Saturday, September 10, 2011

8 different tools to add "flash" to your presentation

I don't have much artistic or design skills so I like playing with tools that help mask this lack of skill. The following are some tools that allows even someone like me to create more flashy presentations/visualizations/mashups without much skill or effort.

Some of the tools below could be used at presentations, others could be a unusual visualization that you show on LCD monitors and other digital signages.


The first is Flotzam, I mentioned this back in 2009, it can mashup your library Flickr, Twitter, Youtube, Digg , Facebook and RSS feeds.

It doesn't seem to be supported anymore. Do note that this is not a web online service, but the program needs to be downloaded and run on your computer.


Interestingly, the next one I have played with like Flotzam is also associated with Microsoft but this one is actually a website. It allows you to create a Montage :)

The number of options are quite varied, you can add flickr, youtube, blogs via RSS feeds or add Twitter (keyword or Timeline) in various styles (list vs Slideshow, animation direction etc). In the example below, I have sources from the library YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, LibAnswers RSS and various blogs.

The main issue is that I can't find a way to embed this so below is a static picture (click on the url below to see how it actually looks like with animation).


I've also blogged about this one in 2009, it's still going strong.  Recently, my library adopted it officially to show a timeline of developments. The example below does all entries manually I believe, but one could also plugin entries from RSS, Twitter, YouTube etc.

Google Search Stories

This one isn't a mashup, but is interesting in it's own right. Google Search stories, allows you to create nice videos based around google searches. There was even a competition for it specific to libraries. BTW in case you are wondering many of these searches are real, an increasing number of students are googling for library related information like borrowing limits rather than navigating through our portal pages from the front page.

Prezi, PPTplex

This is more of a presentation tool (an alternative to powerpoint). Plenty has being written about this including my own post covering Prezi and similar alternatives. Prezi is not easy to use well, The Wikiman (Ned Potter) is perhaps one of the most effective users of Prezi I know of in Libraryland and he has written several posts on how to use Prezi well (here and here and the "ultimate guide").

Below is a very impressive use of Prezi by the master himself (another nice one here). Others have used it for review games for Information Literacy classes. An alternative to Prezi is Ahead and PPtplex (another Microsoft product).

A test  PPtplex I converted from a powerpoint

Personally I like PPtplex because it is easier to use then Prezi, as it is a Powerpoint plugin you basically create it the same way as a Powerpoint so the learning curve is less.


Xtranormal has the tag line "If you can type, you can make movies" and it's really that simple! Just select a background, select 1 or 2 characters, type in dialogue, select a couple of camera angle and special animations using point and click and you get a cartoon animated movie with no programming required.

Below shows a recent library related one that is pretty funny, though you get the joke better if you know about cataloguing and FRBR.

Conversation Between a Patron and the Library Catalog-short
by: j.weinheimer

Want more? See my coverage of funny library related Xtranormals


What about if you want to mix videos, photos with a soundtrack and animations/transitions in a slideshow? Traditionally you would use something like Finalcut or Windows Movie Maker but there are services and tools that make it easier.

Animato is probably the most famous, such tools have algorithms that automatically match the best soundtracks, transitions etc, or you can decide yourself. Animato is limited to only 30 seconds though.

Flixtime directly competes with Animato and is slightly less limited allowing up to 60 seconds.

There's a iPhone/iPad called Videolicious  that reminds me of Animato and is totally free but it is strictly for short 60 second videos only.

These are not all that are available of course, there are others listed in 10 Great Ways to Create Library Videos many are similar to slidesix , basically online slide creators.


Of course, presentations are not about the tools you use but a little flash and novelty never hurt anyone! What other tools do you use to create interesting, unusual presentations/visualizations?
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