PowerPoint Powerup: Ovation

PowerPoint Powerup: Ovation

I recently had the realization that PowerPoint is possibly the standard graphics tool of the modern office, at least for non-graphics professionals. So, I’ve been keeping my eyes open for interesting uses of it; it could be a great selling point to be able to tell prospective clients, “yep, I can make all that cool flashy stuff, and it will work with PowerPoint”. On the other hand, the prospect of using PowerPoint makes me a little ill.

There’s a new product in particular that promises to take some of the “ick” out of of PowerPoint, Ovation from Serious Magic. They’re known for making another cool product called DVRack, which allows you to use a PC laptop as a high-quality video monitor for your DV camcorder, “replacing $10,000 of studio gear” with a piece of software. You could call it the video equivalent of Reason, the kick-ass virtual music production studio. But I digress.

From what I could tell from the video demo, Ovation takes your boring PowerPoint files as input, parses them, and then enables you to apply motion graphics effects and video backgrounds in real-time. It comes with pre-built templates, but they actually look pretty cool. Visually, they reminded me of slick DVD menus.

Ovation does more than convert your PPT, it actually includes a presentation system that turns your laptop into a teleprompter. The program sends your presentation full-screen out through the secondary video port, and the laptop screen is used as your prompter. Very cool! You can download the beta at the Serious Magic website. I haven’t had a chance to install it yet, but it sounded cool enough to try.

On a side note, I like the way Serious Magic integrates their videos into their website. It’s nice to see video that actually shows and communicates the value of a product.

Serious Magic seem to have a lot of other cool products, like Ultra (a video keying program) and Visual Communicator (some kind of non-technical video presentation creator). I like what they seem to be doing, but the software experience may be something else altogether. Will it have the robust yet refined feel of Google’s Picasa 2, or will it be cursed with the same confusion and sluggishness that plagues Adobe’s Photoshop Elements 3? I’m very curious.


  1. Ed Eubanks 19 years ago

    Hi David—Thanks for your blog.  I’ve been reading it for a while, but haven’t had occasion to comment before.

    I agree Ovation looks snazzy and cool.  After being wow’ed by the effects on the video, however, it occurred to me: if I were receiving a presentation with one of these, how much would I really pay attention to the speaker?

    The problem with PowerPoint, it seems to me, is that it already has too much of a “whiz-bang” quality.  We’ve gotten accustomed to watching presentations instead of listening to them, of reading them instead of hearing them.

    I give dozens of presentations every year, and have for the past 5+ years.  What’s clear to me is that my slides must better support my lectures, not the other way around.  Methods for building presentations that simplify the slides and their content seem to be the most effective.

    I’ve got to wonder if Ovation would really serve that end.


  2. Dave 19 years ago

    Hi Ed!

    That’s an excellent point. I can see Ovation being a good product for people in the “we need to give a presentation” category, as opposed to “we are communicating our viewpoint and dialoging with others in the room”. I haven’t been through too many presentations in my lifetime, but I’ve been through enough to know that if you’re not able to direct the focus from yourself to the slides and back to yourself, you’re going to be really boring. Most of us haven’t been trained to give an exciting presentation, and a lot of the times no one really cares, unless you can make it happen. Yep, SCHOOL ISN’T DEAD…the tradition of boring classes lives on through the powerpoint presentation in conference rooms around the world.

    A princple I think of within interactive design is “showmanship”, borrowed from my understanding of magic and magicians. I love magic shows. The best ones create an incredible bond with performer and audience, as they are drawn into the story and artistry of the experience. The cool thing to me is how hard the magician has to work at making things look easy, performing sleight of hand and subtle misdirection to lead the attention of the audience away. The book I’ve been working through is “Magic and Showmanship: A Handbook for Conjurers”, by Henning Nelms.

    That said, and taking your comment into mind as well, my gut is that Ovation actually will end up upstaging the presenter because it will look so damn cool by comparison. Beautiful things are dangerous if they’re not the point…I remember in a game project, we were going to put in some nebulas into a scrolling starfield. I got some NASA images, processed them until they were absolutely gorgeous, and we dropped them in to the gameplay testing build. Every tester loved the nebulas…it’s what stood out. Not the subtle physics interaction or the gameplay. They just remembered the nebulas. Doh!

  3. Matt Ambrose 15 years ago


    You may not realize that Adobe bought Serious Magic (the original makers of Ovation) and promptly ignored the product. While it is still available to purchase from Adobe for $99 they have not updated the product in years. By their own admission it will not work with PowerPoint 2007 (and attempts to use it with 2007 break it so it wont work with 2003 either).

    I am guessing but I think Adobe is about to officially kill the Ovation product… I recently posted the following entry on the Adobe support forum for Ovation and now that forum is gone, my entry has been deleted and my User Account has been deactivated.

    If not for the fact that some of my posts from other forums on the Adobe site are still there I would say I was a victim of their forum upgrade, but the fact that my user account was deactived and my posting history purged is very suspicious.

    Here is what I posted:

    Will anyone from Adobe have the courage to please answer this post?

    Matt Ambrose – 12:07am Mar 15, 2009 Pacific

    Ovation is one of the most (if not “The Most”) AMAZING add-ons to PowerPoint and I am deeply saddened by what appears to be a deliberate decision to allow Ovation to die a slow death. Please do not allow this to happen. It would be perfectly understandable if Adobe were to transfer its abilities to run “only” via Flash or any of the Adobe technologies but to simply let it wither away into oblivion is almost criminal. Please please please don’t do this!

    Please tell us that there is hope, that Adobe is working on a new version which will work with PowerPoint 2007 or better still with OpenOffice. Or tell us that you will sell this application to someone who is willing to revive it? Tell us you will make it Open Source?

    Tell us something—anything—about your plans for Ovation so that we know you are listening to your customers and that you actually care what we think!

    PLEASE! The silence is deafening…