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Frequently Asked Questions

**Producer 2003 System Requirements

Problems viewing lectures presented through MS Producer

The following software is required to playback a Microsoft Producer presentation:

Overview

Description of a Producer playback session from a web server:
  1. It downloads setup files first and starts the background process of downloading the common display components of the slides.
  2. Once the setup files are downloaded, the "Play" button is displayed.
  3. After the "Play" button is selected, the audio file (or audio/video file depending on the type of talking head) is downloaded and begins playing. The audio file is a large single file (about 10Mb for a 40min period of audio only). There are buffering capabilities in the current Windows media file; so, it can begin playing sooner. In other words, this file will still be downloading for a while after the "Play" button is pressed. (It takes about 5min 45sec to download a 10Mb file at 28.8Kbps.)
  4. The web browser continues to download other slides and files in the background so that these files are ready to be displayed when the Producer sees the cue to change slides. (You can see this if you watch the status bar at the bottom of your web browser after you start a Producer presentation.)

Provided that there is enough bandwidth between the end-user and the server, or the server is not under heavy load, the presentation should operate just fine.

Unlike a streaming presentation from a RealMedia server or similar special server that plays the presentation after a small portion of the file has been downloaded (and continues until the end of the presentation), Producer presentations require that the components of the presentation be downloaded first before playing. However, Producer tries to a little more efficient about downloading than the traditional download-and-play model. It begins playing when enough of the audio (or audio/video file) is downloaded and downloads the slide contents as needed. A successful presentation will depend on the web browsers ability to download and display the contents of the slide before it advances to the next slide.

What causes problems in Producer
  1. Recall that Producer presentations will download files as needed to display the current slide. If the presentation tries to advance to the next slide before the contents of the current slide have been downloaded, the current slide won't be displayed properly if at all. Let's say we have three consecutive slides where each have a large image file and there's short audio descriptions for each. When the audio starts for the first slide, the image for that slide is downloaded. Since it's a large image file, it's very likely that the image won't display until near the end of the audio description. When the second slide is displayed, it begins the process of downloading the image for the second slide. If the audio description for the second slide (or the display time period) is shorter than the time to download the image (which is a function of end-user connection speed), Producer will advance to the third slide even though it hasn't finished downloading the image for the second slide.
  2. The audio portion sounds "warbled" or distorted. This is most likely due to encoding and/or decoding variations. If there was an increased system load on the presenter's computer at the time of recording (like a virus scan, a Windows update download, or downloading a bunch of e-mail), this could alter the quality of the audio that was recorded. The same can be true for the computer used to display the presentation. That's why other software programs should be shutdown when displaying or recording these Producer presentations.
  3. If the server load is quite high, it will take longer to download a given file. Since Producer depends on timely downloads of files when it needs them, this could affect presentation quality. This will be particularly apparent if the file that's affected is the large audio file that encompasses the entire presentation. Specifically, if what is in the Microsoft player's buffer is flushed before it's contents be filled from the file being downloaded because at that point in time the server is having difficulty transmitting that file due to system load or there's a momentary increase of network traffic that affects the bandwidth between the user and the server.
  4. What's causing the my computer to lock up in the middle of playing a Producer file? That could be a variety of things between IE and MediaPlayer. When the presentation is started, a large .wav file begins to be downloaded. It begins to fill the playback buffer in MediaPlayer. When the buffer is full, it begins to play audio. As data is played from the buffer, new data is loaded in the buffer from the .wav file still being downloaded. When the second slide is triggered to be displayed, IE initiates a download of the image file required for the second slide. We now have two large files being downloaded concurrently, the audio .wav file and the image .jpg file. Assuming there's enough storage in the MediaPlayer buffer, the audio will continue to play when the image is finally displayed. However, the MediaPlayer buffer is very depleted at this point and when the third slide (which contains another image) is triggered, IE initiates the download of the image file for the third slide. At this point the buffer in the MediaPlayer will probably be emptied since there's not enough bandwidth to keep data in the buffer since it's trying to continue to download the 13Mb .wav file *and* the large .jpg image file for the third slide. When the buffer in MediaPlayer is depleted, I'd expect that it would "pause" itself and wait for the buffer to fill up again. However, at this point, we are relying on the error handling capabilities of MS MediaPlayer and MS IE.
  5. I can't play Producer files after my phone connection died in the middle of a presentation. Producer presentations essentially download files as needed except for the initial setup files and the audio file. As a result, temporary copies of these files are stored on your computer. When the connection to the server is lost (or the presentation terminates before it supposed to), these temporary files are not deleted. To delete these files, you need to clear your IE disk cache. To do that: Tools -> Internet Options... -> General -> Delete Files... -> OK (You don't need to delete your offline content).
How do I fix this?

Unfortunately, if you have a slow connection speed (Dial-up) there is not much you can do. Because of large images and audio files, you are at the mercy of your connection speed. You can try to improve performance by exiting any programs that may interfere with the presentation, i.e. e-mail, music, messenger, etc... But there is no guarantee that this will help. If you have consistent problems, view the presentation on campus from one of the lab computers since they have a faster connection speed. And, as a last resort contact the author of the presentation and see if they can provide you with a copy.

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