Reviewed: Geetesh Bajaj
Last Updated: February 27th 2009
Microsoft PowerPoint began life as a tool to design 35 mm slides on the personal computer. Across versions, some sort of media ability was glued to the core program so that users could display multimedia presentations off their computers or through a projector. It wasn't until PowerPoint 97 that the program began to natively incorporate multimedia in the form of sound and movies. Current PowerPoint version still cannot work too well with movie content. Sound on the other hand is quite well implemented -- you can learn more about how PowerPoint treats sound at:
Having said that, we need to realize that PowerPoint has some limitations -- for instance you cannot fade or mix sounds, nor can you control individual volumes of various sound streams across or between individual slides. Using some VBA code, a few programmers have overcome the latter limitation -- but not everyone is a VBA geek -- nor does everyone want to tackle cryptic code all the time. The solution to this problem is a very simple and elegant PowerPoint add-in from Chirag Dalal called 'Volume Control'.
Chirag is based in Mumbai, India and his programming repertoire ranges from C and C++ to Pascal, Visual Basic and of course VBA, especially PowerPoint VBA.
He has developed several add-ins for PowerPoint -- both commercial and freeware. In addition, he's a regular participant in Microsoft's PowerPoint newsgroup. Chirag also runs the OfficeOne web site -- which contains several solutions for everyday PowerPoint problems as also is a download repository of his add-ins.
Here's a typical scenario for using Volume Control.
Imagine a presentation starts and the accompanying music score reverberates at full volume. Somewhere in the middle of the presentation are a few slides that contain narration -- unfortunately, the background score often overpowers the human chords. This state of affairs is not to anyone's liking, least of all for those who created the presentation. They can reduce the volume either manually though the accompanying sound control or reduce the sound amplification using a digital audio editor. The result is obvious -- the audience will be able to grasp the narration but the background score may be relegated to something akin to a whisper.
That's a situation that can benefit from Volume Control independent controls for MIDI, WAV and CD audio.
You can download a full featured 30 day trial of the product from Chirag's site. If you wish to continue the product beyond the evaluation product, you'll need to buy the product -- more details about the purchase process can be found later on this page.
Installation is a straightforward affair -- the actual add-in is placed in a folder of your choice -- thereafter you need to manually initialize the add-in within PowerPoint using a very simple procedure explained by the install routine.
Once you have actually installed the add-in within PowerPoint, we can proceed to the next step...
In its most simple sense, Volume Control is all about lowering, increasing and muting amplifications of various sound streams available within your system. More often than not, the three sound streams PowerPoint can use are WAV, MIDI and CD Audio. Volume Control handles all of them.
Using Volume Control could not be more simpler - just go to Edit | Volume Control and change some settings -- these are effected on the current slide.
It goes without saying that you have to insert some sound element within a presentation before you control its volume. For our example, let us actually proceed step-by-step using a simple presentation:
- I inserted a MIDI score in the first slide
of a sample presentation and set it to loop across all my consecutive
- On the fourth slide, I need to incorporate some
narration (WAV format) which I have already recorded in a studio. Now,
I play my presentation -- the MIDI score plays beautifully until the
4th slide. As soon as the narration begins, both the MIDI and WAV streams
are loud enough to be audible -- although I cannot make sense of any
- I proceed to the 4th slide in edit mode and choose
Edit | Volume Control | Set Volume for Slide.. In the resultant dialog
box, I set the MIDI volume to 60 on a scale of 0 to 100.
In the same way, one can increase and decrease volumes of individual sound streams on a slide-to-slide basis. The entire system is very transparent -- all you need to do is drag sliders.
We just explored the basic options available within the Volume Control add-in. Beyond these, the add-in provides many more options and possibilities.
You can reset volumes within individual slides or insert volume controllers. Volume controllers are basically shapes designated as hotspots. Such selected shapes can be bestowed with 'volume controller' properties based on individual requirements.
In the same fashion, you can insert mute controllers -- they use the same concept as volume controllers apart from the fact that they mute individual sound streams rather than edit their amplitudes.
Finally, you need to be aware that the product in itself needs VBA to function -- presentations created will respect volume controls across all PowerPoint versions since PowerPoint 97 -- except the free PowerPoint Viewers, which is not VBA enabled.
Volume Control costs US$19.95 for a single license -- discounts are available on multiple licenses. All sales are transacted through a third party secure server -- registered users are mailed a license key file that converts the trial version into a full fledged commercial version.
Support options include email -- strangely, the actual product contains no documentation or help file -- not that any help is actually required.
I love the ease of use provided in this add-in -- large dialog boxes are clearly labelled stating the obvious -- it's almost impossible to go astray using Volume Control.
All in all, the product is a one trick pony -- but it lives up to its raison d'être very well indeed.