This tutorial or FAQ doesn't take the traditional format of Q & A. I've tried to write it in that format, and have found there is too much information to convey in that manner. To understand multimedia use in PowerPoint, we need a clear understanding of its interactions with the operating system (Microsoft Windows). Not to worry, most of the information presented is easily understood, and well within the average users' ability to master. As an added bonus, we may just be able to solve some of those "other" multimedia problems you've been having with your system.
Before going further, I have to take a moment to thank all those folks that have played such an important role in getting me to commit this information to written form. To all the folks in the newsgroup, microsoft.public.powerpoint (link no longer exists), the Microsoft MVPs and their willingness to go the extra distance, and most certainly to the MVP support folks at Microsoft, thank you each and everyone. A very special thanks to the folks who devoted their time, and computers, to testing this information.
Folks, if I can give you just one piece of valuable advice, visit the newsgroup. I can't think of a better place to learn the inner workings of PowerPoint. Simply put, there isn't a better place to interact with some of the most knowledgeable and friendly folks you'll ever meet. Do yourself a favour and drop in.
Definition of Multimedia and File Formats
Everyone knows what multimedia is, right? For the purposes of this discussion we will be addressing two specific forms of multimedia - movies and sounds, and their role in PowerPoint. PowerPoint has the ability to insert and play the following type of files.
QuickTime (*.mov, or *.qt) created with versions 1 and 2 of QuickTime. (versions 3 and 4 are not supported.)
Audio Video Interleave (*.avi)
Motion Picture Experts Group (*.mpg, *. mpeg, *.m1v, *.mp2, *.mpa, *.mpe)
Microsoft Streaming Format (*.asf, *.asx, *.wmv)
Animated GIF (*.gif) While animated GIFs are not movies, they come close enough for discussion in this document. (Note: Only PowerPoint 2000 and higher supports animated GIFs.)
While other, less popular video formats exist, these are the most common and most likely to be used in PowerPoint. Should you need to use one of the less popular formats I strongly suggest converting it to an AVI or MPG format.
Audio Interchange File Format (*.aiff, *.aif, *.aifc)
Motion Pictures Expert Group Layer-3 (*.mp3, *.m3u) (Note: May only be inserted with PowerPoint 2000 but may be played back with PowerPoint 97 or the 32-bit PowerPoint Viewer.)
Musical Instrument Digital Interface (*.midi, *.mid, *.rmi)
Unix Environment (*.au, *.snd)
Microsoft Wave (*.wav)
Microsoft Streaming Format (*.asf, *.asx, *.wma)
CD Audio (*.cda)
Again, there are less common formats, but these are the ones most users will be using.
Operating Systems and PowerPoint Versions Discussed
For purposes of this discussion, we will be working with PowerPoint 2000. Most, if not all, of the information in this document, will also apply to PowerPoint 97 and I will try to make a special note when there is a difference.
Operating systems discussed are Windows 98, Windows ME, and Windows 2000. Again, most of the information presented will apply to the other Windows operating systems such as Windows 95 and Windows NT. However, I don't have access to computers running these operating systems where I can "experiment" with them.
What about Mac users? Sorry folks, I've never worked with the Mac so there isn't much I can contribute in this area. However, if there are any Mac types out there that would like to contribute their experience please, by all means, contact me, so we can include it.