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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

How to make a music video in PowerPoint

Many readers of this blog are familiar with the idea of having music playing as students come into class each day. Just browsing through sites like ABBA to Zeppelin or Dirk Mateer’s media library will give you tons of ideas for songs with lyrics that relate to economic concepts. But for many of those songs, the economic references might be a little obscure. Sure, if you’re playing a song with the word “Money” in the title, students are going to get that there’s some sort of connection to economics but when you play a song like “Big Yellow Taxi” or “Soak Up the Sun”, chances are they’ll think you’re just playing random music and not realize it has anything to do with what they are learning.

One way to make the connection clear is to use videos/animations that spell it out. This is why I’m a huge fan of Brian O’Roark’s Music for Econ videos. He created a bunch of flash files that show the lyrics for each song and also have images and text that highlight the economic concepts. When I was teaching Principles, I used those animated songs whenever I could because they were so much more engaging for students than just the music alone.

The only problem is that there weren’t videos for all of the topics/classes where I wanted to use them. There are also some songs where the topics that are highlighted in the videos weren’t the ones I needed (e.g., I don’t teach macro so I couldn’t use any of the videos that focused on macro concepts, even if there were also some relevant micro concepts in there).

What I really wanted was to make my own animations but I have no skills with flash or any other software that seemed appropriate – until I realized that I could do it in PowerPoint! Basically, I made a slideshow in PowerPoint, using Custom Animations to make different text appear on each slide, and then saved the whole thing as a standalone video/PowerPoint Show file that can be run on its own. By doing it myself, I could highlight exactly the concepts that my students were learning that day and make sure that they were presented in a way that was consistent with my lectures.

For anyone who is interested, here is how to do it:
  1. Create the slides you want to go with the song. Mine typically include relevant lyrics plus images and then text or questions that highlight the economic concepts.
  2. Insert the music file (presumably an mp3 file) in the first slide and set it to start automatically. You will also need to change the options so that the song does not stop when you change slides (in PowerPoint 2007, I just set it so that it stops after X slides, where X is the total number of slides in the deck; in PowerPoint 2010, you can choose "Play across slides" under Audio Options). 
  3. Under the Slide Show tab, click “Rehearse Timings”. A toolbar should appear with a timer and some navigation buttons (I don’t use those) and your slideshow will start. Navigate through your slides in time with the music. At the end, you should be asked if you want to keep the recorded timings.
  4. If you are using PowerPoint 2007 or earlier, you can Save As a PowerPoint Show (*.pps). When that file is opened, it should start running automatically (just be sure that you don’t click on it once it has started because that will advance the slides and the timings will be off). One thing to note is that the mp3 song file must be in the same folder as the pps file; if not, the slideshow will still run but there won’t be any music. If you are using the 2010 version of PowerPoint, you can save as a video file, which can then be posted online more easily.
Here is an example of one I made for “If I Had A Million Dollars” by the Barenaked Ladies. O’Roark’s version has stuff about inflation that wouldn’t fit with my micro course so I made one that focuses more on trade-offs and includes a PPF:


  1. This is terrific! Thank you for the instruction and the links to Brian O'Roarke's site. I have not seen that before.

    Gene Hayward

  2. Great post, I appreciate you and I would like to read your next post.Thanks for creating this informative post.

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