Saturday, October 22, 2011

Making narrative videos based on Keynote could be easier

( This is a copy of a feedback I sent to Apple's Keynote team. )

I love Keynote - you've gradually developed it into a very versatile and nice tool, for making in-person presentations.

However, where I feel it can be improved is making narrative "taped" presentations. I have done such recently using a combination of Keynote, Garageband and iMovie, and the experience left me feeling like swimming upstream. The workflow was clumsy and making changes to a certain slide's audio was elaborate. Doing the same completely within Keynote would be ideal.

Keynote has basic narration recording and slide synchronization already (see here). However, the approach seems to suffer from some UI confusion and lack of suitability to at least my usage case.

The UI terminology is not very clear. 

Here is the current menu structure:

This kludges together both the narrative part and rehearsal, which are actually two unrelated things. Top three entries are for making narrative presentations. The two lowermost are for exercising live presentations.

My suggestion for the same menu:

      > Play with narrative
      > Record narrative
      > Clear narrative
      > Rehearse slideshow
      > Customize presenter display...

This way, one would use the word "narrative" for a recorded slideshow, with audio, and the word "slideshow" for any kind of general reference (s.a. rehearsing your live presentation).

The use of "Play" as the main menu name can be argued, since it also covers recording and rehearsal. "Studio" might actually be equally good? :)

The workflow seems wrong.

"Record slideshow" has following options:

The "Record from beginning" moves to the first slide of narrative and begins a whole new sound track for all the slides. The "Record & Replace" (or "Record & Append" in some cases) stays on current slide and replaces the soundtrack for this (and subsequent) slides.

This works for ad-hoc narratives where the person casually goes through all the slides in order. It fails on narratives with planned text to read, where getting one slide right at a time is already a good bite.

My suggestion:

Get completely rid of the options dialog. Take people directly to recording stage, but in paused mode so they can start when ready. If they remain within the particular slide and end the recording by pressing ESC, replace only that slide's recording. If they proceed to following slide, replace the recording of that slide as well.

I believe this change is great since it cuts away a whole (unnecessary) dialog, and suits both the old and the new usage case. If one wants to narrate the whole slideshow at once, simply go to first page, start recording and proceed through all the pages. But it also allows to go back to certain page later, and re-record only that one. Without scrapping the audio of the slides behind it.

Going further

You could make a little (loudspeaker icon) icon by the slides in the Slides pane to show which ones have a narration attached to them and which not. Pressing that icon could play the narration without necessarily moving to that slide. Currently, such features are in the Document level in the Inspector - again highlighting the idea that narration would be an undivided, document centric thing. It actually is a the opposite - a page-specific thing that gets bound together just as slides get bound together when running them as a slideshow.

I believe this misconception is underlying all the problems I'm facing with the current narrative Keynote features. Fix that, and all will drop in place.

I believe these issues are easy to fix and look forward to that happening. 

Here is my current narrated presentation I did using the painful Keynote + Garageband -> iMovie workflow:


Going slightly more further (addendum)

Apple could actually scrap the narration features altogether from the Menu. "Play with narration" becomes unneeded if playing with narration would be available at the usual slideshow starting. "Record narration" may still be required - somewhere, to get things going. "Clear narration" can be done by usual slide handling, instead. Less UI is a good thing.

I would like to have external editing of the narrations (s.a. the effects you get in Garageband and clipping) but this is troublesome because of the need to synchronize a narrative with on-screen presentation effects (i.e. showing text or animations). Therefore, it's probably best to leave within Keynote.

Currently (iWork '09) exporting narrations to iCloud is not supported, but obviously it should be. However, these can be pushed as videos instead of interactive slideshows. I would like to have automatically generated markers for the beginning of each slide, though, so viewers would be easily able to skim back and forth to a particular slide.

Narrative slideshows are used extensively in i.e. pitching for projects or raising funds. I hope Apple makes producing them way easier than it now is. :)

p.s. I exported the slides to iCloud. Notice how much crisper the graphics look, because of no conversion to MPEG4 video. Also, the upload was 46MB compared to 230MB for video.

One more thing...

The slide comments should be viewable (at least as an option) when recording the narration. Currently, they are not. I've placed the text to read in those comments and it makes sense to have it there, i.e. for making printouts.

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