Web Presentations: PowerPoint Meets Online Video Recordings With Zentation
A brand new service gives you an easy-to-use way to synchronize your online videos with PowerPoint slideshows, sharing the results online. This simple tool makes it a piece of cake to run your Google Video content side-by-side with PowerPoint presentations uploaded to Slideshare. Your audience gets the best of both worlds, with clear, easy-to-view presentations running alongside video of the presenter in action. This really has the power to bring online presentations to life.
Photo credit: Krisdog
Until now if you wanted to watch a presentation online you had two basic choices: check out any number of Internet PowerPoint clones that deliver slides, slides and nothing but slides, or else head on over to a video sharing site and watch a live recording of a speaker giving their presentation.
Neither provide a particularly satisfying experience - slides without a speaker only tell half the story, while shaky handheld camera footage of the presenter at the other side of an auditorium leaves something to be desired.
Well this problem has been solved once and for all, now that you can have the two play together and in perfect sync. So what is this new, free tool and why should you check it out?
In my full review I take a look at:
The important gap in the market filled by this new service
The simple process of synchronizing your slides and video to create a unified viewing experience
The easy-to-use interface that allows viewers to watch your presentation right through, or skip to different slides as if they were chapters in a DVD
The major drawback that really holds back this tool - the inability to embed your video-presentation mash-ups into your own website
Zentation - Overview
Zentation is a simple online application for the synchronization and sharing of your Slideshare-hosted PowerPoint decks and your Google Video-hosted content. In the space of a few minutes you can:
Enter the URLs of your Slideshare presentation and Google video
Identify points in the video to synchronize with the presentation
Send out email invitations so that your friends can view your video-presentation mash-up
Simplicity is the key to the Zentation experience - it is no more or less than a well-thought-through application mash-up. But it is a good mix of video and slide sharing, and one that has only really been possible until now using expensive webcasting and e-learning platforms.
Filling a gap in the market
Slideshare has proven itself to be a great way to support trainers and educators wanting to share their learning portfolios over the web. But without video or even sound from the presentation, what you are ultimately left with is an incomplete picture. In his biting critique of the buzz around SlideshareGarr Reynolds of Presentation Zen asks:
''...if you want to share a great presentation you made last week, will uploading the slides used in the talk to Slideshare really help you make an impact?
Perhaps, but the problem is, if your visuals were any good for the live talk they probably won't do much good by themselves, and in fact they may obfuscate rather than clarify your story without your own verbal (and nonverbal) input.
The point that Garr and other presentation experts consistently make is that a good slideshow is a visual experience, and supports what the speaker has to say. The worst slideshows on earth are those that might as well be a Word document: laden with text and bullet points and serving as little more than a script for the presenter to read from. Unfortunately, Slideshare works best with this type of presentation. As the slides are all that the audience has to make sense of, the tempatation is to weigh them down with explanations and bullet points.
Well-designed presentations become utterly meaningless once uploaded to Slideshare. Here's an example of a presentation that might make perfect sense if accompanied by a speaker, but loses much of its meaning when shared via Slideshare:
With Slideshare the only clue I can get as to what each slide means is to scroll down the page and read the accompanying notes provided by the presenter. It is hardly an enjoyable experience to have to do this thirty-nine times, clicking through the presentation slide-by-slide. This doesn't feel spontaneous, and there is little feeling as to how the presentation was originally delivered.
But if you go to the other extreme and try to film a presentation with a video camera, the results are sometimes less than impressive. Where do you point the camera - at the speaker or at the projected slideshow - or should you try to whip-pan between the two? A lot of video-recorded presentations end up leaving the viewer feeling seasick, as they try to capture everything going on all at once. Then there's the problem of trying to see past the heads of the other audience members. In short, this is a far from perfect way to watch a presentation after the event.
Zentation solves these problems by bringing together your video and slides, and allowing the audience that didn't make it to the live event to watch it in their own time and at their own pace.
The interface of Zentation is simple and while it is unlikely to win any design contests, it is easy to navigate and use.
The home-page of the site offers a straightforward layout of featured presentations, each displaying a description, and thumbnails for the presentation and video. From the home-page I can choose which video-presentation to watch, send out an email invitation, or launch the editor to create my own.
The presentation player is easy to use, with the video on the left, and the slideshow in a larger window on the right. I can scrub through the video and the slides will sync to whichever part of the video I am watching, or alternatively I can select any of the slides from a list beneath the video. When I click on the link for a specific slide, the video automatically syncs to the right point.
In addition to its other features Zentation gives you a URL link for your presentation that you can place in your emails, IMs or website. Zentation also provides you with the opportunity to embed an information box on your website that contains reference information about your presentation, alongside thumbnails of your video and slideshow.
There is also the option for your audience to add feedback by opening up the comments section beneath your presentation. So all in all, the interface is a simple one and does an effective job of letting me watch video and slides side-by-side.
What really lets Zentation down is the inability to embed my video-presentation mash-ups in my own website. This really is a standard feature in Web 2.0 applications, where portability is expected as a bare minimum. To go from being a niche-destination to being a killer application, Zentation really needs to get with the program here.
Synchronizing your content
In Zentation Creating and syncing up your own presentation and video is also a simple affair. You start by writing a brief description, and then simply copy the URLs of your Google Video and Slideshare presentations into the appropriate part of the form.
These are duly loaded into Zentation, where you go about synchronizing their content. Video is easy to navigate with precision, thanks to the inclusion of frame-advance buttons that allow you to move the video forward in increments of five and ten seconds.
The next step in preparing a Zentation mash-up is to add a description for each slide, and this will be displayed in the player for those who want to jump ahead to particular slides. You then sync up your video to specific slides by inputting the minutes and seconds at which you want them to match up. Alternatively you can pull the timecode automatically from the current place in the video by pushing a button next to the slide. In the space of a few minutes you should be fully synchronized.
Once you have matched your video with your presentation, you are ready to share your mash-up with the world.
Zentation makes this task a quick and painless one, and manages to make the process seem straightforward and intuitive. Even if you have no experience of working with video, and you have never used presentation software like Keynote or PowerPoint, Zentation is simple enough to get to grips with in the space of a minute or two.
Room for improvement
To improve on Zentation these are a few additions that I take humbly the opportunity to suggest:
The ability to embed my combined video and slideshow presentations into my own website or blog. Users expect that they should be able to share their media easily in the Web 2.0 landscape, and it really doesn't make sense to overlook this major feature that can be found in all but the most old-fashioned of online media services
The ability to import video from sources other than Google Video. Including at least coverage of YouTube - the most popular video sharing site on the web - would seem like a good idea for the future
In the longer term the provision of a single destination for the uploading and sharing of video synced slideshows, cutting out the need to bring them in from elsewhere
Zentation does a very good job of fulfilling the simple - but much needed - task it was designed to accomplish: bringing video and presentation slides together, synchronizing them, and providing an easy way to share them over the web. With a little work it could prove to be a very useful tool.
As I have mentioned multiple times, Zentation key strength is its simplicity. While the interface isn't beautiful, it is certainly functional and I found no bugs or glitches when testing the product.
Zentation is long overdue, as there has thus far been no free way to present synchronized video and PowerPoint slides simultaneously. Until now the ability to put together presentations and the video recordings of those presentations was reserved for people who could access sophisticated webcasting, conferencing and collaboration tools. Zentation has managed to change that.
Built around the simple idea of synchronizing your Google Video and Slideshare-hosted PowerPoint deck, Zentation is a free, easy to use solution for anyone looking to share complete presentations rather than just slides, without the need for the fuller features of enterprise e-learning platforms.
Zentation provides a viewing experience that is very straightforward, and divided into two parts. On the left of the screen you have your video playing, and on the right, in a larger window, you can watch the slides that were used in the presentation, synchronized to the speaker.
When you're finished you can create either a text-based link or a thumbnail and description-based link to place in your web-page or HTML emails. Your audience can then watch the presentation in their own time from the Zentation website.
Zentation is in the early stages of its beta release, and as such is in serious need of more content if it is to become a popular presentation sharing destination.
If you are looking for a more rounded way to share the experience of your presentations than has been offered so far by the slideshow-based web applications on the market, you should definitely check out Zentation as a possible avenue for publishing your work.
Since writing this review Zentation has added the ability to embed your presentation mashup into your blog or website, and now also supports direct upload of your PowerPoint files.
It has also been brought to my attention that Google Video was specifically selected for its excellent syncing capabilities, which are unfortunately missing in services such as YouTube.
If you would like to learn more about Zentation you might want to check out the following links:
And there is even a much better tool than all above http://www.slidepresenter.com - it supports all you require and a lot more features for sharing, viral marketing, different ways of embedding and a variety of different possibilities to enhance your synchronized presentation with Links, Subtitles, etc.
Thank you for the detailed info. Can wirecast send video out via a graphic’s cards S-VIDEO or RCA for external recording to DVD recorder setop box, if so how is the video quality, similarly the projected video on the screen.
I invite you to try http://www.vcasmo.com, it provides much better features than zentation
Hi Robin, thanks for your good tips. I like your blog very much. Frederic, a French blogger in Germany