How wide and high can you stretch your thinking about ways you can use PowerPoint?
From what I’ve seen, you could expand it at least 35 feet across and 10.5 feet tall, because those were the dimensions for a projected PowerPoint at a recent sales conference for 20,000 people. Three projectors blended together their signals to create a seamless background image, which set the backdrop for an embedded live video feed and motion graphics display.
PowerPoint has already reconfigured the interior architecture of corporate meeting rooms from chairs surrounding a table, to chairs in a U-shape with a screen on one end. But beyond the walls of office buildings, it is stretching the screen beyond our previous imagination.
Much of this is due to the release of PowerPoint 2002, which has become a key production tool at trade shows, sales events and other high-end corporate productions. The software has taken center stage for some of the same reasons it’s used in lower-end shows: it’s fast and easy to make changes, plus clients get to continue receiving a return on their investment by re-purposing professionally-produced materials for their own PowerPoint presentations.
But a key difference the last few years is that PowerPoint can now present professional graphics with smooth animation. PowerPoint 2002 can easily do what used to involve expensive and proprietary tools, including the creation, display and animation of well-designed graphics that use gradients, transparency and imported Photoshop imagery.
If you’re interested in some of the technical specs of the widescreen above, the PowerPoint page setup was changed to 24.5” x 10.5”, so it could be projected and blended across two of the three projectors, with a 25% overlap in between. The actual PowerPoint computer output a screen resolution of 1600 x 1200 letterboxed. In the third projector, another PowerPoint was fed into the picture-in-picture video feed, which was blended across the 25% overlap between that projector and the adjacent one, creating a single seamless screen of 35’ x 10.5’.
Technical details aside, this example clearly displays the fact that PowerPoint is not just for small meeting rooms anymore. You can stretch, narrow, bend, focus and blur the media lines as your vision, and strategy, sees fit. If you think PowerPoint is only for boring bullets, it’s time to expand your sight to some very interesting new views.
Tip: Stretch your thinking about your own media canvas. You don’t have to go through all of the technical complexity of a super-wide screen show in order to shift the shape of your sight. Without changing your page size, you can simply open a blank slide, and add two black boxes as I did in this example — you can right-click and download the file here. When the PowerPoint slide is projected, the boxes create the illusion that the central area is the shape of your screen. If you put these black boxes in your Master template, every slide will appear that it has this interesting aspect ratio. Suddenly, you’re not constrained to the same screen shape as a computer monitor, TV, film or magazine page like other designers — you actually have many more creative possibilities. What could you do if you could apply your visual thinking to a wider, or narrower, canvas? Let’s see.