Convert a PowerPoint Line to a Motion Path Animation: Conversation with Jamie Garroch

Convert a PowerPoint Line to a Motion Path Animation: Conversation with Jamie Garroch

Created: Tuesday, December 22, 2020 posted by at 9:30 am

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Jamie Garroch

Jamie Garroch
Jamie Garroch is a Technical Consultant at BrightCarbon, the specialist presentation and eLearning agency. He develops PowerPoint automation solutions and add-ins that enable presentation authors to work smarter. He also trains people to present more effectively using visuals and animated scenes that explain and reinforce key messages, which is supported by free resources and tips at their site.

In this conversation, Jamie talks about the new option within the BrightSlide add-in for PowerPoint to convert a PowerPoint line or even an Illustrator curve to a Motion Path animation in PowerPoint.

Geetesh: Jamie, can you tell us about the new feature in your BrightSlide add-in that lets you convert a path copied from Illustrator or created in PowerPoint into a motion path for animation? How was the idea born and what were the challenges in making this conversion?

Jamie: We create a lot of dynamic animations in BrightCarbon that help clients tell their stories in a more persuasive manner. Everything from how a given machine might work to illustrating blood flowing through the body to explain complex medical conditions. The core of these animated stories is the extremely powerful animation effect in PowerPoint called Motion Path. There are dozens of pre-set paths in PowerPoint, most of them not very useful! The two we use are the simple straight line and the custom path, which oddly doesn’t appear in this window:

Add Motion Path

Add Motion Path

You can think of a motion path as a sequence of connected points, sometimes connected with a straight line, sometimes with a curve.

With most PowerPoint shapes, you can edit the points which make up the outline of the shape by right-clicking on the shape and choosing Edit Points. This reveals the path for the shape outline as a series of points (black dots) and Bézier handles (white dots):

Points and Bezier handles

Points and Bezier handles

As with PowerPoint shapes, the path that defines the motion can be edited by right-clicking on it and choosing Edit Points as shown in this example for a circle that’s had a simple right turn motion path applied to it:

Motion can be edited

Motion can be edited

This got one of our talented animation designers thinking and Ingrid Mengdehl started digging around in Adobe Illustrator, looking at the XML that is created for paths in that app. She then asked, “could it be possible to get the path from an Illustrator object and apply it to a PowerPoint object as a custom motion path?”. That would give her and PowerPoint animators around the world an awesome new workflow for planning and creating complex animations in Illustrator and/or PowerPoint. So off we went digging around under the hood of the PowerPoint animation engine. It’s a dark room with not a lot of documentation! We discovered two things:

  1. The coordinates of a shape on a PowerPoint slide are
    1. Relative to the top left-hand corner of the slide, and
    2. Measured in points. A typical 16:9 slide is actually 960 x 540 points or a quarter of the size of HD108p (1920 x 1080).
  2. The coordinates of a motion path are completely different! They are set using an old pre-SVG standard called VML, which defines the coordinates as a percentage of the slide size. This is so the motion paths scale when copied between decks of different sizes e.g. copying an animated shape from a 4:3 deck to a 16:9 deck. In addition, the coordinates are relative to the center of the object being animated, not the slide.

With this information in hand, we were able to write a translation algorithm that takes the coordinates of a shape and converts them to the coordinates required for a motion path. That is then applied to the shape to be animated using the new Paste as Motion Path feature in our free BrightSlide add-in.

Geetesh: Many PowerPoint users may want to know why you would use Adobe Illustrator? Also, how do I use the Paste as Motion Path feature in BrightSlide and where can I get it?

Jamie: The reason for designing paths in Illustrator is that the path creation tools are far superior to those in PowerPoint. Creating something like this in PowerPoint can be done but it’s not straight forward and took less than 10 seconds in Illustrator:

Designing paths in Illustrator

Designing paths in Illustrator

To use the new tools, the first thing you need to do is download the free BrightSlide add-in for PowerPoint. Once you’ve got that installed, you’ll see a new BrightSlide tab in PowerPoint which contains lots of exciting new tools.

Here’s how to use the Paste as Motion Path feature:

  1. Create a freeform shape either in Illustrator or PowerPoint. If you’re using Illustrator, you can copy and paste the path to PowerPoint and then convert it from SVG to a freeform by clicking Convert to Shape in the Graphic Format tab. If creating in PowerPoint you can either do this with the Freeform shape tool or take any basic shape and convert it to a freeform by right-clicking it and choosing the BrightSlide feature, Convert to Freeform.
  2. Convert to Freeform

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