Options for Embedding Video IN a Document File

With companies effectively using video on websites, why would anyone be interested in the fairly challenging task of embedding video directly in Word and PDF documents? In general, there is little need to embed video directly inside of office documents. However, there are situations where embedding may be the best (or only) way to ensure that the documents and video can be viewed together reliably. Some of these situations are common enough that iPOV was motivated to develop special tools and processes to make the task easier.

The following scenarios illustrate situations where video-embedded documents might be handy and you can review the options in a lot more detail in this extended whitepaper.

  • Large company IT departments are pushing employees to store their business documents in secure document management systems like SharePoint or Lotus Notes. These systems enforce enhanced security and offer document control safeguards that are difficult to replicate on standard web servers. Documents with embedded video coexist very nicely with these systems.
  • For security reasons, the same IT departments may resist the proliferation of intranet or extranet web server applications. Even if a document could be hosted on a web server, policy restrictions or resource costs may make that difficult for people in business units and non-IT departments. Those individuals can author video-enhanced PDF or DOC files without requiring any special IT support.
  • Although this problem is diminishing, companies with highly mobile workforces may still have people operating in places where web connectivity is marginal or nonexistent. Field service crews, overseas offices in developing economies and personnel co-located behind strict client firewalls may not be able to reach key company websites. They can carry a library of video-enabled documents on a hard disk, thumb drive, or CD.
  • Most employees in large organizations use Microsoft Word and it would be convenient if all forms of publishing could be done with that tool. However, to work with other programs, Word documents often must be exported to another format. If you add video into the mix, that gets very complicated. One iPOV client found that, by converting Word originals to PDFs and embedding video, the resulting documents became much more universal. A given PDF document with embedded video can be stored in SharePoint, loaded into the Learning Management System, linked and made viewable online at a website, or emailed to parties outside the company.  One file, many uses.
  • A similar situation occurred in a global multinational. Divisions around the world each had their own Learning Management System, some of which were old and not standards-compliant. If they published eLearning in the customary SCORM or AICC packaging it would have taken a lot of effort to import it into all of the varied, regional servers. However, every LMS (even the old and non-standard ones) could import and display a PDF. By packaging the video inside the PDF, the courseware effectively became a universal commodity.


(click on the images and captions to view PDFs with embedded video at iPOV’s website)







You can view more examples at iPOV’s website: http://www.ipov.net/content/rich-media-pdf


A fast-moving technology always generates surprises that initially baffle newcomers. These are the surprising limitations and gotchas that dictate what is actually possible. Accordingly, we begin this guide with a list of the key constraints that we have learned to work around:

  1. Can I put a video into a Word Document and have it viewable and playable on the Page?
    No. You can create that impression if you insert a Windows Media ‘object’ into your document, but the video won’t actually be inside the Word file. It will be an external file that the document is linked to, and you must manage this linkage yourself. You can put a movie inside the Word file, but it will appear as a small icon that you must click to open. It is theoretically possible that a skilled programmer can write a macro or plugin to make this possible, but iPOV has not seen any developer activity in this area.
  2. Can I put a video into a Word document and then save it as a PDF?
    Not reliably or well. iPOV is not aware of any tool that will reliably export a video-embedded Word document to PDF and have the video play correctly. First, if the video is in a typical, common movie format (MP4, AVI, WMV, MOV, etc.), it should first be converted into a Flash movie – something PDF exporting software won’t do.[1] Second, if the movie embedded in the Word document is already a Flash movie, the resulting embedded movie will have very limited play control (see point #3).
  3. Can I add a Flash video to a PDF using Acrobat Pro?
    You can add a FLV or H.264 video or SWF animation easily enough, but the Flash Player doesn’t supply any play controls (start, stop, pause, tracker bar, volume, etc.). This is a big drawback in business situations where the viewer may want to review a key point or adjust the sound volume. To get good play controls, it is necessary to package the video and play controls together into an SWF file (e.g., using an external editor such as Adobe Flash) and insert the unified SWF file into the PDF.[2]
  4. Why haven’t I seen more PDFs with embedded video – it looks really cool?
    Acrobat has supported embedding videos since version 6. The problem for business documents comes down to workflow – see answer #2 above.  In general if you want to edit the text of a document you will do so in Word and then re-publish it to a PDF.  At this point someone must individually re-insert all the videos from the old PDF into the new PDF. iPOV has developed a set of processes and procedures to help us do this quickly and correctly and we are working on tools to automate the process even more.[3],    [4]
  5. Why not put the videos on YouTube and link them to a document?
    YouTube (and most sites like it) caters to people who want wide public distribution for their files. It has a very basic security system and it may be often blocked by corporate firewalls. Sites like these also tend to display ads that may or may not fit with your corporate image.

[1] Adobe now recommends embedding H.264 or FLV videos for pre-edited movies. You can use non-Flash video in PDFs, but Acrobat will try to find a suitable video player program on the user’s system. If it cannot find a player already installed, it will likely fail.

[2] The latest version of Acrobat Pro has an alternative way to import linked files, but it is finicky and prone to error. It is also more difficult to debug any broken links once the files have been imported.

[3] When documents are designed for large numbers of end users, it is often easier link to a video on a web server rather than distribute a packaged document.

[4] Note also that recent security changes have made some old documents no longer playable.

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One Comment

  1. Posted October 21, 2009 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    This will add great utility to use PDF documents. The function will be good for all type of documents. It will be good for E-books, project report, seminars etc.

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