Producing Your Final Output
Once you've created all of your graphics, the time comes to create slides or overheads and to prepare your speaker notes and handouts. There is a wide variety of options available for creating output, from $1,000 laser printers to $50,000 film recorders to $80,000 color copiers. So how do you decide which of the many options to use? The answer lies in the nature of your audience, your presentation goals and your budget. These three factors are influenced by the type of presentation you are giving.
Determining Output Quality Needs
Presentations generally fall into two major types: peer presentations, in which a speaker presents information to a small group of people within his or her organization, and public presentations, in which the speaker attempts to inform, motivate, and persuade an audience composed mostly of outsiders. The type of presentation often has a pronounced effect on the quality of the output necessary to achieve your goals, and the price you pay for that output.
Figure 12.1: Peer Presentations
Peer presentations are an essential part of the corporate world. Many people are required to give a presentation to fellow employees or immediate superiors regarding budgets, proposals or other projects. The relationship between the speaker and his audience is usually casual, with less emphasis on showmanship than on cooperation and dialog. These "shirt-sleeve" presentations don't call for sophisticated graphics or high quality output; their main purpose is nuts and bolts communication. Most companies wisely discourage any wasteful extravagance when it comes to in-house presentations, preferring to save their money for more "image-oriented" public presentations.
Since peer presentations are usually for smaller groups, and will often involve group interaction, overhead transparencies offer an inexpensive, informal medium. Slides can be produced in-house using inexpensive desktop film recorders. Peer presentations are also a natural environment for computer screen shows, which allow last-minute alterations to slides that may have data changes right up to meeting time.
Figure 12.2: Public Presentations
Whenever a presentation is given to strangers, the relationship between speaker and audience becomes more formal. The speaker presents his information to the audience, with any real dialog handled during a question and answer period at the end of the presentation. A public audience can be unpredictable; you can't always know in advance whether they'll be receptive, neutral or actively hostile. Such presentations rely much more on showmanship and "image" than peer presentations, simply because an unknown audience must be involved before they are convinced.
A public presentation demands more attention to the quality of the final output; in addition to informing the audience, your graphics also have a "public relations" component. Today's audiences have had a lifetime of exposure to quality presentation graphics from billboards to television advertising. Like it or not, in a public forum your slides often have to compete in quality with slides produced by professional designers (not to mention MTV!).
There is a wide variety of output options for public presentations. The most common, of course, is 35mm slides; but many speakers will also use an overhead projector for audience interaction. High-quality video projection units have made screen shows, animation and even live video more common in presentations. For public presentations, it never pays to cut corners when preparing your final slides, overheads and handouts. Use professional-quality film recorders and color printers for your output. Use quality projection equipment and, if possible, have an experienced operator on hand to handle projection problems.
Producing 35mm Slides
Figure 12.3: 35mm Slides & Tray
Getting your presentation graphics from disk to final slide is an exacting process which starts with producing files compatible for sending to a film recorder and ends with processed and mounted slides.
A film recorder is a device for interpreting graphics information and imaging it onto standard color slide film. Although the quality (and price) of film recorders can vary widely, they all use the same basic method for coverting your graphics files into slides.
Film recorders have a much higher resolution than most other computer output devices. Most slides are imaged at a resolution of 4096 by 2730 pixels (4K); a total of over 11 million pixels packed into a film area of 1~h square inches. Some film recorders will also image at 8192 by 5460 resolution (8K), although that is actually beyond the resolving capacity of most 35mm film. By comparison, a full-page letter size graphic from a laser printer only displays about 3200 by 2200 pixels in an area 50 times larger than a slide.
A film recorder, like all other computer devices, is controlled by software. The process of preparing the vector and bitmap graphics in your file for use by the film recorder is called rasterizing. The imaging software which controls the film recorder analyzes your graphics file and converts it to a series of pixels in a grid matching the area of the slide.
Each pixel is analyzed for color and is broken down into components of red, green and blue in a process very similar to the way color separations are created for print media. The data for each of the three color components is then temporarily stored on the hard disk of the computer controlling the film recorder.
Many imaging software packages are available to run under the DOS, Windows and Macintosh operating systems. All require that graphic files be saved in a limited number of file formats; the most common being PostScript, Macintosh PICT and Matrix SCODL. (The SCODL format is specific to Agfa-Matrix Corporation's film recorders.) Some desktop film recorders also come with drivers which allow direct printing to slides from within applications.
Film Recorder Operation
Every film recorder consists of three main components: the camera, the filter assembly, and the CRT athode Ray Tube), all of which are encased in a lightproof cabinet to prevent reflections. Let's take a look at what happens when a graphic file is sent to a film recorder for processing:
- As discussed above, the imaging software analyzes the graphic and converts it into millions of pixels. Each pixel is analyzed for color and broken into values of red, green and blue and the data is stored temporarily on disk.
- The camera portion of the film recorder advances an unexposed frame of film into position and then opens the shutter to start the exposure.
- The filter assembly rotates the filter wheel to place the red filter into position in front of the camera lens. (The usual order of exposure in film recorders is Red, then Green, then Blue.)
- The red exposure data is sent by the computer to the CRT in the form of a scan line of up to 8000 pixels. Each pixel can have up to 256 levels of gray which, when photographed through the red filter, yields the same number of reds. The scan line moves across the face of the CRT until the red data is completely exposed to the film.
- The filter assembly then rotates the green filter into position, and the green data is sent to the CRT. The blue data is treated similarly.
- When the blue data is exposed, the camera closes the shutter and advances the film for the next slide.
This explanation oversimplifies the amazing fact that a professional high resolution (8000-line) film recorder processes almost 128 MILLION pixels in less than one minute to expose a single frame of film. Of course, most standard 35mm slides are imaged at 4000 lines, not 8000, but even that is quite a feat.
Types of Film Recorders
There are two types of film recorders; Desktop Film Recorders, which are generally purchased by individual and small in-house operations; and Professional Film Recorders, which are designed for high-volume users such as service bureaus and large corporate graphics departments. The speed and quality of any film recorder is based on the quality of the component parts: the CRT and the electronics which control it, the optics in the camera, etc. As you might expect, quality has its price.
Desktop film recorders (usually priced under $12,000) trade off speed and quality for price. While slides from desktop film recorders provide image quality which is acceptable for peer presentations, they fall short compared to.their more powerful professional brothers.
Figure 12.5: Desktop Film Recorder
- The cameras used in these units are usually modified high-quality consumer 35mm cameras from Canon or Nikon.
- The size restrictions necessary to make a compact consumer device limit the size and power of the CRT.
- Imaqing times can be up to 15 minutes for some slides, especially those with complex gradient color.
- Color rendition and brightness can be unpredictably variable.
Professional film recorders (which range in price from $25,000 to over $100,000) deliver much higher quality for their higher price. Slides imaged on these film recorders are suitable for the most sophisticated presentation.
Figure 12.6: Professional Film Recorder
- Special high-quality optics are used which eliminate distortion and improve image sharpness.
- Large, industrialength CRT's are brighter and sharper, yielding more saturated color and faster imaging times.
- Special automatic calibration systems maintain color quality and consistency.
Using an In-House Film Recorder
How do you decide whether to invest in your own film recorder? Let's take a look at some reasons to invest in a film recorder, and some serious factors to consider before making your decision.
There are several good reasons to do your own imaging:
- Security. If you deal in confidential information, imaging your own slides keeps it behind closed doors.
- Convenience. An in-house film recorder works to your schedule and never closes or goes on vacation.
- Fast Turnaround. Emergency slides can be imaged immediately.
One reason you should not use to justify an in-house film recorder is the cost of slides. Despite manufacturers' advertising claims, the cost benefits of an in-house film recorder are marginal compared to using a service bureau. Equipment, supplies, processing and staff costs will be only slightly less per slide than service bureau charges, especially if you need high-quality slides.
Here are some of the things to consider before purchasing a film recorder for in-house use:
- Output quality. Determine what sort of presentations you are doing and the quality of the images you desire. Compare the output from different film recorders, comparing sharpness, color saturation and contrast, and smoothness of gradients.
- Volume. You should be producing at least 100 slides per month to justify the trouble and expense of even the most inexpensive desktop film recorder.
- Hidden expenses. In addition to the cost of the film recorder, take into account the hidden costs of film, processing, mounting, delivery charges to a photo lab, staff time (and overtime!) required for in-house imaging.
- Staff commitment. Like any output device, a film recorder requires a key operator to operate, maintain and purchase supplies for it. Even moderate production volumes (600 slides/month and up) may require at least a part time employee. Evaluate whether the necessary manpower is already available or whether you'll need to add staff.
Using an Imaging Service Bureau
Most people who produce presentation graphics send their files to a service bureau for imaging. Service bureaus come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from large nationwide chains to small mom-and-pop operations.
All service bureaus will take your files, image them onto 35mm film, process, and mount your slides. Which one you choose depends a lot on your budget, the amount of support you need, and your required turnaround times.
National Service Bureaus
At the large end of the scale are the nationwide imaging service bureau chains, Genigraphics, Autographix and Magicorp. All three of these companies offer high-quality slides at competitive prices.
Since they are high-volume operations, using a national service bureau is like sending your vacation snapshots to Kodak. The service is excellent and the quality is high. What you don't get is a lot of individual attention and service. National service bureaus have very specific delivery and turnaround schedules; you must send your files by a particular time of day if you want delivery within 24 hours. If you are a beginning presentation graphics user, you may need more help with your software and other graphic problems than a national service bureau can provide.
Many presentation graphics software packages include special drivers and/or communications modules for one or more of these companies. The driver software enables you to create compatible output and send your files to the service bureau via modem, which is especially useful if you live outside of a major metropolitan area and have no access to a local bureau.
Local and Regional Service Bureaus
If you live near a large metropolitan area (or even a medium-sized town) you may have a local service bureau. Consult the Yellow Pages under "Audio-Visual Services" or "Slides" or refer to Appendix B in this book for a list of local and regional service bureaus.
The quality and expertise of local service bureaus is highly varied. Operations can range from a local copy shop with a desktop film recorder to a full-service audio-visual provider with equipment and service which matches or exceeds the national bureaus. Selecting the right service bureau can be difficult, but here are some guidelines to help pick the right one for you.
- Do they have experience with your software? Your service bureau should be a source of advice and troubleshooting, not just slides and overheads.
- What kind of equipment do they use? A service bureau should use professional equipment, for the sake of both quality and reliability.
- What sort of film processing is used? Many smaller bureaus will use a local photo lab for processing, which slows turnaround time. Others process their own film by hand, which leads to processing inconsistencies. A top-notch service bureau will have full professional film processing capabilities in-house.
- Do they offer a variety of services beyond slides? The experience and depth of a service bureau is often reflected in the variety of services it provides.
- Can they work within your deadlines? Within reasonable technical limitations (such as imaging and developing times), a service bureau should do everything in its power to meet your deadlines.
- Is the staff knowledgeable and professional? Service bureau employees can't anticipate every possible problem, but they should be familiar with common problems and their solutions.
- Do they offer training or other support services? A service bureau with the experience and confidence to offer training usually has the experience to
You may notice that price wasn't mentioned in the list above. It was omitted because it should be the last and least important criterion for selecting a service bureau. Service bureaus must compete on price in their local areas, most charging from $9 to $15 per slide. The cost of film and processing varies little from one operation to another. The real difference in price is always in the service and quality you receive.
The most important thing is to develop a relationship with your service bureau. Let them get familiar with you and with your special imaging problems and requirements. That familiarity will come in handy when an unexpected problem arises.
Producing Overhead Transparencies
Figure 12.7: Overhead Transparency
Overhead transparencies have been a standard presentation medium for many years. Overheads are especially useful where audience interaction is important. Because they allow the speaker to write on the projection surface, the speaker can respond visually to a question or comment as well as verbally.
Overhead Transparency Production Equipment
Overheads can be produced with a wide variety of printers and other media. Which one you choose depends a lot on your budget, since costs can range from a less than a dollar for a black and white laser transparency to twenty dollars or more for photo-quality transparencies from a photo lab.
The most basic equipment for creating overhead transparencies is your office laser printer. Of course, you'll be limited to black and white; but if you design your presentation with the laser printer in mind, the final output can be very attractive. Keep the design very simple; avoid large filled areas, use patterns sparingly, and use black copy and graphics on a clear (white) background.
Several manufacturers make overhead transparency film designed for laser printers. Simply place the material in the paper tray of your printer and print each frame of your presentation. Make sure you only use material designed for laser printers. Other materials may melt in the heat of the printer's fusing unit, causing severe damage.
Laser transparencies are the lowest-cost solution of any presentation medium. Average costs are less than a dollar per transparency.
Color Wax Thermal Printers
Color wax thermal printers work on the same principle as standard four-color printing. Instead of ink, however, they use a special ink which is melted onto the paper in separate yellow, cyan, magenta and black MYK) dots. The dots are printed in a tight pattern which the viewer's eye interprets as a single color dot. The process of creating other colors through the mixture of these four secondary colors is called dithering.
The dithering process can produce many colors, but often at the expense of creating a "textured" look in certain colors due to the arrangement of the CMYK dots.
Color is applied by pressing a very thin sheet of plastic material against the paper and passing it through the printer. The plastic is coated with a special wax-based ink in one of the CMYK colors. As the two sheets pass through the printer a thermal print head melts small areas of the ink sheet, causing them to stick to the paper. The process is repeated for each of the four colors.
Initially, very expensive, color wax thermal printers are now competitive in price with high-end black and white laser printers (in the $5,000 range and up). This is the best type of printer to use if you create a lot of color overhead transparencies. Service bureaus charges are from $5 to $16.
Color Inkjet Printers
Color inkjet printers produce colors in the same fashion as color wax thermal printers, through the application of small color dots. Unlike color wax thermal printers, the color is applied using a very fine spray which applies the dots to the paper.
The ink used in color inkjet printers is more opaque than that used in wax-based printers, making for inferior overhead transparencies.
Dye Sublimation Printers
Dye sublimation printers appear on the surface to work similarly to a color wax thermal printer. Each uses a special sheet of ink which is passed over the receiver paper. Each uses heat to create the image. But a dye sublimation printer is considerably more sophisticated.
In a dye sublimation printer, the image is formed by layering dots of a translucent dye (also cyan, magenta and yellow) on top of each other, rather than side-by-side. This effect creates a dot of pure mixed color which blends with its neighbor to create a true continuous tone field of color. Images produced on dye sublimation printers are virtually indistinguishable from true color photographs and transparencies.
The major drawback to these printers is their rather astronomical cost, both for equipment and supplies. Printers range from $24,000 to $60,000, and supplies can cost up to $12.00 per page. But for many applications the price is worth the amazing quality. Service bureaus will charge from $15 to $50 for dye sublimation prints and transparencies.
Photo Process Transparencies
One of the simplest ways to get a very high-quality large transparency is to enlarge a 35mm slide image onto large format photo transparency film. The image quality is usually as good as 35mm slides, and the transparencies are resistant to scratches and easy to clean.
To create this type of transparency, your file is first imaged as a 35mm slide; the slide is then photographically enlarged to fill an 8" x 10" sheet of color film.
Material costs can be high, due to the cost of film and processing. However, there are a few photo transparency systems such as the CibaCopy process, which produce affordable high quality transparencies from slides. Photo process overheads are best left to a photo lab or service bureau. Large format film processing requires exact procedures and lots of chemicals which aren't appropriate in most offices. Service bureaus charge from $8 to $25 for photo process transparencies, depending on the process used.
Producing Speaker Notes and Handouts
In addition to your slides and overheads, you may want to create speaker notes and handouts for your presentation. Some presentation graphics packages have built-in capabilities for creating notes and handouts. If your software doesn't have this capability, you can use word processing, drawing or page layout software to achieve the same results.
Speaker notes are the final text for the speech combined with printouts of the accompanying graphics. Including a printed version of each slide with the text frees the speaker from having to refer to the screen to see his slide text.
Figure 12.12: Speaker Notes
The best layout for speaker notes is to place a large image of the current slide at the top of the page with the speech directly below it. Create a separate notes page for each slide in the presentation. If the slide is a build or reveal, show the final version of the slide only.
The speech text should be set in at least 14 point type (18 is better), double spaced, with left justification. On build slides, mark each slide change clearly with a colored marker in the text. Each page should end with a slide change cue to move on to the next slide and script page.
Include page numbers below the text or adjacent to the graphic; a dropped script will be easier to reassemble. To make the speaker's job as easy as possible, place the speaker notes in a loose-leaf binder so that the pages will lie flat and be easy to turn.
If someone other than the speaker is operating the projector, make a duplicate of the speaker notes for the operator to follow. All cues and text changes should be marked in this copy as well.
There is a great temptation on the part of many presenters to load the audience up with tons of paper to take home after a presentation. These "souvenir" handouts usually end up in the wastepaper basket unread, no doubt contributing to the destruction of our forests and global warming. Handouts are often misused in this way, but there are some very good reasons for using them.
- When your slides present very complex data, a handout enables the audience to study the information more closely, both during and after the presentation.
- If your audience needs detailed information from your speech to pass on to others, handouts containing your entire slide show will free them from keeping copious notes.
- In training presentations a complete set of handouts can act as a visual manual and as a medium for the audience to take notes.
You can format your handouts in several ways, depending on the intended purpose. Here are some general guidelines to follow for setting up your handouts, followed by a few examples based on the scenarios above.:
General Guidelines For Audience Handouts
Most presentation graphics programs will automatically create some form of audience handout. But to ensure a really professional look, here are some tips:
- Don't crowd the page. Leave comfortable margins around your graphics. Leave room for three-hole punching even if you aren't punching the paper yourself.
- Always include the speaker's name, company and the title of the presentation on every handout page.
- On build slides, print only the final step in the build which contains all of the information (except for stepback reveals).
- Use the best printer available in your office for a master copy, preferably a laser printer. Duplication of your handouts should be clean and professional in appearance.
- If you have several pages, number them. You can either use the slide number, or just the order in which they appear in the presentation.
- If you have over 20 pages of handouts, put them in a binder for easy handling.
- Refer to handouts by number in the speech. Don't let the audience guess what they're supposed to be looking at.
Handouts For Complex Slide Data
The most common use of handouts is when the data on your slides is too complex to follow. Tables, complex charts, timelines and other graphics may require a handout to make the audience's job easier.
- Only create handouts for slides which need clarification.
- Print one slide per page in landscape orientation to match the slide or overhead format.
- Handouts should be given to audience before the beginning of the presentation. Even though reading ahead might be a problem, delaying a presentation to pass out handouts would be worse.
Figure 12.13: Detail Handout
Handouts For Presentation Summaries
If it is necessary to give your audience handouts containing your entire slide show, the most important thing is to keep the audience from getting ahead of the speaker by reading the handouts in advance.
- Give handouts to the audience at the end of the presentation, if possible.
- To conserve printing costs and create a manageable document, place multiple slides on a page. You can place from two to six frames on a page, either in portrait or landscape mode.
- Make sure all copy on the handouts is readable. Adjust the number of frames per page for readability.
- Number each frame as well as each page.
Figure 12.14: Summary Handouts
Handouts For Training Presentations
One of the most useful applications for handouts is in training presentations. Handouts can act as a quick and easy training manual, especially if you leave plenty of room in your layout for student notes.
- Training handouts should be distributed before the presentation.
- Leave plenty of room for notes next to the slide graphics. The best orientation is a column of three or four frames per page.
- Use a cover page for the presentation title and include a blank page or two at the end for extra notes.
Figure 12.15: Training Handout
The Real World:
The Paper Chase
Thursday, October 12, 1:00 PM: Jim Gonzalez breathes a sigh of relief as he ships out the final disk to the service bureau for imaging. The last two week have been amazingly busy. In addition to the slide shows he's been creating, he's also had to do layout for the corporate newsletter, an employee benefits brochure and charts for the press release about the Billie Bob Boone stock transaction. He's just about to go out for lunch when George Spelvin walks into his office.
"Good Afternoon, Jim. I just wanted to thank you for the fine job you've done. We all think this is going to be a terrific presentation, and you were a big factor it making it that way."
"Thanks, Mr. Spelvin."
"There's just one more thing we need to finish up this project."
Cold chills run down Jim's spine. "What's that?"
"I need 40 sets of handouts of the presentation to give to the analysts."
Jim's little inside voice goes "Ouch!" Remaining calm, he replies, "No problem. But I don't think the company copy center could handle that job in a single day on such short notice. I may have to farm it out to a copy sevice."v
"That's fine. Do what's necessary. Thanks again."
"By the way, how many slides do you want on a page?"
"Can we do more than one?" George asks.
"Sure. In fact, I think we'd better. There's almost 175 slides in all three shows. That's a lot of paper."v
"What do you suggest?"
"Let's put four slides on a page. That will cut the number of pages down to less than 50 per book."
"Good. That will be fine. Thanks, Jim.
Jim's hand reaches for the phone before George is out of the office. He's soon on the line with Tom Freeman of the Copy Shoppe.
"Hi Tom. This is Jim Gonzalez at Hypothetical. I've got a bit of an emergency here and I hope you can help me out."
"Afternoon, Jim. What's up?"
"I've got a rush copy job for some booklets we need to put together. 40 copies, about 45 pages each. I'll also need them bound with a cover. By tomorrow end of day."
"That's no problem, Jim. When can I have copy to work with?"
"Probably not until end of day today. I'll start printing it on the laser printer right now. I'll also have to do a cover for it. I'll talk to you later about details."
"OK. Call me when you have more information."
Jim fires up his presentation graphics software to set up his handouts. He sets up a page with four slides on it and a short header with the Hypothetical logo and the title "Presentation to Dewey, Cheatham and Howe October 16, 1993".
He starts the file printing and goes to lunch.
There is a wide variety of output options from your presentation software. Which type you choose depends on your audience, your presentation goals and your budget.
- Peer presentations are given to small groups of people within an organization. They require simpler, more casual and less expensive output. Overhead transparencies are most common.
- Public presentations are given to inform, motivate and persuade an audience of outsiders. Quality and graphic sophistication are more important. The most common medium is 35mm slides.
- Film recorders work by photographing a CRT on which gray scale scan lines are displayed. Filters supply the color information.
- Imaging software analyzes data from the presentation software, rasterizes it, and sends the data to the film recorder.
- The quality of a film recorder is determined by the quality of its parts: the CRT, the optics in the camera, etc.
- Film recorders range from inexpensive desktop models to professional systems costing up to $100,000.
- An in-house film recorder offers security, convenience and fast turnaround; it also requires a firm commitment to support costs and staff. There is no inherent cost savings compared to using a service bureau.
- Choose a service bureau based on service, reliability, and expertise. Make cost your last consideration.
- There are a variety of methods for producing overhead transparencies. Choose the one which best suits your needs and budget.
- Speaker notes include slide graphics with the speech to aid the speaker.
- Use different layouts for your handouts depending on how they will be used by the audience.