Use Adobe Presenter to create a Flash-embedded PDF Slide Show

Last week, I conducted several Acrobat 9 eSeminars for various bar associations and legal groups.

I received a lot of requests for the presentation materials.

Normally, I would just PDF the presentation, but each slide had multiple animated graphics which just wouldn’t translate well to a “flat” PDF.

Fortunately, I was able to use the new Adobe Presenter to create a Flash-embedded, narrated PDF.

Screenshot of A9 Blog Preso
Download Narrated Presentation
5.0 MB | Adobe Reader 9 Required
Downloads from my Acrobat.com Account | It’s big, be patient
You may need to click the Download button in the
upper right corner of the Acrobat.com window.

Adobe Presenter is a plug-in for PowerPoint that is included with Acrobat 9 Pro Extended. It allows you to covert your PowerPoint files— complete with animations— to narrated, compact Flash presentations that anyone can play using the free Adobe Reader 9. It’s great for trainers or anyone who uses PowerPoint and needs to transfer knowledge.

In this blog entry, I’ll tell you more about Adobe Presenter and my process for creating this material.   Read on . . .

What is Adobe Presenter?

Adobe Presenter allows you to transform your PowerPoint presos into animated PDFs.

Adobe Presenter outputs the presentation as a Flash-embedded PDF document. Adobe Reader 9 now has the Flash player built-in, so it is equipped to play back rich content including voice and animation.

How do I get Adobe Presenter?

Adobe Presenter is part of Acrobat 9 Pro Extended. It is an optional install, so make sure you don’t miss it. You can also buy Adobe Presenter separately for $499, but since Pro Extended is only $699, that’s not very cost effective.

What are the steps to create a Presentation?

These are the general steps you will follow:

  • Create your PowerPoint Presentation
    • Add animation if desired
  • Write your script in the Notes section in PowerPoint
    • Not absolutely required, but makes it much easier to add professional narration
  • Record your narration using Adobe Presenter
  • Edit narration to remove any unwanted pauses or goofs
  • Sync narration to the animation
  • Publish document to PDF

How do I record my voice?

You’ll need a computer headset, such as the Logitech ClearChat Pro USB to record your voice. Just plug it in and you are ready to record.

After you install Adobe Presenter, you’ll see a new menu (PowerPoint 2003) or a new ribbon (PowerPoint 2007):

PowerPoint Ribbon

  1. Press the Record button (PPT 2007) or choose the Record menu item (PPT 2003), and Adobe Presenter will prompt you to check your MIC input level.
    Mic check window
    Say a few lines in an even conversational tone, and click OK.
  2. The Record Window appears:
    Recording Window
  3. Click the View Script checkbox
    This opens the panel to the right.
  4. Click the Import Notes button
    This allows you to import the notes you typed into your presentation.
    Caution: Adobe Presenter sometimes has a problem with notes which contain non-standard characters. If you see thick black bars in the notes area, be sure to delete them or it may refuse to output your presentation. It’s bug and they’re working on it . . .

  5. Click the Record button and read your narration in a normal, conversational tone.
    Tip: Speak a bit more slowly and quietly than you think you should. Most of us have a tendency to get a bit nervous when hearing our own voice.

  6. Click the Next button to go to the next slide.
  7. Click OK when done.

Edit Audio

It’s hard to record everything perfectly. You may also want to delete some audio or replace goofs— Ums, ers, breath intakes— with silence.

  1. Click the Audio Edit button (PPT 2007) or menu pick.
    Edit Audio button
  2. The Edit Audio window appears:
    Edit Audio Window
  3. Use the insert your cursor at the beginning of the timeline and click the Play button.
    Play button
  4. When you hear something you want to delete, hit the Pause button
    Pause button
  5. Use the cursor to select the audio portion you wish to edit on the timeline. Click the Play button to make sure you have the right portion.
    Selecting a portion of audio
  6. To remove the audio, hit the DEL key. To replace it with Silence, choose Insert—>Silence
  7. Click the Save button periodically.
    Save button available in the timeline.

Synchronize Narration

If you have animations in your PowerPoint deck, such as major headings flying in, etc., you will want to synchronize your voice to the animation.

  1. Click the Sync button (PPT 2007) or Synchronize Narration (PPT 2003 menu item).
    Sync Animation window
  2. Click the Stopwatch button to start syncingStopwatch starts the sync
    Watch your script so you know when the next animation will start.
  3. Click the Next Animation button to start the next object moving. Continue until the end of the slide.
  4. Click the Next button to sync the next slide.
  5. Click OK when complete.

Optional: Set Your Presenter Info

Adobe Presenter allows you brand your work with your company logo, your name, your bio, a picture and your contact information.

  1. Click the Preferences button in the Presenter ribbon (PPT 2007) or the appropriate menu pick (PPT 2003).
  2. Click the Presenters tab
  3. Click the Add. . . button
  4. Complete as much or as little as you’d like:

    Presenter Settings

Optional: Use the Slide Manager

The Slide Manager allows you to assign different presenters to different slides, or to decide whether the presentation will automatically play, or require user button clicks to go from slide to slide.

Publish the Presentation

Now’s the fun part . . . publish your presentation to PDF!

  1. Click the Publish button (PPT 2007) or appropriate menu pick for PPT 2003.
  2. The Publish Presentation window appears:
    Publish Presentation window
  3. Click the Adobe PDF option.
  4. Set a destination folder by clicking the Browse button.
  5. Click the Publish button.
File Size too big? You can change settings for audio and image compression in the Publish window

Extra Credit: Computer-generated Voices

I travel about 60% of the time and one of the few opportunities I have to get work done is on airplanes.

Recording your voice on an airplane is impossible, so to save time I experimented with using text-to-speech technology to "read" the narration.

I got the idea from Adobe Captivate Product Manager Silke Fleisher who wrote about it in her blog.

I used TextAloud (text to speech engine) and AT&T Natural Voices "Mike" as the speaker. There are several different voices available for purchase.

The results are interesting, if a bit creepy. Check it out:

Download Computer-narrated Presentation
4.5 MB | Adobe Reader 9 Required
Downloads from my Acrobat.com Account | Big! Be patient
You may need to click the Download button in the
upper right corner of the Acrobat.com window.

The AT&T voices are state of the art, however sometimes the inflection is off and it sounds eerily odd.

The default voice in TextAloud, which sounds very much like a computer, is a bit easier to accept . . .or at least I was more forgiving of it.

Perhaps this is related to the “Uncanny Valley” theory as formulated by Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori.  I’ll paraphrase the theory: If we try to make something too human, even small differences may strike as grotesque.

Still, there are some merits to using a computer voice. It’s easy to speed up, so you can compact a lot of material in a short time. You can change voices, alternating, perhaps, between a man and a woman. It’s also easy to make editorial changes since you can output a new sound file in about 1/10th the time it would take you to record it yourself.

I found that I had to add extra commas and change a few words to get pauses where needed or to correct mispronunciations.

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