Kinetic Typography in PowerPoint (Updated with Videos)

“Kinetic typography” means animated text.  The designer Saul Bass is often credited with the first use of kinetic typography in the title sequence for Hitchcock’s North by Northwest; the titles for Psycho are also Bass’s work. Kinetic text in film titles is intended to establish a mood, in addition to listing the credits.

Animated text is now commonplace in television, often with sychronized voice; the Ford F-150 commmercial with Denis Leary’s voice-over is a classic example. In fact, it is rare today to see text that stands still on television or in a movie title.

And there are thousands of examples on the web; “Why Girls?” is a nice example without a narration.

Animated Text in PowerPoint

Kinetic typography is possible using PowerPoint text effects and animation; sound effects, music and narration can be added. But is it a good idea?

There’s no doubt that animated text is powerful; combining attention-grabbing motion with information chunking, it is almost hypnotic. With properly synchronized narration, it captures both auditory and visual channels, which mutually reinforce the message.

Also, studies have shown that when text is displayed one word at a time in a fixed position, reading speed and comprehension improve since scanning eye movements are unnecessary.

Finally, researchers say that “time-based presentation of text can be used effectively to capture and manipulate a viewer’s attention.”

This is clearly a powerful tool for presentations.

I often use simple animation to present text in “chunks.” This keeps the audience’s attention on what I intend, rather than on reading ahead. Of course, this is a general principle, applicable to objects other than text.

For this purpose, I use simple effects, usually a Wipe/From Left or similar.

However, the more elaborate kinetic typography may not be suitable for the usual conference room presentation, certainly not without some rehearsal to acustom the presenter to the technique. In small doses, however, it can effectively support emphasis points in the presentation.  It is most effective for kiosk/tradeshow displays and on the web (created in PowerPoint and typically converted to video).

Text Animation Effects

What tools are available in PowerPoint for kinetic typography?

The usual animation Entry, Emphasis, Exit and Motion Path effects apply to text boxes as objects. The usual animation issues apply; in particular, the poor resolution that can result from applying Grow/Shrink. You can get acceptable results if you don’t expect or attempt too much.  Here are some tips to “punch up” individual words (demonstrated in video below).

  • Use text “shape” and animation to reinforce the meaning of an adjective, adverb or noun  (“fat”), or the action implied by a verb (“grow”).
  • Use Text Effects/Transform to “shape” text.
  • To animate individual letters, create each letter as a separate text block  – see “rising,” “unify” and “stand up.”
  • Animate parts of words separately – see “break” and “open.”
  • Animate fill and outline separately (see “fill,” “empty” and “leaky.” This uses two versions of the text, one with fill only and one with outline only.
  • Combine text animation with animation of other objects – “leaky,” “erosion” and “vanish.”
  • To control the pivot point when using Spin, group the object with an invisible circle, centered at the desired pivot point. The circle must be larger than the object. Here’s how the “falling” example is constructed (the red lines indicate the pivot point – they are not part of the object):

Here’s the demo:

In addition to animating individual words, you can animate attention-grabbing messages.  Pay attention to timing, relative position, size and color.

  • “Flashing” the words quickly in the same location provides a sense of urgency (see “you can’t ignore this” in the companion video).
  • A slower pace can have a different effect (see “it was over” and “did you hear something?”)
  • Use color and size to emphasize or de-emphasize parts of your message.

This video demonstrates a few messages:

Finally, here are some samples of animated text that I have used in my own work:

So What?

Kinetic typography (animated text) is a powerful tool and is commonplace in television, film and web videos. PowerPoint provides adequate tools for its creation as long as your expectations are not too high. However, animated text may not be appropriate for the typical conference room presentation, except in small doses. But it can add a lot of impact to web and kiosk videos, prepared in PowerPoint and converted to video.

If you would like free copies of the PowerPoint files used to create the videos in this post, use the form below and ask for the “kinetic text” files. You can also use the form to comment or suggest other topics for this blog.

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