience. The second most important thing is the speaker and how he/she can help the audience. The least important thing in the room is the presentation. When utilizing this kind of technology, be careful not to crazy-up your presentation to the point where they no longer pay attention to you.