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PowerPoint 101: Movies and Animated GIFs in PowerPoint

PowerPoint 101: Movies and Animated GIFs in PowerPoint

There are two primary forms of motion that are used in PowerPoint: animations, and embedded motion files. We’ve already talked about how to add animations to PowerPoint, so today we’re going to focus on the other half of the equation: adding movies and animated GIFs to your PowerPoint slides.

Whether you are working on a presentation that needs to be pushed to that higher level of polish, or you simply need to add a specific video or animated GIF to a deck, this PowerPoint 101 is a great place to get you pointed in the right direction.

Using Video in PowerPoint

Playing video files in PowerPoint is a feature that’s been around for three decades, but because of the way that video formats have evolved and how the program itself has changed, the feature still keeps a lot of people guessing. Here are a few things to know about using video in PowerPoint:

Not all video files are created equal

Certain file formats will work fine on a PC but not play on a Mac, and certain video formats will not work in PowerPoint at all. Although you can’t always choose what format your video file is in, we strongly recommend video files ending in a .mp4 or .m4v file extension.

This is a common, agnostic format that works well across PC and Mac and offers the closest thing to full compatibility we’ve seen. Try and avoid .wmv (PC proprietary) if you can. Similarly .mov (Mac proprietary) movie files might not play on some versions of PowerPoint. If you are unsure of what to use, Microsoft offers a complete list of video formats and their compatibility.

Videos make your file big, quickly

There was a time when you could choose to link a video or have it embedded in the file itself. In contemporary versions of PowerPoint, the video file is embedded by default. This means the video file becomes part of the PowerPoint file when you save it, but this also makes your file size large. This can quickly become a problem for people who are sharing their PowerPoint file digitally.

If you are running into problems with overly large files as a result of videos, we recommend using the Compress Pictures function in PowerPoint.

You can find it under the File menu. Our preference is for the "On-screen (160 ppi)" setting.

Video tailoring options have gotten better

As of the writing of this article, the most recent version of PowerPoint (PowerPoint 2019) offers a robust number of in-application video editing options. One particularly useful feature is the ability to have your video start either automatically or on click. You can also trim the length of your video, select the starting frame (the one that shows before it starts playing), loop your video or have your video fade in and out. You can even apply certain design adjustments without leaving PowerPoint, such as adjusting transparency, contrast, or brightness.

One of our favorite new video editing features in PowerPoint is the ability to crop a video down, meaning you can remove the pesky black bars around your video or trim it down to fit inside the frame of a design element, for example.

PowerPoint Video Pro Tip: layer objects over video and have them animate in

To create a truly dazzling scene, you can send a video file to the back or the stack and ask PowerPoint to loop it until the end of the slide. Then, you can layer objects (like shapes and text) over the video, and even have them animate in while the video is playing.

You can also try having it animate in at the same time and setting it on a delay. Just keep in mind that you should pick a video that isn’t too busy or your audience will strain to follow what's happening on your busy slide.

Using Animated GIFSs in PowerPoint

In general, the use case for GIFs is highly specific, but they can be a safer and sometimes better choice in certain situations. Here are a few things to consider if you are planning to use GIFs in PowerPoint.

In PowerPoint, GIFs are images

The difference between a video and a GIF may seem obvious, but it’s worth a little explanation.

Essentially, PowerPoint treats GIFs as images, even though they have motion. Because of that, you can use all of the image editing tools in PowerPoint that you might use for static images on GIFs as well.

GIFs play automatically and loop by default

If you are adding a GIF, this is probably what you are looking for, but be aware that, by default, any GIF in PowerPoint will start playing as soon as you move to the slide, and it will continue playing on loop until you move on.

One other note on GIFs: in a previous animation article we reference having a movie file play on the first slide while your audience files in and sits down. GIFs are particularly good for this application, as they loop on their own and don’t generally cause any file size issues.

GIFs don’t have the same file format issues as videos

If you’re going to be working cross platform or are concerned about file size, GIFs can be a great alternative to videos. Additionally, when a video file format isn’t supported it simply shows up as a black box. GIFs don’t have that problem.

GIFs are not always very efficient

There is a reason most GIFs you’ve are short clips: GIF files get very large, very fast. That makes them best used for small, looping applications.

Using video and GIFs in PowerPoint

Both videos and GIFs can be excellent additions to a PowerPoint, and there are specific situations that each is best suited for. Once you learn when to use each, adding motion to your PowerPoints will be fast, easy, and highly effective!

If you wan more information on motion in PowerPoint, check out our Animation 101 page for a full introduction, or browse the full guide in our Presentation Design 101 hub.

Update (03/24): we’ve revised this article to add some new details on best practices for using GIFs and videos in PowerPoint

Looking for more information about presentations and beyond? Check out our resources for expert advice and tested strategies.

About the author

Danielle John is the founder of VerdanaBold. She has more than 25 years as an award-winning designer and creative lead, directing the visual expression and production of thousands of high-value new business pitches, C-level presentations and internal presentations for major global brands. When she's not busy at VerdanaBold, she can be found antique shopping and spending time with her husband and two kids.



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