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How to Add Videos to Your PowerPoint Presentations

This post is part of a series called Presentation Fundamentals.
Creating Motion Paths in PowerPoint
How to Make a Better Presentation Without PowerPoint (+Top Alternatives)
This post is part of a series called How to Use PowerPoint (Ultimate Tutorial Guide).
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How to Convert Your PowerPoint (PPT) Presentation Into Video

Adding a video to your presentation is a great way to make it more interesting, not to mention the perfect way to incorporate your latest demo or ad in a corporate presentation instead of switching back and forth between PowerPoint and your video player during the presentation. It should be simple enough to add a video—no harder than adding a photo, it'd seem—and yet, it's actually a bit complicated.

In any modern version of PowerPoint, you'll be able to insert video clips from your hard drive, iMovie on your Mac, or online sources, and play them during the presentation. You can then adjust brightness, contrast and color, trim the beginning and end points, and more on your videos, right inside PowerPoint. You can even insert YouTube videos directly in a presentation with a bit of extra tweaking on Windows.

In this tutorial, I'll show you how to do add videos to your presentation, tweak them to look the way you want, get them to playback automatically, and more. Here's everything you've needed to know about using videos in your PowerPoint presentations.

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Add Videos to Your PowerPoint Presentations (Screencast)

In this screencast, add videos to your powerpoint presentations. Watch the complete video below or read on for the written tutorial that follows.

In this tutorial, you'll need to follow along with your own presentation in PowerPoint 2007 or newer on your Mac or PC. Also, note that some of the tips in this tutorial will only work in PowerPoint 2013 on a PC.

If you want to follow along with this tutorial using your own video file, you can do so, if it’s a compatible format. Or if you prefer, download the free zip file included with this tutorial, which contains two sample videos called swirl.mov and swirl.wmv. The .mov file is best for the Mac and the .wmv is best for Windows, but either will work.

Now, let's get started adding videos to your presentation.

Inserting Videos Into Your PowerPoint Slides

You'll first have to add a video to your presentation slides before you can start tweaking it. Here's the best ways to add a video to your presentation, on Windows and Mac:

Add Video Using a Content Slide on Mac or Windows

In your PowerPoint presentation, insert a slide that has a content placeholder. Now click the last of the 6 icons in the middle of the slide. The icon will have a popup showing Insert Video. The icon will look somewhat different, depending on which version of PowerPoint you’re using.

Content slide layout
The last icon in a Content layout slide is for inserting videos

If you’re using PowerPoint 2011 or earlier, clicking the icon will display an Insert Video (Windows) or Insert Movie (Mac) dialog box, and you can double-click the file you want in your file browser.

If you’re using PowerPoint 2013, you’ll get a screen asking if you want to insert a video from your computer or local network, or from a cloud location like Microsoft OneDrive.

Insert Video screen
PowerPoint 2013 lets you insert videos directly from cloud services

There isn’t anything special about inserting a video from a cloud location. It’s just another file storage area. When you click either of the Browse buttons (you may have more than two), you’ll get a regular Insert dialog box.

When you add a video this way, you can choose any standard video file that'll playback on your computer. By default, on Windows you'll likely want to choose .wmv videos, and on a Mac you'll want to use .mov videos, or perhaps .mp4 which should work on both platforms. Note that PowerPoint will not accept Flash video (.flv) or Shockwave Flash animation (.swf).

When the video is in place, notice that it has Play controls at the bottom, and the ribbon bar is showing two tabs for video controls: Format and Playback. On the Mac, the ribbon will have a single tab, called Format Movie.

You can preview the movie by clicking the Play button on bottom. It will work when you’re editing the presentation and also when you’re running the slide show.

Video tabs on the ribbon
When you select a video, two additional tabs appear on the ribbon

Insert Video from the Ribbon Bar in Windows

What if you want to insert a video onto a slide that doesn’t have a Content placeholder? Here’s another way.

From the Home tab, click the Down Arrow on the New Slide button and select the Blank layout. Don’t click the button itself, because that will insert another slide with a Content layout. You need to click the arrow.

Insert a slide with a blank layout
A slide with the Blank layout has the most room for inserting a video

Now that we have a blank slide, we’ll insert a video by going to the Insert tab on the ribbon. On the right side of the ribbon, click the Video button. Depending on which version of PowerPoint you have, you’ll get choices for Online Video and Video on My PC (2013), or Video from File and Clip Art Video (2010 and 2007).

Don’t get too excited: Online Video doesn’t mean YouTube! It’s just another link to cloud storage. Choose Video from File, and you’ll get another standard Insert box. Find the same video clip as before (or use another one if you like), then double-click it. Now when the video gets inserted, it covers the whole slide.

Video takes up the whole slide
When you insert a video from the Insert tab (Windows) or Insert menu (Mac), the video covers the whole slide

Insert Video from the Menu Bar on a Mac

Through the 2011 version, PowerPoint for the Mac doesn’t have an Insert tab on the ribbon, but it does have an Insert menu. So click the Insert menu, choose Movie, and you’ll see two choices: Movie Browser and Movie from File.

Insert menu on the Mac
In the Mac version, use the Insert menu to insert a video onto a slide

Inserting a Movie from a Regular Folder on Your Mac

Choose Movie from File, and it works just like in Windows or any other Insert dialog. Find swirl.mov that you downloaded from this page, or find your own video clip, then double-click it and it gets inserted to fill the whole slide.

Inserting a Movie from the Movie Browser

The Movie Browser isn’t just about movies. It’s a small popup window that will let you browse for movies, sound files, photos and other types of media in your Movie folder, Music folder, and in iMovie, iPhoto, iTunes, Photo Booth and a few other places.

Create another blank slide as you did before. Now click the Insert menu, choose Movie, and this time choose Movie Browser. Notice that the Movies tab in the Browser is already selected, and you can go to the file’s location. On my Mac, I have the file in the Movies folder, and you can see the thumbnail at the bottom. If you want to preview the movie, either double-click it or click the Play button. Click the Play button again to return to the thumbnails. To insert the video, drag the thumbnail onto the slide. Then you can close the Browser window.

Movie Browser on the Mac
The Movie Browser in the Mac version lets you insert videos and other media from iMovie, iTunes and other special folders

Applying Color Changes and other Effects

Although PowerPoint doesn’t have the ability to edit video, you can make some color corrections and other changes to an inserted video. This works mostly the same in any version.

Make sure the video is selected and the Format tab on the right side of the ribbon is active. Click the Corrections button on the left side of the ribbon, and choose one if you want. In Windows, the video will show a temporary preview of how the change will look. On the Mac, you have to click one of the choices to see the effect, and you can always undo (Command-Z on the Mac and Ctrl-Z in Windows).

Adjusting video brightness and contrast
On the Format tab, you can adjust the brightness and contrast of a video

If you want more fine-tuned control, click Video Correction Options on the bottom of the Corrections drop-down. That will display either a task pane with Brightness and Contrast sliders and a Recolor button (2013), or a dialog box with these controls (2010 and Mac 2011).

Similar to brightness and contrast is color adjustment. With the video selected, click the Color button, and you can change the overall color cast. Choosing Video Color Options will display the same task pane or dialog box as above.

Setting a Poster Frame

The poster frame is the still image that’s displayed before you play the video. By default, the poster frame will be the first frame of the video, but you can change it two ways:

  • Choose the frame that’s displayed at a specific time index
  • Choose a picture on your computer

First, notice the default poster frame: when you click the slide background so that the movie isn’t selected, you can see that the poster frame is the first frame. When you click the Play button, the first frame immediately transitions into the second, and the movie plays.

Let’s change it. On the bottom of the movie, click somewhere along the progress bar until you see a frame that you want. Then on the Format tab of the ribbon, click the Poster Frame button and select Current Frame.

When you deselect the movie, the still image you see is the frame you just selected. Click the Play button, and the movie jumps to the first frame and plays from there.

Now let’s use a picture as the poster frame. Again select the video and click the Poster Frame button, but this time choose Image From File (same screen shot, above).

In the 2010 and Mac 2011 versions, you’ll get a regular selection dialog box, and you can double-click a picture that you want. In the 2013 version, PowerPoint gives you more choices to get a picture: a file on your computer, Microsoft Office clipart, search for an image with Bing, or import a picture from your cloud storage or social networking sites if you have any set up.

Inserting a picture for the poster frame
You can use an image file for a movie's poster frame

You can use a picture of your own, or if you downloaded the zip file for this tutorial, you can use the included file called rainbow.jpg.

The movie now displays the picture you chose.

Result of a picture for the poster frame
An image file for a poster frame can look completely different from the video

When you click the Play button, the picture disappears and the movie plays normally. If you later decide you want the default poster frame (i.e. the first frame of the movie), choose Reset from the Poster Frame drop-down.

Framing the Movie

Also from the Format tab of the ribbon bar, you can choose a picture frame for the outside of the movie by choosing one from the long bar of video styles, but what’s really cool is that you can mask the movie with a shape.

Make sure the video is selected, and on the Format tab, click Video Shape. Choose a shape, and the movie will be masked inside it!

Frames and shapes to mask a video
A video doesn't have to be rectangular!

Changing Playback Options

In all versions of PowerPoint, you can set options for how the video plays, though there are more options in the Windows versions.

Changing the Options in Windows

In Windows, make sure the video is selected, then click the Playback tab on the ribbon. On the left side of the ribbon, we have a Trim Video button, which allows us to change the In and Out points of the video.

Playback options
The Playback tab in Windows lets you set options for how and when the video plays

Click the Trim Video button, and in the dialog that appears, drag the green bar to the right to set a later start time, and drag the red bar to the left to set an earlier end time. Or instead of dragging the bars, you can set the numbers directly.

Trim Video dialog
The Trim Video dialog lets you set In and Out points

Click OK, and the video will play for this shorter time. Note that you haven’t deleted anything: if you want to change the points later, just click the Trim Video button again. The entire clip will be available.

To the right of the Trim Video button, you can set timings for the clip to fade in and fade out, though you might not always be pleased with the results.

The section on the right side of the ribbon gives you options for how and when the movie should start.

Changing Options on the Mac

In the 2011 Mac version, Playback Options is a button on the left side of the Format Movie tab on the ribbon bar. It has only four options, as you can see in the screen capture, below. The start and stop options is limited to only two choices: start on click and start automatically. Set those with the drop-down button just above the Playback Options button.

Playback options on the Mac
On the Mac, set playback options using the drop-down on the Format Movie tab

Embedding a YouTube Video

In Windows, you can use PowerPoint’s developer tools to embed a YouTube video. We do this by inserting a Flash object, which means you won’t be able to use most of the options from earlier in this tutorial.

First, start by inserting a new slide with a blank layout or title-only layout, as we did earlier. Now we need to make the developer tools available. Right-click anywhere on the ribbon, and from the popup menu, select Customize the Ribbon.

Customizing the ribbon to display the Developer tab

This displays PowerPoint’s Options screen, in the Customize Ribbon section. On the right, enable the checkbox for the Developer tab. Then click OK.

Clicking the checkbox for the Developer tab
Make sure the Developer tab of the ribbon is visible

There are three steps to insert the Flash object that will be the container for the video (see screen capture, below):

  1. Click the new Developer tab on the ribbon.
  2. In the Controls section, click the last button in the group. It looks like a screwdriver and wrench, and the popup label calls it More Controls.
  3. In the dialog box that appears, scroll down and select Shockwave Flash Object, then click OK.
Three steps to insert a Flash object

The mouse pointer becomes a crosshair. Drag on the screen to create a rectangle, and when you release the mouse button, the rectangle will have a big X in it.

Flash object is a big rectangle with an X
The Flash object will be a rectangle with a big X until you give it a URL

Getting a link to a YouTube video

Go to YouTube and find the video you want to embed. For this tutorial, I’ll use a previous TutsPlus tutorial I did, on embedding PowerPoint master slides. This video is at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muoSYIpPJvY

Click in the Address bar to select the URL, then either right-click and select Copy from the popup menu, or press Ctrl-C to copy.

Use the Copied URL as the Source for the Movie

  1. Make sure the Flash object is selected, then click the Properties button on the Developer tab to display the Properties window.
  2. In the blank box to the right of the Movie property past the URL you just copied (right-click or press Ctrl-V).
  3. Edit the URL. Change /watch?v= to simply /v/. So for the URL I’m using, it’s now:
  4. Optional: to make the video play automatically, add &autoplay=1 to the end, so the URL will look like:
Editing the Properties box
Insert the copied URL into the Movie field, and edit it

Now run the slide show, and the video will play. (Tip: press Shift-F5 to play just the current slide.) You might have to run it a couple of times for the video to be cached on your computer so it plays well.

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PowerPoint has many features for inserting and modifying videos in your presentations. You can insert videos from your computer, from your local network, from the cloud, and can even embed YouTube videos if you’re using Windows. Once you've inserted a video, you'll find most of the tools you need to tweak it in the Format and Playback tabs in Windows and in the Format Movie tab on the Mac.

Adding a video to your presentation is a bit involved, but it's absolutely not impossible. If you hit any snags in adding videos to your presentations, leave a comment below and we'll try to help you out.

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Graphic Credit: Video Player icon designed by Mourad Mokrane from the Noun Project.

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