Advanced Graphics for PowerPoint
Author: Mike Wilson
Date Created: August 22nd 2006
Last Updated: June 14th 2012
That sounds great, but what are the hardware costs for such a specialized and integrated presentation system? The answer to that question may surprise you.
One of the most compelling aspects of the new graphics display technology is that the tremendous R&D investment required to deliver it has by necessity generated consumer-priced solutions. Computer games after all are the very definition of a consumer market.
Highest end consumer graphics boards cost around $500, and very capable boards are available for half that price. They all deliver incredible performance and they plug into standard personal computers. For producing events at very high resolution (such as 1080i) it is advisable to go with high end computer features, but those are features that most professional digital artists require on their systems anyway. As an example, here are basic specifications for a system that would be able to deliver a quality presentation at full 1080i resolution (1920x1080).
- CPU: Fast Intel or AMD processor. Dual core solutions are recommended for simultaneous processing of video and 3D content.
- System Memory: 2Gb of fast memory. This will enable large presentations with many slides and lots of images.
- Disk drive: High speed (7200 rpm) SATA drive of at least 100Mb. SATA technology and high RPM will stream large video files for display at faster rate.
- Graphics Processing Unit (GPU): This is the fundamentally unique requirement. Both NVIDIA and ATI make excellent discrete GPU solutions. Their consumer lines are named GeForce and Radeon (respectively). To do a full 1080i event at least 256Mb of dedicated graphics memory is required and the high end feature set is recommended.
Building a system with the above components can be done for around $1500.Buying such a system from a vendor will cost perhaps $2000.
We’ve come a long way into this discussion without providing too many specifics on software. Now let’s inject that information.
Our company Instant Effects was founded specifically with the mission of bringing the advantages of advanced graphics technology to the business media marketplace. We are long time 3D graphics professionals who have watched the incredible evolution of graphics hardware and seen that nobody was providing tools that made those advances fully available to business media producers.
The OfficeFX® product line was developed to achieve our mission. The consumer version of OfficeFX is designed for individual presenters. OfficeFX Professional is intended for digital media professionals, event production companies, and the marketing creative services departments of companies large enough to have such a group.
OfficeFX Professional is designed to deliver all the capabilities listed in the Software Solutions section above. It has been used in such events as CES Keynote addresses, Honda model year launches, the Detroit Auto Show, and annual New York “Upfront” marketing presentations by TV networks.
The product costs $649.95 for a single user license. Customers may install that single user license on home, office, and notebook computers. Another way to interpret that licensing policy is that a single license can be used to generate the content for an event, and then used to drive both primary and backup systems at the show.
A typical screen shot from an OfficeFX Professional presentation could look something like this, with customer video playing on an obliquely angled chrome and soft edge matte in the lower left, an animating 3D model at middle right, and a slowly rotating 3D golden globe in the background. All text, images, layout, and animation, is created and controlled in PowerPoint.
In PowerPoint, this same slide looks like this.
Layout, font, text size, is all identical, but there is no 3D or movement of the 3D scenes or backgrounds. The customer video has not yet been assigned and the orientation of the 3D automobile and 3D video plate have not yet been established, but their size and location can be controlled by moving and scaling the above stand in images in PowerPoint.
Assigning a particular video to a 3D video insert scene and determining its playback behavior is done from within the OfficeFX Professional’s “Theme Wizard” interface. That looks like this.
The Office FX Theme wizard presents its slide sorter on the left and various assignment option tabs and dialogs on the right. The FXPreview window in the center shows the results of any selection. It allows immediate evaluation of any FXTheme (like a PowerPoint template, but 3D and dynamic), transition, or options such as text styles and colors. The Insert tab controls selection and behavior of 3D insert scenes such as customer products and logos. In OfficeFX Professional, it also includes the Video option displayed above where videos can be assigned to play on a variety of 3D shapes and models. The simplest of those is a flat plane that can be set to play at full screen (for basic full screen event video). You’ll also see options for subtleties like:
- Playing your video behind PowerPoint Content,
- Ignoring Transitions, and
- Playing Continuously, On Click, or On Slide Display.
With this range of controls for video playback and modern graphics hardware, it’s possible to integrate video (including high quality full screen video) directly into the flow of your PowerPoint presentation – eliminating the need for external video playback devices and switchers. Edits are quick and easy. Coordination and logistics are simplified. And getting back to the primary issue - overall AV expenses can be substantially reduced.
Note: You’ll also see the “Publish” tab on the far right of the OfficeFX Professional’s Theme Wizard interface. That feature allows your presentation to be output to either the free FXD Player, or to video. To see the video output of this file in a variety of FXThemes and aspect ratios, simply visit the Instant Effects web site’s front page.
OK, now we’ve got enough information to make some reasonable comparisons with the way things are done currently. After all, if it’s not substantially different – why change?
To begin, let’s look at the costs for renting, setting up, operating, and breaking down the AV gear for an event. That of course will vary from city to city. It will also range widely as a function of show duration and complexity – meaning amount of video, final delivery resolution, type of projection, etc. For even a relatively modest single day event, it would not be unusual to allocate $2500 for AV costs. That would include gear rental, plus the expense for the personnel to set it up, operate it, and break it down. For higher profile shows with greater complexity and longer duration, that figure would of grow quickly.
What we discuss above is a solution that one person with reasonable PowerPoint skill can operate for both presentation design and final delivery. A full solution that includes both hardware and software would cost approximately $2500 – meaning the system pays for itself in a single event.
One way to validate this statement is to read about how a range of customers are using OfficeFX Professional to deliver innovative new looks in their event graphics while also saving substantially on overall AV costs. To do that you can visit the Case Studies page of the Instant Effects web site. You’ll find examples that extend from relatively modest corporate annual meetings all the way up to a major auto manufacturer’s model year launch event.
The advance of both hardware and software presentation technology is inexorable. It will be further accelerated as the new Vista operating system arrives. The Aero Glass interface that will be offered with that new version of Windows will employ many of the same integrated media techniques that are discussed herein, and that new look will set the bar higher for general business communication.
The advantages of jumping into this coming wave of media technology are both economic and creative. Some will want to leverage these advantages immediately. For others a more gradual adoption may be more appropriate. For all, they will ultimately open opportunities for offering innovative new visual techniques produced at far lower costs than current AV solutions allow.
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