Office Mix is a powerful yet free add-in from Microsoft. It works with PowerPoint and helps you convert the presentation to a narrated, annotated teaching content complete with Quiz and sharing links.
It is an evolution from the powerful (yet unknown) Record Narration feature. In this article we will explore how to use Office Mix.
The need: Creating Reusable Learning Content
Whether you are a teacher or an HR professional handling Learning and Development, you need a practical and cost effective method of creating learning content.
The content may be used by students, staff, newly joining staff undergoing induction, external agencies, dealers, distributors, sales agents, support team or even customers.
Typical content creation process
Individual company or institution may differ as far as the exact steps are concerned. However, by and large these are the steps. There is a Subject Matter Expert (SME) and then there is a Graphic Designer (GD).
In the process we waste lot of time. The SME may get bored while iterating and refining the output produced by the graphics team. In short, this is a costly, time consuming process where creating good results is very difficult if not impossible.
From the SME point of view the creative process is coming in the way of rendering what she wants to communicate.
Was there another approach available?
Most of us do not know there is a Record Narration feature under Slide Show menu. This feature allows you to record the presentation while delivering it live. The audio and timing gets saved automatically. The presentation now becomes self contained, self-running ppt. It also records the Laser Pointer (ctrl drag , 2010 onwards).
Unfortunately, this feature does NOT record the annotation done using the pen feature.
We can convert this content to a video (WMV or MP4). However, there are no bookmarks for slides.
Now Microsoft has eliminated all these bottlenecks and lacunae by introducing a new tool called Office Mix
What is Office mix
This is a free add-in which adds a tab to PowerPoint (2013, SP1 or above). Using this Mix tab you can create enriched presentations.
Presentation can contain
- Audio or
- Audio and Video (webcam typically)
- Screen videos
- Quiz slides
You can record this right within PowerPoint and then publish it to the Mix website for further viewing and sharing.
It also offers analytics about the views and related statistics so that you can judge the effectiveness and popularity of the content.
How to install Office Mix
Go to http://mix.office.com and install the add-in.
How to use Office Mix
Once installed you can see the Mix tab in PowerPoint.
Create a regular presentation with the required content. You can now add recording from screen activities directly using the option Mix tab – Insert group – Screen Recording.
Just choose the area of screen which you want to record and click Record button. Perform the activity, record the video and Press Stop Recording in the Recording toolbar on the top… You can choose whether you want audio or only screen recording.
Whether to record the cursor or not is also under your control. If you are demonstrating how to use some application on the screen, cursor should be recorded.
The recording is placed as a video in your current slide. You can now manipulate the video like any other video in PowerPoint. The video runs automatically, although you will not see any animation in the animation pane.
Recording Audio, Video and Annotations
To do this, click on the Record button. Now a separate black colored window appears. Nothing is getting recorded yet. This windows is just to select what you want. Notice the options – Record audio or Audio + Video buttons. On the right side you have the webcam / video camera area. If you don’t have a webcam, it will be blank.
You can also see the default microphone and control the sensitivity of the microphone from there. Finally you see three types of pen strokes – thin, medium and thick along with a palette of colors to choose from.
The current slide is also visible along with Next and Previous navigation buttons.
This place does NOT allow you to do any annotation. This is a confusing place. If you want to annotate, you may select a color and try to draw on top of the slide. But nothing happens.
No recording will happen till you click on Record Audio (or Record Audio Video) button.
It also means that at least as of now, you cannot record only the annotation. You must have audio and / or video.
So now click on the record audio / video button and then start speaking and annotation. When you finish one slide, navigate to the next slide and record more annotation + narration.
Stop talking few seconds before moving to the next slide and start talking few seconds after the new slide is shown.
This is very important. Otherwise some words which you spoke while the slide was changing will be missing. This happens basically because each slide audio is a separate file and the microphone is simply not ON during the slide transition stage.
When you finish recording for all slides, choose Close.
Every slide need not have recording
Remember that all your slides may not require narration or annotation. Apply it only to those slides which benefit from voice over and annotation or video.
If you have not recorded anything for specific slides, those slides will need to be navigated manually in the Mix (click on the right arrow or press Right arrow button on the keyboard).
If you think this may be confusing for your target audience, it may be a better idea to put a narration for each slide. Even if the narration is short, think of how long a person will require to imbibe the content of the slide. Record the narration accordingly. If it is too short, pause for sufficient amount of time to adjust the duration for the slide.
Do NOT try to put background music across slides. It does not work with Mix.
DO NOT DELETE annotations and audio / video objects
The recorded annotations, audio file icon and video thumbnail will be seen. You can reposition or resize these as required. If you delete these items, Mix will generate an error while rendering and publishing the content.
Animations are hidden
All animations added by Mix are hidden from us. You cannot change view or change these in any way. So don’t get confused. It is being managed behind-the-scenes. Just use it. If you add more animation to your slides, you will need to activate them manually depending upon your click sequence.
If you have manually added time bound animation items, those will run as expected during the record mode.
Rehearsal and Editing
This content is going to be viewed by many people in the future. Therefore you should ensure that the narration is clear, easily heard, conveys the meaning effectively and is well written. Do not think on the fly and create the content. Write a script, practice it and then record.
If you make a mistake you can re-record the annotation as well as audio again.
You have two choices. Publish the Mix Web Site or create a video for distribution or upload to your site.
Preview it before publishing. Correct mistakes and the click on Upload button.
Click Next and decide whether you want the video to be created.
Finally Sign in and then publish the content.
Share the content
Once published the content thumbnails will be shown on the Manage Mixes page.
The manage page shows all the content published by you.
The presentation file name becomes the title – which may not be what you want. Therefore, as soon as you upload the presentation, choose Edit and create a more relevant title.
Who can view the content is under your control.
This way you can create organizational content which is protected or public content for general consumption.
The navigation bookmarks indicate where each slide starts. You can jump to a slide using the arrows or navigate to any location by moving the slider.
The dot indicates Quiz items (We will cover these in the next article).
The 1.0 shown at the end is audio playback speed. If you feel the narration is too slow, you can increase the speed. But generally it is a good idea to leave it alone because it will also speed up the animation and annotation, if any.
Sample Mix: How to reset spoilt slides?
Here is a demo of how Office Mix output works. Click on this link to view the mix
This short video explains how to repair slides which have been spoilt by adding manual formatting on top of slide layout.
Try it out
Go to http://mix.office.com and try it out yourself.
Remember that Mix works only with Office 2013 SP1 (Or Office installed from Office 365).
In the next article, we will see how to use quiz options and see practical considerations of using Mix in a teaching institution as well as corporate organization.