Posts Tagged 'editing motion paths'

Weighing Your Options – Balances

Scales and balances are useful presentation metaphors; they can show changes that result from adding (or deleting) objects or concepts. Balances compare two weights and can show comparative changes. Here’s an example:

The blue objects shift the indicator from red (danger) to green (safety) as they overcome the evil black stuff. Labeling the objects, using call-outs or synchronizing with text adds specific meanings, as in this version:

NOTE: I made an animated balance in an earlier post; I  did it again here because the animation is simpler (I hope).

Here’s how the balance is constructed:


  • The objects are made from standard PowerPoint shapes. The “beam” is made from two slightly different Braces combined using the Merge Shapes/Combine operation:
  • The balance is made up of 4 objects: the stationary “post” including the indicator background (blue outlined), the “beam” including the pointer (red), and the two pan assemblies (green). The right pan assembly includes the Cloud shaped load.
  • Each of the moving parts is grouped with a circle (dashed line) that determines the center of the part for animation purposes. In particular, the circle grouped with the pan assemblies sets the center at the point where the pan assembly attaches to the beam – this makes it easier to create the motion paths for the pan assemblies.
  • Four radial lines (black) are included that identify the rotated positions of the beam – 10 degree increments.
  • The parts are arranged and sized so that they don’t interfere during the animation.

Here’s the next step (animating the beam and the two pans):

  • The beam rotations are 10 degrees counterclockwise.
  • The first Line motion path added to the pan assembly will snap to its “center.”
  • The motion path is edited so that the end point of the motion path is located at the intersection of the dashed circle in the beam group and the appropriate radial line (black).
  • Subsequent motion paths also snap to the center of the pan assembly but are then moved to snap to the end point of the previous path. The end point is then positioned as before.

TIP: Motion paths in close proximity are difficult to edit since the endpoints tend to arbitrarily snap to the endpoints of a nearby path. You can overcome this annoyance by zooming in to do the editing and using the Alt key to override unwanted snap actions.

Next, the load elements (balls) are added and the first one is partially animated:

  • I added center lines to the balls to help with the animation.
  • Using the Animation Painter, I copied the movement of the left pan to the red ball. Then I reordered the effects in the Animation Pane so that the movement of the red ball is synchronized with the movement of the pan. Here’s the Pane:

Animating the second and third balls is a little tricky; they only move with the second and third motion of the beam. Applying the motion paths of the pan to the second ball using the animation painter copies all of the paths to the second ball – the path corresponding to the first motion of the pan is not needed. Just deleting the path does not do the job. Here’s an example showing how to successfully delete the first path:

WARNING: The Animation Painter copies all of the animations from the first object and replaces all the animations of the second object. This tool could have been designed with more flexibility but wasn’t.

  • Select the first motion path on the slide and hit the delete key; alternatively, select the path on the Animation Pane and select Remove on the pulldown.
  • At this stage, the object would jump to the starting point of the motion path before the motion path is executed. To fix this, the object needs to be moved to the starting point. However, moving the object will also move the motion path.
  • To avoid this, you need to Lock the motion path one of the motion path Effect Options. This fixes the position of the motion path on the slide. Now the object can be moved so that its center coincides with the starting point of the second motion path.

This is the first time I have ever used the Lock/Unlock option. I guess this is why it’s there.

  • Continuing the process with the third ball, adding the appearance effect to the balls (Float Down) and re-ordering the effects completes the animation; here’s the slide:

  • Here’s the animation pane:

Here’s another balance type; in this design the pans are constrained to move vertically:

Here’s the construction:

  • All the parts are constructed from standard PowerPoint shapes. The “post” is a Trapezoid with a smaller Trapezoid Subtracted (Merge Shapes) to provide the window.
  • The red-yellow-green indicator is formed from three Block Arcs.
  • The dashed circles and radial lines are used as before.
  • A black horizontal line is added to the pan assemblies to help locate the motion paths.
  • I used the same steps as before to animate the balance.

You can also  use spring and/or digital scales in your presentations; the next post will show you how.

If you want to see more details on animating these balances, use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download a free “source” PowerPoint file containing these projects:

Powerpointy blog – balances

See this page for more on downloading files.

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PowerPoint Secrets: Motion Paths


Many of my posts are about animation; here’s a post on creating and modifying animation motion paths. This is not meant to be a complete or detailed tutorial but only some helpful (I hope) notes.

Caveat: An Issue

The starting point of a motion path (green) is normally at the center of the object and the endpoint (red) is at a desired location. For example, here’s an object with a Right motion path:


Unfortunately, in some editing circumstances, the motion path points  will  become “unstuck”. In particular, a motion path  point may attach itself to one of the points of a nearby motion path (attempting to breed, perhaps). This happens when there are several motion paths on a slide.

If the starting point is not at the center, the object will instantly jump to center itself on the starting point before the animation takes place – not a desirable behavior. Of course, you will want the endpoint at a particular place.

You can usually re-stick the motion path by moving it (or its points). Zoom in to make this easier.

Pre-defined Motion Paths

PowerPoint provides a bewildering array of 60+ predefined (built-in) motion paths; I have found that all but 5 or 6 of these are useless. And, I have never used a predefined path without modifying it. At the very least, the end point will have to be moved.

A linear motion path (Up, Down, Left, Right) is edited like a line (not a Connector); you click on the path and move the end point to the desired position:


Other predefined paths are edited as if they were Freeforms. You can change the size by clicking on the path and manipulating the “handles.”  You can also rotate the path but it will become unstuck from the object’s center.

Resizing or rotating predefined paths is rarely useful; in most cases, you will edit the points of the path to get desirable results. Just like with a Freeform, right click on the path and select Edit Points. Move, add, delete and modify the points to get the path you want. Here’s an example that starts with a predefined Arc Up path:


“Custom” Motion Paths

Almost always, I create the paths I need (like the paths of the stones in the wrecking ball animation) rather than using built-ins.

To create a path from scratch, using Draw Custom Path; I usually select the Freeform option. Click near the center of the object (the path should automatically snap to the object’s center) and continue to drag and click to draw the path. To edit the path, select it and select Edit Points; you can add, delete or move points on the path. Here’s an example:


For a curved path, select the Curve option when creating the path or edit a Freeform path:


Other Settings

There are some other Effect Options available for motion paths:

  • Lock/Unlock – oddly, an unlocked path (the default) is stuck to the object; that is, if you move the object, the motion path obligingly moves with it. A locked path stays put when you move the object. I don’t know what the locked option is for; I’ve never found a use for it.
  • Smooth start/end – a “smooth” setting (the default) means that the object will appear to accelerate when starting and/or decelerate when stopping. Sometimes this is effective; however, I often uncheck these options when the motion path is combined with other animation effects (see the discussion of the rolling wheel in the vehicle post).
  • Auto-reverse – the motion path will be executed and then is executed end-to-start. I’ve never used this option.

Other Tricks

In some animations, you will need to position the endpoint of a motion path carefully. I often duplicate the object and move it to the desired position (the “target”). Then, set drawing guides to the center of the target object and use the intersection of the guides to locate the endpoint of the motion path. I often use a red outline for the target object to avoid confusion. Here’s a simplified example:


For complex animations, it sometimes simplifies things to use multiple slides to complete the animation – this can sometimes avoid the motion path “unsticking” problem discussed above. However, some extra steps are required. Here’s a simplified example:


  • The first slide contains the first step in the animation, the motion and 45 degree spin of the blue square.
  • The second slide contains the blue square in the position and orientation that results from the animations in the first slide. Use drawing guides set at the endpoint of the motion path to precisely position the square on the second slide. if the object is not accurately positioned, a “jump” will appear as the slide transitions.
  • Add the second step of the animation – the motion of the orange circle.
  • On the first slide, set Advance Slide to  Automatically After 00:00 and the slide transition to No Transition. Also, set the animation on the second slide to start After Previous. These steps assure that the second animation will follow the first without a click and with no delay.

This seems like a lot of work but, for complicated animations, it may actually simplify the construction.

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