Many people use PowerPoint to create videos for their online courses, or supporting materials for face-2-face/blended learning classes. This makes perfect sense. PowerPoint is easy to use, setup, screen-capture, and transfer into video formats.

Last time we looked at PowerPoint, we discussed the new standard aspect ratio (16:9); suggesting that teachers should switch to making presentations in this new widescreen format. Since many video hosting sites have eliminated all but the 16:9 aspect ratio, this change should allow teachers to make greater use of new widescreen displays/formats. I want to further expand on this topic today.

When using a PowerPoint in a class or presentation, most of us have grown accustom to seeing our slides get bigger. Our presentations are made at the size of our computers, and then become immense when projected onto screens or walls. Because of this, even small pictures or text crowded slides are rendered huge, allowing smaller details to be seen.

What happens when presentations shrink, say to the size of a YouTube video?

Let’s look at what happens when a musical score, and a text heavy slide, are reduced to the most common YouTube video sizes (560 x 315 pixels & 630 x 460 pixels).


[title size=”2″]560 x 315 pixels [/title]

This musical score was quite readable before being shrunk, but becomes an eyestrain at this size. It is possible to read this fugue at 560 x 315, but pointing out specific features would difficult. For instance, is the “subject answer” in bar 2 a “real” or “tonal answer“? It’s a little hard to see (…it’s real).

Similarly, this text heavy slide becomes very congested and hard to view.


[title size=”2″]640 x 360 pixels[/title]

640 x 360 is a distinct improvement and generally the best choice, however, fine details and heavy text will still cause eyestrain.


[title size=”2″]Larger Sizes[/title] There are two larger sizes, but these generally do not fit inside the width of most LMSs (Learning Management Systems) or webpages (including this one). This is especially true if your LMS embedded video is being viewed on a laptop. As such, these larger sizes are generally not recommended. You can view these extra large video sizes here.


[title size=”2″]Suggestions[/title]
1. Keep the amount of text per slide to a minimum. When slides get smaller, the text gets smaller.
– I often use only single words or terms on slides.
2. Humans can only process a few things in working memory at the same time. If people are listening to you talk, asking them to read as well can be a little taxing. It is actually easier for us to handle auditory information from a presenter and images, than auditory info and written text. Think of how tiring reading subtitles in a movie can be over time.
3. If you are presenting musical examples, focus on musical details instead of entire sections of score. This is not unlike focusing on a detail of a painting, instead of focusing on the entire painting. Viewing large sections of score in a small video pane is difficult, and for some learners impossible.
4. If your video focuses on musical details instead of scores, you can attach a more detailed score as a .pdf link near the same video.
5. Start with as large an image as possible. A general rule of thumb is that if the image you paste into your PPT slide needs to be shrunk to fit, it should still look decent in a video. If you have to drag an image open to make it larger, it will be blurry and pixelated when you turn it into a video.