False Backgrounds: Conversation with Glen Millar

Created: Friday, January 11, 2008, posted by Geetesh Bajaj at 5:39 am

Updated: at



Glen Millar is a MVP (Most Valuable Professional) for Microsoft PowerPoint. Based near Brisbane, Australia, Glen is a regular on the Microsoft support newsgroups, and a featured speaker at PowerPoint Live. Visit Glen’s site, PowerPoint Workbench for tutorials on cool animation effects in PowerPoint.

Geetesh: Tell us more about your work, and your involvement with PowerPoint..

Glen: I first began to use PowerPoint a number of years ago to present scientific information. It was critical that we could communicate effectively, as well as efficiently. I discovered that PowerPoint is a very powerful way to help people communicate. It allowed us to span information across time and locations. That is, we could take our audience to locations and across time in ways that simply cannot be done in real life.

Today, I work in a bunch of areas, including environmental education projects. I particularly build presentations for clients and conduct computer training into the features of PowerPoint that allow clients to build presentations faster and more effectively. I still think it is an awful shame that people spend lots of money on their projects and go to a conference and give a very poor presentation.

Geetesh: Tell us about your false background trick, and how you evolved it. Also what are typical usage scenarios for this trick?

Glen: False backgrounds take advantage of a property of AutoShapes that allows the shape to grab pixels from the slide background and lock them into place. The first time I created a false background was almost by accident. I was preparing for PowerPoint Live in 2004 and wanted to use an AutoShape to pan across the background image of a slide. However, every time I animated the AutoShape to move, it would take the background image with it. I learnt that if I covered the slide background, I could produce some amazing effects such as cropping, highlights and very cool animations. I mainly used the effect to crop multiple parts of an image and apply animations to them.

With the advent of PowerPoint 2007, the effects are even more amazing. When I have shown them to people, they don’t believe I didn’t use an external image editor. For example, a common comment at PowerPoint Live in New Orleans was that people had spent hours in external programs to create image effects that could be done easier and more accurately right within PowerPoint 2007.

I currently use this technique in a number of situations. I mentioned cropping of images. That is, I place an AutoShape over a strategic part of an image on the slide background and the shape drills through the false background in between. This allows a very powerful image crop to occur, but that is only the beginning!

Categories: animation, graphics, interviews, powerpoint

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