The best presentations tell stories and need characters to participate in the story. And, of course, visual stories are the most engaging and memorable.
If you are very lucky, you can find appropriate stock images to illustrate your stories. If you are a photographer, you can create “scenes” to tell your story using photos or videos. Or, as a PowerPoint expert, you can use animated cartoon characters.
Cartoon characters have advantages for PowerPoint: they are simple, can be one dimensional and they are not subject to ordinary physics. Robots are particularly useful as characters; they can be quite simple, have non-human powers (for example, they can fly) and various useful appendages. Also, robots are not necessarily expected to walk or move like a human or animal. So, it is possible to draw and animate “bots” and “droids” in PowerPoint without much difficulty. Of course, as is usual with PowerPoint, don’t expect too much.
In the following, I will show you how I used an animated “bot” in a project.
I wanted to create a series of short animations in a “Star Wars” style that presented “Death by PowerPoint” as an evil infestation. In one episode, bots search the galaxy for evil presentations and destroy them; this effort fails since bad PowerPoint seems unkillable.
In the excerpt I’m using here, a bot arrives and begins to destroy a typical, text heavy presentation:
Here’s the bot character:
The bot is a “good guy” (trying to destroy bad PowerPoint, after all) and has a benign appearance. He’s constructed simply with ovals and an arc. Here are some details:
- The body has a gradient fill to add dimensionality.
- The heavy outlines are traditional in cartoons.
- The eyes are inspired by South Park.
- The second oval in the eyes is a highlight – the fill is white at the center and fades to transparency at the edge. You might be able to get this effect with a gradient fill of the eye but I find this technique easy.
- The mouth arc has a white shadow.
- Pay careful attention to the profile layout so that it is consistent with the face view.
In the excerpt, the bot has a couple of appendages: the feet and a gun; here’s a foot:
- The foot is constructed of rectangles and trapezoids. The side view is constructed of a rectangle and several ovals.
- Heavy outlines and gradient fills are used.
- The blue circle is used to establish the pivot point when the foot is animated; it is invisible (has no line color) in the final version.
- Again, the side view is carefully constructed to be consistent with the front view.
Here’s the gun:
The gun is constructed of a rectangle and a number of trapezoids filled and outlined. The blue circle is used in the animation (the gun swivels in the complete video; this is not shown in the excerpt).
The animation occurs over three slides. This is not strictly necessary – the animation could be done in a single slide. However, I find it simpler to spread the animation over a few slides so that I can keep track of the objects and animation steps.
The sound effects (wav files from Soundrangers) are Inserted as Sound from file (start Automatically); they appear in the animation sequences so that they can be coordinated with the animation effects. The sound effect duration is not explicitly shown in the animation pane.
The first slide layout and animation:
The slide image shows the elements of the slide, the motion path and sound icons. The icons can be hidden but I find it useful to place them “off the slide.” Here are notes on the animation:
- The bot enters with a Zoom/In along with a custom Motion Path. The motion path is delayed to a point about halfway through the zoom. The sound effect (“flyingsaucer_whoosh04”) starts at about half way through the motion path. The bot ends up over the two feet in position for their deployment.
- The feet Appear and then Spin to deploy. The sound (“servo_switch03”) starts at the same time.
On the second slide, the bot “walks” towards the slide and deploys the gun:
- As a result of the slide transition (no transition effect) the bot appears to have (somewhat quickly) turned towards the offending slide. It is very difficult to do a more realistic transition in PowerPoint – this simple approach seems to work in this world.
- Simultaneous motion paths carry the bot and the foot to a closer position. At the same time,a repeated Teeter effect adds a “walking” effect to the foot. Again, this is a simple animation that seems effective. The sound effect (“scanner_type03”) is simultaneous with the movement.
- The gun deployment occurs in two steps. First, the “dome” Appears and takes a motion path. The “servo” sound effect is simultaneous with the motion. The gun itself is similarly animated.
The third and final slide contains the firing of the gun and the destruction of the title block on the slide.
Slide 3 must be constructed carefully so that the gun is located exactly where it was deployed in the previous slide. Drawing guides help with this.
- The gun flash (a gradient-filled oval) enters with a quick Wipe/From left and Disappears, simultaneous with the sound effect (“laser_gun_short_blast_07a lt”).
- After a very short pause, the slide title object Peeks Out/To Bottom. This effect causes to object to appear to slip downward out of view. This effect is combined with a downward motion path to the floor.
- Immediately after the title disappears, the debris pile quickly Dissolves In, with a “bounce” (a short up then down motion path). The “landslide02” sound effect occurs while the debris pile appears and bounces.
The animation sequence is quite satisfying (especially the destruction sequence). I am frankly a little surprised that this can be done in PowerPoint.
More On Sound Effects
I haven’t discussed sound in PowerPoint in this blog so here are a few more notes on the sound effects used in this clip.
- Visit SoundRangers or some other royalty free sound and music source and check out the broad variety of sounds available. Look in particular categories for sounds that might fit your needs; the sounds in the bot clip are in the “Sci-Fi, Electronic, Fantasy” category.
- Purchase “.wav” files for PowerPoint. The sound effects cost only a few dollars. Longer music clips usually cost more.
- Once downloaded, use Insert/Sound/from File to add the sound to a slide. Select Automatically in the dialog box.
- The sound will appear as an event in the Custom Animation pane. You can schedule the sound just like any animation effect except for the duration (see examples above). For example, you can schedule the sound effect With an animation.
- It would be handy if the duration were displayed as it is for other effects but this is not the case. You can see the duration by clicking on Effect Options.. and the Sound Settings tab.
- You don’t need to change any of the other effect options for this kind of application. The Sound volume option (which might be useful) doesn’t seem to work.
You can see the entire “PowerPoint Wars” episode here.
As usual, if you want a free copy of the PowerPoint file from which the video was made, or if you have other comments or requests, use the form below: