Tips for Presentations with Movies

As the World-Wide Web continues to grow at a breathtaking pace, the availability of multimedia content (including video clips and animations) is also increasing, although arguably not at a comparable pace. Teachers as well as students often want to include movie clips and animations in digital presentations, using PowerPoint or other multimedia software. This article presents four different strategies which educators and students can adapt to include movies in their presentations.

Before explaining “nuts and bolts” procedures for including movies in presentations, it is obligatory to address copyright issues. Just because something is technically possible, it may not be legal. Students and teachers have more latitude to use copyrighted content when creating resources and materials for educational classes, but those rights are still limited. For more guidance about copyright issues in the classroom, refer to the Winter 2003 TechEdge article, “Copyright 101 for Educators.”

The table below the "Option 1" section summarizes the techniques explained and compared in this article.

Option 1: Hyperlink to a Web Movie

Once a movie clip has been located on the Internet (usually a challenge in itself) the question becomes, “How can I include this movie in my presentation?” Generally the most straightforward answer to this question is to insert a Web link into the presentation. The steps for this in MS PowerPoint are:

  1. Copy and paste the URL where the Web movie is located (using a Web browser)
  2. In PowerPoint, use the Autoshapes button in the Drawing toolbar to select an Action Button. The Movie action button is a logical choice.
  3. After selecting the action button, click and drag to draw the button’s rectangular shape on the current slide.
  4. Next, choose the desired action: “Hyperlink to URL…” When prompted for the URL, paste the Internet address you copied in step #1 with a keyboard shortcut (Control/Command – V).
  5. When viewing the presentation, click on the action button to launch a new Web browser window and open the Web page containing the desired movie.

The most significant disadvantage of this technique is it requires direct access to the Internet during the presentation. If Internet access is interrupted or is slow, playback of the movie will be directly affected. Playback of the movie does not take place within the presentation software, either. This makes the inclusion of the movie clip less seamless within the presentation. Despite these disadvantages, using a hyperlink within a presentation to a Web movie can be both an effective and relatively simple way to include video within a presentation.


Requires Internet Access During the Presentation?



1- Hyperlink to a Web Movie


Easy and fast

Requires Internet access, less reliable, not very “seamless”

2- Save and Insert a Local Copy of a Movie Clip


Reliable, larger movie files (with better resolution) can be used

Many Web movies are not directly downloadable / savable

3- Screen-Capture a Movie Clip


May be the only way to include an offline copy of a Web movie

Time-consuming, requires extra commercial software

4= Digitize a Movie Clip


Provides the most control over movie properties / quality

Time-consuming, may require additional hardware

Option 2: Save and Insert a Local Copy of a Movie Clip

Movies can be directly inserted into a PowerPoint or other multimedia presentation readily, but before inserting a video, a local version of the file must be obtained. This is often difficult for movie clips included on Internet Web pages, and this difficulty is usually not an accident. To protect their copyrighted content, many Web authors utilize methods when inserting movie files on Web pages that do not allow the usual right-clicking and direct saving by users, but again this is not one-hundred percent true. Some movie files do allow this.

Movie files that can be directly saved to a local hard drive have direct movie links. The file extensions of these links are NOT the typical .htm, .html, or .asp extensions familiar to most Web surfers. Direct movie links have the file extension corresponding to the type of compression format utilized in the video clip. These include .mov (QuickTime movie), .wmv (Windows Media file including both audio and video), .mpg (MPEG format, generally MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 standards), and .rm (Real Media format). More information about different Windows Media file formats is available from Microsoft on “Guide to Windows Media File Extensions.”

You can find examples of direct movie links in different formats in the Media Library of the “Learning in the Palm of Your Hand” Website, hosted by The Center for Highly Interactive Computing in Education at the University of Michigan. In Internet Explorer, as the mouse arrow moves over a Web link like those on the above page, the linked “target” or URL is revealed in the lower bar of the browser window.

Once a direct movie link is located, a user can right-click / control-click the link and save the linked file (target) to the local hard drive. It is usually a good idea to save the movie file to the same file directory/folder where the presentation file is saved. More information and suggestions about directly saving movie files are available in the online workshop curriculum, “Multimedia Madness.”

An important thing to note about inserting movie files into PowerPoint (from the INSERT – MOVIE – FROM FILE menu choice) is that large movie files can overwhelm and bog down PowerPoint rather quickly. To avoid this problem when using QuickTime movies, a “reference movie” to the actual (and larger) QuickTime movie can be created and inserted. A thorough and excellent tutorial about this process is available at “Embedding QuickTime Movies in PowerPoint.” This tutorial also addresses the importance of selecting a CODEC (video compression format) which is compatible with the Windows version of QuickTime, sometimes a problem when movies are created first on a Macintosh computer.

Option 3: Screen-Capture a Movie Clip

If “live” Internet access is not available during a presentation (making option #1 not possible) and a direct movie link to a video file cannot be located, many students and teachers may conclude it is not technically possible to use/share a desired movie clip in their presentation. Screen capture software, however, can make even these Web movies “save-able” and “insert-able.”

For Windows users, Camtasia Studio and the less-expensive Snag-It software allow not only static regions of the computer screen to be captured and saved, but also dynamic/moving regions of the screen including online video clips. For Macintosh users, SnapzPro software provides similar functionality. While Camtasia Studio is considerably more expensive than either Snag-It or SnapzPro, it does allow saved movie files to be exported in high quality and significantly compressed flash movie format (.swf file format). Camtasia Studio is Windows-only software, but the flash movie files it can create are cross-platform.

The steps for using screen-capture software to save an online movie are generally similar:

  1. Launch the screen capture software and note the “hot keys” (keyboard combination) required to invoke the screen capture functionality.
  2. When viewing the Web page containing the movie you want to capture, press the hot keys to invoke the screen capture program.
  3. Select the region of the screen to capture as well as the movie options. Generally the faster and more powerful your computer is, the smoother and better quality the captured video and audio can be. Note that “local audio” should be selected for capture instead of “microphone / external source audio” when capturing a Web movie.
  4. Play the movie from the selected Web page.
  5. Use the hot keys to stop the movie capture process and save the file to your local hard drive.

A disadvantage of using screen-capture software is the expense: while there are built-in techniques in the Windows and Macintosh operating systems permitting static image capture, similar functionality for capturing movies is NOT included. Therefore, commercial software like the products mentioned previously are necessary for this technique. A second disadvantage is the time factor: it can be very time consuming to save and create these movies. There are different compression and quality options, and these choices may be intimidating to those unfamiliar with video and audio editing options.

The movie file natively created by a screen capture program may be unnecessarily large, however, and can be reduced in size with different programs. QuickTime Pro is available for both Windows and Macintosh users, and allows video files to be opened and exported in a wide variety of formats. QuickTime Pro is $30 commercial software. Microsoft’s free MovieMaker2 software (for Windows XP only) also imports and exports a wide variety of video formats. For example, Windows media file video clips can be imported and sequenced with other video file formats, and then exported as a single movie file. That file can subsequently be inserted into a presentation, as described in option #2 of this article.

Option 4: Digitize a Movie Clip

Sometimes, the video clip a teacher or student wants to include in a presentation is not available online: it is part of a full-length movie available in VHS or DVD format. Again, as mentioned in the introduction of this article, a thorough understanding of copyright considerations is essential when modeling or helping students utilize commercially copyrighted content like theatrical movie clips. Assuming the proposed use of the desired video content constitutes “fair use,” there are several viable options for creating this video clip from VHS or DVD media.

One option is to purchase hardware that connects to the video playback device (VCR or DVD player) and your computer. These devices allow video to be “digitized” (although technically DVD video is already in a digital format) and made into shorter, discrete movie clips. has a variety of introductory as well as intermediate-level articles about different video import options on Desktop Video: Categories. These hardware solutions can take the form of a capture card installed into your desktop computer, or an external capture device that plugs into a USB or firewire computer port.

If you already have a digital camcorder, however, you may not need an additional piece of hardware to capture video from VHS or DVD. By plugging your camcorder directly into the video playback device, you may be able to record a desired video segment directly to a blank DV tape. You can subsequently import the taped segment into your computer using free software like iMovie for Macintosh or MovieMaker2 for WindowsXP. Digital camcorders can often be used as direct “line in” converters for video sources as well. If you can connect your camcorder to the video playback device (usually with a three-part cable: yellow for composite video, and red/white cables for stereo audio) along with a firewire cable to your computer, you may be able to directly import video from VHS and DVD to your computer’s hard drive.


Including a video clip within a presentation can be powerful. If a picture can be worth a thousand words, a well-selected video clip can be worth a small book. In my TCEA 2004 presentation, “The School I Love,” my words could never have communicated with equal effectiveness the ideas, perceptions, and emotions of the elementary students I interviewed about their school experiences. Digital video permitted a qualitatively higher level of communication and expression to take place during the presentation. Used properly, digital video can elevate our discourse and improve our insights in ways impossible with the printed word or an oral lecture. Used improperly, digital video can be a distracter and significant time-waster in the classroom. For more suggestions and tips about using digital video in the classroom, check out Technology and Learning’s Digital Video in the Classroom. I hope this discussion of options for including video clips in presentations helps make teacher as well as student presentations in your classroom more effective and engaging!

Wesley Fryer is an aspiring digital storyteller. The videos he created in Spring 2003 for the TASA Technology Leadership Academy are available on His personal Website is