PowerPoint looks “fuzzy” in Conference DVD

Q: When playing back our recent conference DVD on a PC the powerpoint sections look unclear and broken up and the colours are sometimes fuzzy.

Why is this? What am I doing wrong?

Marketing Consultant
Milton Keynes

A: I’m assuming here that you’ve video recorded your conference powerpoint presentation from a PC during the main conference event, and subsequently dubbed it over the speakers.

This typically how you get powerpoint bullet points recorded and synchronised with the speakers on stage.

And now you find have less than perfect video playback quality on your PC.

Assuming you didn’t use HD, there are three main reasons why you’ll experience a small quality loss.

Bleed on Graphics

Wherever there is high contrast on a TV image, such as strong colours on a logo, there is a likelihood of some bleed, or colour edge fuzziness occurring.

This bleed is inherent in all non-HD video production systems.

Even with HD-produced television programmes, you can still sometimes see this when viewed on non-HD TVs.

Bur fortunately it’s relatively small.

Lack of Clarity when played on a PC

DVDs have to be played on a standalone DVD player for best quality.

A PC uses a software player to play DVD, and this isn’t as good as a dedicated DVD player.

This is because a dedicated DVD player playsback at 25 frames per second, and 25 fields per second.

By contrast a PC player only plays 25 frames per second. It doesn’t play the fields, and so loses definition for this.

With live action images this isn’t so noticeable, but with graphics such as powerpoint it can be, albeit the difference is relatively small.

Now also consider that a 720×576 pixel PAL video image is being stretched up to 1024×768 pixels to play on a PC. Stretching equals loss of quality.

In addition, Microsoft Windows Media Player isn’t the best software interpreter. There are better PC players available (eg VLC, which is free), which improve clarity. But obviously this doesn’t help in a world where MS Media Player is considered the standard.

Having said all this, while most audiences don’t expect perfect playback when viewing a DVD on their PC, my experience is that so long as the DVD story content is relevant and absorbing, they either don’t care or are quite forgiving.

Powerpoint text appears “broken-up”

This is usually most apparent when the Powerpoint text uses a small font, such as when there are lots of bullets on a page.

This because Powerpoints quality isn’t very good. It was never designed for television.

With larger fonts the quality issues aren’t so apparent, but with smaller fonts they can be.

This is all the more exacerbated by the issues of playing a DVD using a software player on a PC, as described above

Even when using HD video, which plays at a higher 1280×720 resolution, wouldn’t completely eliminate this problem.

This situation is avoided by pre-planning your event to ensure that Powerpoint screens generally use larger fonts if a video or DVD is later required.

Overall Technical Comment on Clarity

> Use a dedicated DVD player for best results

> Audiences are forgiving when viewing on a PC

> Plan Powerpoint presentations in advance, using larger fonts.

I hope this helps explain why powerpoint, which is used in conference presentations every day throughout the world, can sometimes look fuzzy when played as part of a video or DVD.
© Studio Rossiter 2007

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