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What's So Bad About Slide Shows?

Apr 24, 2008
Slide Shows. Slide Talks. Slide-Sound Shows.

These phrases strike fear into the hip and trendy.

And why not? Say "slide show" and your brain is filled with Dad's vacation slides or a grade school filmstrip on how to brush your teeth. Or maybe you envision an old audio-visual presentation you saw when you were a summer intern: "Improving Tolerances in the 303B Die Cut Assembly."

But some of us know better. We know what slide shows can really be. And the first thing we need to understand is that they're not slides, and not even powerpoint. They are moving picture presentations, tanks to today's advanced slideshow making and video editing software.

As a baby-boom-aged audio-visual and video producer, I should know. I started out in "slides." And the first thing I and my colleagues across the country did was try to turn the slide show into more of a "movie"-- a theatrical experience.

This required sophisticated soundtracks, fade and dissolve effects (pairing two slide projectors and a "dissolve unit", and synchronization between sound and picture. Soon, the only thing we couldn't do was talking heads (thankfully)-- the rest was simply using the language of film... wide shot, medium shot, close-up, cutaway, rinse and repeat.

Because motion picture film was expensive, and industrial video hadn't yet been mainstreamed, slide shows became the corporate norm through the mid-eighties.

Across the country and around the world people produced award-winning communications using slides.

Of course, once video became affordable to the corporates, that changed. But often, the video productions that replaced slide shows actually weren't as good-- why work hard when you can feature talking heads?

But people who were in the slide business adapted their hard knocks techniques to video, and produced some pretty incredible stuff. Video cameras weren't as portable as a Nikon and a cassette tape recorder, but extraordinary soundtracks, awesome editing, and location video made for a very nice mix-- a lot better than corporate talking heads.

Often, the best videos featured still photography-- company histories, executive biographies, fund raising appeals. Historical materials were usually print, and fund raising can benefit from the unique emotional power a great still image or still image sequence can create.

Today, video is everywhere-- affordable, digital, distributable on the web, on DVD, or on an iPod or flash drive. But a great deal of the video that is out there is "out there"-- not really communications, but more real-time stupid human tricks or ego-driven monologues. We all want to be the next big thing.

And so, the thought leaders have forgotten slides, photography, still life, and historical documents.

If we need a slideshow type "thing", we use Powerpoint, a background template, and a bunch of words and some small picture or clip art inserts. That was special 15 years ago; its not so special now.

But of you mix the editing and distribution power of digital video with the emotional language of truly great slide shows, what so you get?

Well, an award-winning PBS series or ten from Ken Burns, as an example.

A stirring tribute to the retiring head of a company.

A love story more compelling than any wedding video.

A family scrapbook with pictures, clippings, old movies, new interviews, and stirring music guaranteed to reap adoration and applause.

The satisfaction of a a job well done, and even, perhaps, a corresponding income as an independent producer.

Whether you use a slide show program, or a video editing program, slide show techniques are alive, and well, and communicating every day. Put them to work for you!
About the Author
Brien Lee is an award-winning creative director, scriptwriter, producer, and trainer, now based in Phillipsburg, New Jersey. His website at Videostoryschool.com explores Tribute-style videos and their potential for both home and business ventures.
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