Effective Animation: Conversation with Glen Millar

Created: Saturday, November 7, 2009, posted by Geetesh Bajaj at 2:19 am



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: You experiment a lot with animation in PowerPoint – in your opinion, where is the thin line that divides animation that is sufficient and enhancing from one that is too much and distracting. Is there a rule of the thumb that can act as a guideline, and what are your opinions?

Glen: Geetesh, that’s a really good question! There is a thin line between what is effective and what is gratuitous, or distracting. When I animate a presentation, I ask myself 3 questions:

  1. What kind of presentation am I building?
    1. If it is a kiosk presentation, I give myself more licence to be more “animated”- that is, a kiosk presentation is the animated interface between the story and the audience. So, I have more scope to be a bit exciting.
    2. If it is a live presentation (which is the majority of what I do) I will subdue the animations somewhat so they don’t compete with the presenter. The live speaker is the animated interface between the presentation and the audience. The animations must not distract from the presenter.

  2. What is the practical level of animating? I first work out my storyboard and what elements demand being animated. For example, a complex concept can be broken into sub-parts and each sub-part animated in. My audience can then discover each component, without being distracted by all of the elements at once.
  3. What is the artistic level of animation? Once my presentation is fully animated, I then look for artistic opportunities. For example, I have a bunch of cogs spinning on the slide. I use an Emphasis animation, Spin to show motion or effort. When I want to remove them, if the story does not dictate how to do it, I go for an artistic effect. An example would be a slow fade out. I could choose a different type, but not a new animation. That would not be supported by my story.

Geetesh: Tell us about animation builds when successive animations play one after the other. How effective are such builds – please give examples and share your thoughts.

Glen: Successive builds are critically important! I’ve recently been quite concerned about the lack of continuity in our presentations and our graphics. Let me demonstrate with an example. The following two graphics are available as download-able clip art within PowerPoint.

Individually, they are great photos and display very good concepts. However, when I put them side-by-side I realized they contain the same people, but in different clothes. Now, professional movie makers employ continuity folks- people who check every feature of a shot to make sure it is consistent. You don’t want an actor walking down a road to suddenly appear in with a new shirt. Now, while this example is dramatic, it illustrates how important consistency is across a movie.

So, how do you get real consistency? Well, I love breaking stories into logical components, and a classic example is some experimental work I have done recently on time-lapse.

The following is some work to encourage people to read a book. I’ve added just three frames from the 43 frame sequence.

If you look carefully, you will see someone (in this case, my son Chris) turning a book. What a powerful way to tell a story! Every second, a new image fades in over the previous one. You can see him turn the pages! While the output image has been modified in a graphic program, it is so powerful!

You can download the presentation from here…

Categories: animation, interviews, powerpoint

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