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Stencil-cut video effect with PowerPoint’s Subtract tool

I saw an ad on TV just the other day that used a stencil-cut video effect: that is, the video seemed to show only through a large transparent word, as if a stencil of the word had been placed in front of the screen. Each letter in the word was transparent, as if cut into a solid coloured rectangle. The video was presumably full-screen sized, but could only be seen through the cut-out large letters.

It was a super cool effect so I decided to recreate it in PowerPoint.

What you need

To create your own stencil-cut video, you’re gonna need:

  • a video file (.mp4, .avi, .mov, .asf, .mpg, .swf, .wmv—any will work)
  • a word (pick a word, any word)
  • PowerPoint, and its Subtract tool.

Get access to the Subtract tool

It’s there, but it’s hiding.

PowerPoint’s Subtract tool is not part of the standard ribbon set-up. If you’ve got PowerPoint, you’ve got the tool—but someone at Microsoft might have hidden it.
To reclaim this secret treasure, you’re going to create a custom tab and make the tool available there.  To learn how to do that quickly, check out this video.

Stencil-cut video: The how-to video

Looky here, its a short video with the steps to make your own stencil-cut video. If you prefer reading to watching, scroll down!


Shape – Word = Stencil. Video + Stencil = …

Like my previous post about cool PowerPoint functions, the steps here are pretty basic. The last one was about using the merge shape tools: this one is sort of a progression from that.

To make your steps are:

  1. Insert a video on a PowerPoint slide—we’ll call this our Video Slide
  2. Create a new slide—this one, well call our Stencil Slide.
  3. On your Stencil Slide, insert a rectangle that matches the slide dimensions—choose a fill colour and make sure the shape has no outline. (If the shape has an outline by default, remove it!)
  4. On the Stencil Slide, insert a text box over the rectangle. Make it the width of the slide. Type in your text and make it centred and very large.
  5. Hold the Ctrl key and use your mouse to select the rectangle first and then the text box.
  6. Click the Subtract tool—voila, you’ve got your stencil.
  7. Copy-and-paste your stencil onto your Video Slide. (Make sure its edges match up neatly.)

Bingo bango: stencil-cut video.


Stencil-Cut Video: Jump!
Don’t worry, it’s not a Van Halen video

Anything more?

  • Choose a nice, thick blocky font for your text. Your video will show through best with these font styles.
  • Depending on your font and your focus, call capitals might work best.
  • You can play with the shape of the stencil too: it doesn’t have to take up the full slide.
  • Rather than creating a custom tab from which to access the tool, you could add the Subtract tool to PowerPoint’s Quick Access Bar.

Let me know in the comments what cool effects you come up with!



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