At a recent ThoughtWorks techy meetup, we recorded a couple of videos for internal use. One of them involved someone speaking to slides. The problem was that we had no projector, and our flip camera wasn’t really up to doing a great job of filming the screen. So the problem I was faced with was the best way to synchronize the audio track from the video to the slides.

What follows is a far from efficient workflow that allowed me to sync the audio track with the slides. The only constraint was my skills, and the fact that I only had freeware software and whatever came with the mac (iLife 08).

0. Convert Flip AVI -> mp4

I’m not sure if I needed to do this, but I figured the OSX tools would play nicer with m4v than with the avi’s from the Flip. I didn’t have the Flip software installed. I used Handbrake to convert the video.

1. Import into GarageBand to rip out the audio track

I probably could of done this via Handbrake, but it was fairly easy to do in GarageBand. I imported the video, selected the video track, and removed it.

2. Convert the Keynote slides to Images

Given that I was in GarageBand, I figured I’d create a podcast, using the Keynote slides as artwork for the podcast. Exporting the slides as JPEG is a simple job – I chose to have Keynote create one image for each stage in a transition. I then imported the JPEGs into Aperture so I could access them via GarageBand’s media browser.

3. Add the artwork to the podcast

You’ll need to make sure the Podcast track and the media browser is visible. Then, it’s a simple matter of dragging in the relevant slide in sync with the audio track. The UI is pretty intuitive.

4. Export the podcast

Now it gets trickier. At this point, GarageBand thinks we have an audio, rather than video, podcast. I tried exporting into iTunes, but just got an audio track – I’m sure the artwork would show up on my iPhone, but I want a movie for uploading to our internal video hosting service (we have Google apps, so get Google Video).

What I ended up doing was exporting to iWeb, exporting out the resulting Podcast site, then grabbing the resulting quicktime movie. This quicktime movie was almost what I wanted – a video, with the audio track from the flip, with synchronized slides. But I wanted to do a couple more things – namely I wanted to split the presentation into two parts (5-10min videos are easier for people to digest than a single 20min presentation), and add some additional titles.

5. Split and add titles

Luckily, iMovie can handle this. I’m fairly sure it was able to directly import the quicktime movie. Adding the titles is a little fiddly, far worse is the simple task of splitting the movie itself. I hope to try iMove 09 soon to see if this is improved.

It was at this point I realised I had an issue – namely that the artwork you embed in podcasts via GarageBand is limited to a square, 300×300 pixel dimensions. This led to some clipping of the slides. If I have to use this workflow again, I’ll make sure to export square slides from keynote in the first place.

6. Export and upload

Which is finally where things got easy.

Notes

  • The GarageBand project was massive. The two resulting videos from iMovie were less than 15MB – the GarageBand project which just contained the slides and the audio track was over 450MB.
  • I’d love to find a better option for syncing the artwork – being limited to 300×300 pixels is a pain, especially when I’m uploading to a video hosting service capable of much higher quality widescreen playback.
  • I like the power of iMovie, but I dislike the UI intensely. I’d love to be able to increase/decrease clip selection using the keyboard for more control.
  • For some reason Google Video too ages to process the two small videos – significantly larger videos uploaded afterwards were available within a few minutes. It is possible that the small, squashed size of the movie gave the transcoding a problem, or it may just of been a transient glitch, but I ended up having to wait overnight for them to finally be available.
  • I’d love to know of a better workflow using free/cheap software, so please get in touch if you have any ideas!
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