Storms and Swarms – Part 1: It’s Raining!!

storm banner

I was working with a client on a video to explain the growth and importance of wireless devices in healthcare. He said he wanted to show it “raining iPads.” This is the “device rain” segment I created:

Wait a minute, you say? A video? Isn’t this a PowerPoint blog?

Of course, what I’m describing is a video created with PowerPoint. This is a much under-utilized way to create corporate/sales/web videos without the expense of hiring a gang of experts. I will revisit this topic.

The “device rain” is an example of the kind of animation I call “storms and swarms.” These generally affect the entire slide space, involve a fairly large number of objects and exhibit a certain “randomness.” A single visual metaphor (e.g., rain) is usually the goal of the effect.

I took a simple approach to this “device rain” effect; I created a Group of device images (pngs with transparent backgrounds):swrm 1

I duplicated the group twice, positioned the three copies above the slide space, and applied a Down motion path to each instance (after the text animation).  I overlapped the motion paths to get a mix of devices; here’s the animation pane:

swrm 2

This is a pretty cheap solution, I admit. It worked for the video because the “scene” lasted only a few seconds and it didn’t take too long to produce.

But why not take the obvious approach and animate each device separately?

In the interest of better PowerPoint and for all my fans out there, I tried that and got this result:

Here’s the animation pane for this version:

swrm 3And here are the motion paths:

swrm 4

Note that I cheated a little by repeating each path to get a longer sequence. Even so, this is pretty complicated.

It’s fairly easy to apply the animation to the 26 images; the difficulty is in the tedious process of setting the starting location, path length and effect duration for each object to get a random-appearing swarm. In fact, simulating randomness is the primary challenge for the “rain” effect. I’m not sure this approach is worth the trouble and time.

However, we can improve the first simple approach by observing that, in real life, objects falling close to you will appear bigger and faster moving than those farther away. To simulate this, create two groups, one for the foreground and one for the background:

swrm 5

swrm 6

Use animation like the first variation, remembering to make the foreground objects (larger) move faster than the background. Here’s what this looks like:

Attentive readers will notice a couple of other things about this version:

  • The text is animated word by word. Text animation is an important technique for videos; see this post on “kinetic typography” for more examples.
  • I used the techniques outlined in this post to create two continuous streams (background and foreground); for a standup presentation this would allow the swarm effect to continue until you click to the next slide .

The next post in this series will show you how to build other types of swarms.

As usual, a free PowerPoint file containing these examples is available; use the form below to request a copy. Be careful in providing your email address – if it’s wrong, you won’t get your file.

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