Widescreen PowerPoint

28 August 2006

In addition to maintaining the multiple websites for The City Church, I’m also responsible for the PowerPoint and media presentations during services. Actually, even though my experience was in web design it was for PowerPoint and graphics that I was initially hired at the church. But enough about me, let’s get to some interesting stuff.

We’ve been making the transition to the nearly-standard, widescreen (16:9) aspect ratio for all of our media. Our television shows have been letterboxed (16:9 in a 4:3 frame) since 2002, and most of our promos, spots and internal videos have been in native 16:9 for the past few months. I love the widescreen format. The benefits are:

So it’s been my goal to figure out how to design and deliver widescreen PowerPoint (which we use for announcements, message notes, and other various presentations), making transitions to and from video seamless, and avoiding scaling or cropping.

The first thing I had to do was change the output of the computer’s secondary display to a (native) widescreen format. I settled on 1280x768, which isn’t exactly a 16:9 aspect ratio, but works – it was the closest setting available. In order to fill the display’s frame I use a custom page size in PowerPoint of 12.5” by 7.5”. This measurement was found by calculating the display width and slide height (as outlined here).

I’m using the standard “HDV” preset (in Photoshop) when designing graphics, backgrounds and images for PowerPoint. The preset creates a blank canvas that is 1280x720, 72dpi and has [close-to] standard title and action safe guides already generated. This resolution isn’t an exact match to my PowerPoint canvas aspect ratio, but it allows me to preview what the final output will be once the graphic is rescaled to the standard 16:9 ratio.

After the secondary display hits the processors (in my case, a Folsom ImageProHD for the center screen and a tvOne video proc for the sides) I have custom aspect ratio settings of 1.5, which gives the proper 16:9 output to our projectors.

For the plasma monitors throughout the Kirkland Campus I have a scan converter from RGB Spectrum that downscales the PC’s output to standard definition (I know, I know) composite, which is then distributed through multiple DA’s and splitters.

The result is a seamless comparison between video and computer outputs. So far I’m satisfied with the results, although it’d be nice to be pumping HD video so I wouldn’t have to downscale my PC image as much.