Posts Tagged 'PowerPoint characters'

Let’s Make a Movie! – Creating Videos


You may want to make a video to advertise your wares or share your ideas on the internet. You can feature videos on your organization’s website, your blog, video sharing sites like YouTube, Vimeo and Dailymotion or media like Facebook or LinkedIn. These sites far outreach any native PowerPoint sharing sites; PowerPoint is not an internet medium.

SlideShare, probably the largest presentation sharing site, actually converts PowerPoint to another form  (maybe Flash) and simply allows you to click through static “decks.”

Designing a Video

It’s easy to use PowerPoint to create a video; however, designing a video is considerably different from the usual conference room presentation.

  • The most obvious difference is that there is no presenter. In the usual circumstances, the presenter delivers the message interactively, supported by the slides. In a video, even with a narration, the crux of the message must be carried by text, images and animation.
  • Web videos are usually short and are have limited goals. For example, the video may be intended to make the viewer aware of a problem or an opportunity and to encourage the viewer to take a “next step” like visiting your website.
  • Animation and transitions are critical in capturing and managing the viewer’s attention. Movement makes your video much more engaging than a series of static “slides.” In fact, today’s viewer expects it.
  • The video may or may not have a narration but will usually employ audio; you will need to synchronize the audio and the visual effects.
  • Obviously, the “source” PowerPoint must be implemented to run autonomously without requiring clicks. The timing involved is an important aspect of the design.
  • To create a video from a PowerPoint file, select Export on the File tab and select Create a Video. I usually use Internet Quality; Low Quality also seems be adequate for internet videos and creates a smaller file. Since you have provided timing (duration) for each slide, the option Use Recorded Timings and Narrations should appear. If not, default timings will be supplied.

NOTE: Interactive “videos” allow the viewer to explore a subject on his own via on-screen navigation. It is straightforward to create this kind of experience in PowerPoint but a converter is required to transform the PowerPoint to an interactive web medium (HTML5 or Flash).  See the iSpring product, for example. I may attempt an interactive video using a converter in a later post.

A Video Project

The project for this post is a variation of a video that I created to promote a presentation design business. I had found that many prospects had not considered the idea of paying a PowerPoint guru even though some were aware that the quality of their presentations could be better. The video was designed to make the viewer aware of the possibilities (about 90 seconds with audio):

Here are a few design notes:

  • These are not traditional corporate slides, with titles, bullets and the usual background, shown in inexorable sequence. Rather, the video is organized as a series of scenes and transitions, leading to a specific conclusion.
  • In particular, the scenes lead the viewer through a series of questions (with implied answers) designed to suggest the shortcomings of operating without a presentation specialist:
    • How important are presentations (important enough not to be treated casually)?
    • Who designs your presentations (and are they appropriately skilled)?
    • Are your presentations overstuffed, wordy, etc. (and are you proud of them)?
    • Do you hire specialists in other communications areas (why not presentations)?
  • Transitions and (in one case) a change in background mark the scenes.
  • The overall tone is light – appropriate for questioning the prospect’s practices.
  • The music is light, but with an insistent rhythm. A light popping sound effect is used for punctuating the punctuation.
  • Movement is featured constantly.
  • Corporate look-and-feel including colors, logos, fonts, etc. can be utilized but, again, avoid the canned corporate template/theme.

Animations and Transitions

The animations and transitions are relatively simple. Most of the scenes are single slides with a sequence of Entrance effects.  I did use several slides to build the “bad design” series; this reduces the number of animated objects on a slide and makes managing the animation easier.

Timing the animations and transitions is critical. You want to maintain the pace consistent with the audio but you also want the content (mostly text in this project) to “register” with the viewer. Since you know the content, you may be inclined to use intervals that are too short for a viewer who is seeing the material for the first time. On the other hand, people can comprehend text or simple images in a remarkably short time. The best practice is to test your video with “outside” viewers to get the pacing right.

In the case of the “bad slides” sequence, I do not expect the viewer to study the example slides in any detail; I just want to give a quick impression. I want to give the impression that there are of a lot of bad slides out there, not focus on any particular form of evil.

NOTE: It is absurdly easy to find examples like this on the net. Finding a well-designed slide is infinitely harder. You may note that most of the examples are from government agencies or educational institutions. I hope this is because these groups are simply more likely to publish on the web rather than that these people are really bad with PowerPoint. What do you think?

Here’s the animation pane for the “who designs your presentations” scene; I have named the objects for clarity:


Each text box appears using a Wipe or Stretch, followed by a Zoomed question mark with a pop sound effect. In three cases, an image enters with the phrase (the designer guy, Stella and the kid).

Reviewing animations, transitions (and sound effects) using Slide Show may not be satisfactory if you use a low-powered PC. Animations can be jerky and not reflect the actual timing. Using Preview Timings and Narrations under Create Video will produce smoother results but the timing may not be accurate (more on this below).

All slide transitions use the Advance Slide/After xx:xx option. Typically, the interval is set to cause the transition a short time after the last animation effect. When no delay is wanted, the transition occurs immediately after the last effect. The duration of the transition itself is one of the transition parameters for the next slide.

Sound Effects

I acquired the “pop” sound effect from Soundrangers and used Insert/Audio on my PC to add it to the slide. I set Audio Tools/Playback/Start automatically so that the effect appears on the animation pane (the gray events) and can be coordinated with the animations.

A speaker icon appears on the slide when the sound is inserted. This can be used by a presenter to play the audio manually; since I want to control the sound via the animation pane, I set Hide During Show. I copied the icon to the other slides where needed. For convenience, I positioned the icons near the question marks. Here’s the “who designs..” slide with the “pop” icons:


Unfortunately, the sound effect appears on the animation pane as an event with no duration (the pop effect actually lasts for about 0.3 seconds). On the other hand; the Start After option does account for the actual duration (see the red lines on the Animation Pane above). Using audio in PowerPoint would be simpler if the duration of audio playback were actually shown in the animation pane, like an animation effect.

By the way, I used the methods outlined in my series of posts on PowerPoint characters to create the figures on this slide. This is an example of how characters can help tell stories.

Background Audio

The royalty-free music track was also acquired from Soundrangers; the original track is a little more than 60 seconds in length. Given the animation and transition timings, the video will be about 90 seconds long. Obviously, I need to repeat part of the audio track so that the audio will play until the end.

NOTE; You can acquire audio “loops” – music designed to be repeated seamlessly. Since PowerPoint provides a Loop playback option, a loop track can be played seamlessly for an arbitrary length of time. However, if the loop is short, the playback is noticeably repetitive. A track not designed for the purpose with the Loop option will be obviously repetitive.

For my project, the audio track has a definite ending and I want that ending to synchronize with the end of the video. So I Trimmed a copy of the track to the beginning 30 seconds (approximately) and followed it by the complete 60 second track. Here’s a picture:


I made a spreadsheet of the slide timings (duration and transition) and adjusted the trimmed track length and the slide timings (in tenths of a second) to get the transition to occur at the beginning of a slide. I applied a Fade Out to the end of the trimmed piece so that the “cut” is less noticeable.

Fortunately, here’s a very nice video from Microsoft that will explain these details so I won’t have to.

ADVISORY: As I noted above, there is no guarantee that PowerPoint playback (Slide Show or Preview Timings) will actually run at the specified rate. Audio plays at the proper rate. As a result, if you use a low-powered PC, you may not be able to synchronize visual effects with the audio in PowerPoint; rather, you may have to create videos to check the timing.

If you want to experiment with a much more sophisticated audio editor, try Audacity® – a “free, open source, cross-platform audio software for multi-track recording and editing.”

Other Video Projects

To help you understand the potential and challenges of PowerPoint videos, here are a few other video projects I’ve worked on:

  • Video infographic  – the client wanted to raise awareness of wireless trends affecting healthcare. I created a web video using the basic techniques described here. A couple of “characters” and animated pie charts and graphs added appeal.
  • Trade show videos – the client used large video screens associated with his trade show booth to attract attention. The design called for a looped series of short vignettes with attention-grabbing text and images.
    • Native PowerPoint can be used in these situations but using video eliminated potential compatibility or performance problems associated with the operating environment at the show.
  • Recreating a web video – a client’s customer had created a video highlighting his operation, including applications of the client’s products. The client wanted a shorter version of the video concentrating only on the client’s contributions. Rather than try to edit the video directly, I extracted the audio using a free web app and recreated the visual scenes in PowerPoint (I had access to the images used in making the video) and exported the result as a new video.
    • This project was complicated by the fact that the client’s company name had changed since the original video was made. Since I recreated the slides, this was easy to fix visually. I did not attempt any sophisticated audio editing but was able to eliminate the old name from the audio track using the PowerPoint tools.
  • Video of live presentation – the client had a video of a sales presentation his company had made at a conference. The video had been made on a phone and did not show the actual slides clearly. I embedded a cropped version of the video featuring the presenter in a PowerPoint presentation and synchronized it with the original slides. The slides occupied the left two-thirds of the (wide) screen and the cropped video on the right third. I exported the result as a video. Voila!
  • I have made hundreds of short videos for this blog demonstrating animations.

So give it a try. You will find that you can make simple but engaging web videos for your organization or just for fun using a tool you already have.

PowerPoint People – 3D Robots


This is another post on adding characters to your presentations to help tell and sell your story. There’s an earlier series on simple cartoons (basic figures, characters and expressions) and one on using Lego people.

Since robots are not confined to a human shape, you can create a variety of characters and “occupations.” And, if you think robots can’t have personalities, remember Hal, Bender and WALL-E.

Here’s an example of a humanoid robot figure created in PowerPoint:

RANT: My posts on PowerPoint “3d” are exercises in using tools in ways for which they were never intended.  In addition, PowerPoint 3d is poorly integrated with other PowerPoint drawing features (e.g., shadows) and poorly documented (e.g., 3d rotations and lighting). So, expect serious limitations and disappointments if you venture here without guidance.

I created this robot using techniques I have used before making 3d blocks, buildings, vehicles and other things. Basically, it involves assembling separate objects, each with a “Parallel” rotation, to achieve a “3d” construction.

As usual, I started with front and side views of the robot. Only standard PowerPoint shapes are used; no freehand drawing required:


Here are some notes:

  • For clarity, I used different outline colors for the body/head, the legs and the arms.
  • I strongly recommend using Snap to Grid with a rather  coarse grid setting (I used 0.05 in.) to make it easier to draw and align the shapes.
  • Drawing Guides are used to align the parts in the two views. If these alignments are wrong, it will be obvious when you try to assemble the 3d construction.
  • The “chest” is a Union of two Rectangles; I’ll try to make it clear why I used Union rather than Group later.
  • The”hand” is a Chord shape and two Rectangles.

Next, I made a temporary copy of the front view and rotated it 90 degrees. Using the side view, the rotated front view and drawing guides I drew several “cross sections” of the robot that will help align the parts in the 3d construction. Here’s how I drew the cross section at the top of the “hip” section (outlined in yellow); it includes the outline of the disc that connects the hip with the chest section.


It’s easier to draw these sections one at a time than to draw an entire top view.

Here are the sections and where they will fit in the 3d construction:


The sections that will locate the arms and legs are simply copied from the side view.

Here’s the process for the construction of the body and head:

  • The parts and yellow “sections” are rotated (Parallel/Isometric/Left Down and Right Up) and moved into position to form the outline of the head, chest and hip parts.
  • The circles are rotated and filled to form the discs that connect the parts. 3d Depth is added (72 points per inch).
  • The other parts are filled; Depth is added using the yellow sections as guides.
  • Using the yellow sections as guides, the discs and body parts are moved into position. For example, the first “neck” section is aligned with the head. Then the neck disk is aligned with the circle in the neck section. The section representing the top of the chest is then aligned with the neck disc, allowing the chest to be aligned next. Imagine that you are stacking the parts.
  • Keep the sections “in front” during this step; this keeps them visible and allows easy removal later.

The next step is adding the limbs:

The arm and leg parts are Unioned to form the arm and leg (more about this later). Depth is added to the arm and leg. The rotated yellow sections are aligned with the side of the body allowing the arm and leg to be positioned. The other side is completed using copies of the leg, arm and sections. Even though the “disc” parts are invisible in this view, they establish the relationship between the body parts.

To finish, remove the yellow section objects and color the body parts, adding details as needed:

RANT: For various reasons, the Material, Lighting and Lighting Angle tools are useless for this project. After considerable experimentation, I recommend the method documented here rather than endless fiddling with combinations that are ultimately faulty.

For the robot coloring, I want front surfaces to be darker and visible side surfaces to be lighter, as if light were coming from the robot’s left. Here’s my method:

  • Since the “lighting” can’t be turned off, I have picked a combination of settings that seem to minimize its effects: Flat material, Contrasting lighting and zero Lighting Angle.
  • To control the color of each component, select Fill and Outline colors to create dark and light surfaces. In particular, use dark gray fill and light gray outline on components that “face the front” and the opposite for components that face the side; here are the chest and an arm:

  • This is the reason that the limbs are Unions, not Groups – if they were Grouped, extraneous outlines would appear when the Outline color is added.

By the way, here are some ideas to give the robot expressions (you can also survey various toon robots for inspiration):


You can “pose” the robot; here’s a walking version:

Here’s how the walking robot is constructed:

The limbs are constructed and positioned as before. If the orientation is not as shown, the 3d rotation will be incorrect.

TIP: The orientation of a Union is determined by the first object selected. In these examples, the red-outlined object is selected first:

For the first Union operation the top rectangle (red) is selected first, followed by the other (blue) rectangles. The result has a vertical orientation (note the “rotation handle”); the 3d rotation works as expected. For the second Union the red rectangle is selected first; note that it has been rotated. The result of the Union has a rotated orientation and the 3d rotation is different.

Of course, robots don’t have to be humanoid and use legs for locomotion:

I used the same techniques as before; here are the construction details:

The “hand” is made by subtracting a rounded rectangle from the arm/hand object.

Once you’ve made a few of these, you can position the parts and add depth “by eye” and avoid some of the tedious steps, at least for fairly simple robots. That’s how I made this example:

  • The positioning and depth were created by eye without using yellow “sections” as guides.
  • The right arm is a copy of the left arm, Flipped twice.
  • The eye shapes have a smaller depth than the head; here’s a close up:


TIP: Selecting an object within a group can be tricky, especially in 3d; the image above shows that the head is selected and the eye is selected within the group (faint outline). Use the Selection Pane if you have trouble.

Here are the details on constructing a robot with another form of locomotion:


  • The arms are Line Arcs. You could draw a freehand line using the Curve tool if you’re comfortable with that.
  • The hands are Pie shapes.
  • I used a section (yellow) to help position the legs; the other parts are positioned by eye.
  • The rocket plume is a Triangle with a Gradient Fill.

If you need a villain in your story, try this one:


  • Two parts are made from the outline drawing: the head/chest/shoulder unit and the whole body. Each is Unioned.
  • The two parts are rotated and Depth is added.
  • Material, Fill, Line and lighting are set as before but with darker colors.
  • The two parts and a copy of the smaller part are “stacked” as shown to complete the figure.

Robots are also modeled from nature; here’s an insectoid version:


The robot is made using the techniques discussed above except that an additional X-Rotation has been added to the front and back legs. Here’s  what the 3D Rotation looks like for a couple of the legs:


The middle leg has the preset Isometric Left Down rotations; the back leg has the X-rotation reduced by 10 degrees. WARNING: Do not use the rotation icons (circled in red) for this; mysterious, undocumented things happen when these are used.

RANT: I haven’t been able to find adequate documentation on rotations, materials, lighting, etc. If you know some sources, please let me know by adding a comment.

You can exercise your imagination by adding body segments, antennas, stingers, wings, etc., and other coloring. Why not consider other beasts as models for your robots?

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

Powerpointy Blog – 3d Robots

See this page for more on downloading files.

If you have questions, praise or complaints, please add a comment below. If you appreciate my efforts, please like or follow this blog.

PowerPoint People – Expressions, etc.

This series has been about creating characters to illustrate our marketing, sales and teaching stories. In the first post, I showed you how simple figures can be constructed and “posed” to represent a surprising range of situations. The second post added costumes and other features to create individual characters. This post will show you how simple facial features and other tricks can put your characters in recognizable emotional situations.

Here’s Mike with his face:


The brows, nose, mouth and profile ear are Arcs; the eyes are Ovals and the front view ears are Rounded Rectangles. The hair is a union of Chord shapes (shown in red). The shapes are changed in some of the expressions (later).

Following the theme of this series, I have kept the face very simple. Yet, as you will see, a surprising range of expressions can be created with these simple elements.

I could have drawn the eyes as white-filled ovals with a “dot.”  Although this would offer additional expressiveness, I decided to keep it simple. You may want to experiment with the eyes.

Here’s Millie:


This are the same elements as in Mike’s face except the nose is a little smaller. The front view hair is a series of Ovals; the side view hair is three Chords.

You may not like the way that the brows collide with the hair. This is not unusual in comics; the brows may leave the face entirely. You can fix this if you want to by re-designing the hair.

You can search the internet (cartoon/comics faces/expressions) to find examples and various styles of faces registering emotions. Use these for tips and inspiration.

In our case, expressions are formed by simply manipulating the brows, eyes and mouth. Here’s Mike with a range of expressions from smile, to grin, to laughter:


The smile is the original face. The grin opens the mouth and raises the brows. The laughing face is created mostly by the brows and eyes (angled lines) although the mouth is more open. In general, more intense expressions use the brows and eyes in a similar way. The side view mouths are Intersections of an Oval and a Chord.


Additional facial features (“frown lines,” forehead wrinkles and such) can be used. For simplicity, I’ve not used these but you may want to experiment with them.

Here are examples of sadness:


The first sad expression modifies the brows to extend down the side of the face (I don’t know why this works) and the downturned mouth. The brows and closed eyes along with a more downturned mouth create a sense of despair.

Here’s Millie in two stages of surprise:


Raised brows and the rounded mouth provide a surprised look. The bigger mouth and straight angled brows create a more concerned expression

Here’s a couple of angry expressions; the compressed eyes and squarish open mouth transform irritation into fury:


Here, mismatched elements signal confusion while angry eyes and a wide grin create a vengeful expression. Mike’s mouth and Millie’s eyebrows are two Arcs:


Over the years, comic strip artists (a vanishing breed) developed a vocabulary of symbols representing emotional states and other aspects. In 1980, cartoonist Mort Walker cataloged (and whimsically named) these objects (“symbolia”) in The Lexicon of Comicana. Remarkably, these symbols are almost universally understood and can be used to signal or emphasize emotions. Here’re some examples:


Sweat droplets (“plewds”- Teardrop shape) indicate effort or stress. The wavy line (“indotherm”) suggests heat or anger. The light bulb (with “emenata”) represents an idea and the starry objects (“squeans”) show intoxication.

The wavy line is made using the Curve tool – drag and click along a zigzag path (shown in blue) to create the line. The light bulb is a Union of shapes as shown.

Comic artists also use symbolic content in speech balloons:


The question mark indicates confusion or uncertainty. The thought balloon can show a character’s preoccupation, in this case, with money. The typographical symbols (“grawlixes”) represent profanity. The balloons are built-in PowerPoint shapes (Callouts). The font is, of course, Comic Sans.

The payoff for all of this is to combine poses, facial expressions and “symbolia” to create characters actively participating in our stories; here are two examples:


This running figure includes horizontal lines indicating speed (“hites”); the construction worker includes “swalloops:”


Facial hair, glasses and earrings provide a little more diversity. Components are shown in red; the blue Oval is Subtracted to help form the young woman’s hair:


If you would like a free copy of a PowerPoint file containing these objects, please use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download a “source” PowerPoint file:

Powerpointy blog – PowerPoint People – Expressions u

See this page for more on downloading files.

If you have questions, praise or complaints, please add a comment below. If you appreciate my efforts, liking or following this blog might be a good idea.

PowerPoint People – Characters

In the previous post, I showed how simple figures can be surprisingly expressive, adding impact to our training, marketing and sales stories.  In this post, I’ll begin to create individual unique characters from these generic figures using clothing and a few other embellishments.

Here’s the first character (Mike) – he’s an office worker, a middle manager and is based on the basic male figure developed in the last post:


Note: You may notice from my costume choices that I am not particularly clothing/fashion conscious. I hope that I have provided enough detail in these examples so that you can created costumes appropriate for your needs.

Mike is built by modifying the body parts of the basic figure and adding a couple of additional shapes. Here’s how Mike’s front view is constructed:


Note: I had originally planned to add clothing to the basic figures (like paper dolls) but I found that modifying the shapes in the basic figure worked for me.

Here are some notes on Mike’s construction:

  • Starting with the basic male front view, I modified the lower arm and lower leg as shown in red.
  • I Unioned  parts to form the shirt and pants. I’m using a classic comic/cartoon style with heavy black outlines; the Union operation for the shirt, for example, results in a single shape with an outline rather than several distinct shapes. This picture shows the difference:


  • If you choose not to use outlines, you can skip the Union step.
  • Mike’s hair is created by Subtracting a Trapezoid shape from a circle. His tie is a Union of a Hexagon and a couple of Triangles.
  • Adding Fill colors completes the character.

Note: As usual, I am using only standard PowerPoint shapes to build these characters. My assumption is that this is easier if you are not confident in drawing Freeforms. Of course, you may disagree.

Here is the side view construction:


  • I modified the lower arm and leg from the basic figure (red).
  • I Unioned the shapes to form the pants and the arm of the shirt.
  • The hair is a Union of two Chord shapes, the side view of the tie is an Isosceles Triangle.

Here’s how I posed Mike:


I started with the modified front view, rotated and moved the arms and then applied Union and fills as before.

Here’s another pose


Because of the overlap of the arms, I couldn’t Union the lower arms with the rest of the upper body. I added white “patches” to eliminate the unwanted lines at the elbows; one of these is shown outlined in red.

The last pose is pretty expressive; Mike’s pet project is probably in trouble:


Mike’s female counterpart  is Millie; here’s how she’s constructed:


  • As before, I started with the generic female front view. I modified the lower arm to a sleeve and cuff. I added hair, the lower flare of the jacket, and the skirt (red).
  • I Unioned the jacket parts, except for the lower sleeves which overlap the jacket body.
  • A Triangle forms the neck opening. The neckware is formed by Intersecting a Triangle and a Double Wave shape.
  • I added fill colors and a blue “patch” to cover the unwanted lines at the elbow.

Here is the construction of Millie’s profile:


The hair is a Union of three Chord shapes. The flare is a Rectangle and a Right Triangle. The neckware is an Oval.

Here are a few poses:


Clothing has a lot to do with indicating the role of the character. Here’s Mike on the weekend:


Here’s Tony the technician:


Some occupations are associated with a “uniform” and accessories. Here’s Nelly the nurse (who seems to have had a very good day):


Here are a couple of similar examples – Polly, the police officer:


And Cecil, a construction worker:


Check out clip art and other images on the internet to get ideas for representing particular occupations.

In this post, I have tried to show you can start with the basic figures and, with simple modifications, develop specific characters for your story. In the next post, I’ll add a little more expressiveness.

If you want a free copy of a PowerPoint file with these examples, use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download a “source” PowerPoint file:

Powerpointy blog – PowerPoint People – Characters U

See this page for more on downloading files.

If you have questions, praise or complaints, please add a comment below. If you appreciate my efforts, liking or following this blog might be a good idea.


PowerPoint People – Basic Figures

Sales, marketing and learning gurus advise us to tell stories to engage our audiences. Adding illustrations to our stories will increase the impact but this isn’t easy. You can search the web to find appropriate clipart or photos but chances are that you will be disappointed. Of course, if you have the budget, you can stage a photo shoot to create scenes for your story.

Of course, you can create your own scenes. Even if you are not an artist, you can create simplified characters and environments to add surprisingly effective impact to your stories. This series of posts will demonstrate the construction of figures, costumes and other details to help you invent characters for your stories.

As usual, I’ll use standard PowerPoint shapes to build these “PowerPoint People.” And, I’ll make them modular and reusable to some extent. That way, each new character or pose doesn’t require starting from scratch.

Here’s the construction of a male figure:


This figure has typical cartoon proportions; the overall height is a little more than five times the height of the head (more realistic or “fashion” figures are 7-8 times the head height). These proportions are common for comics and animations. The figure is also similar to the common “bubble head” people icons.

The lower arm and leg are made by using Merge Shapes/Union with an Oval and a Trapezoid (in red).

NOTE: An earlier version of this post grouped invisible circles with each body part to “make them easier to rotate and position.” After working with the figures, I have decided that these are more trouble than they’re worth and eliminated them.

Here’s the male figure with some color fills added:


Here’s a livelier version created by simply rotating and positioning the arm parts:


Posing involves several steps; for example, to move the arm, rotate the upper arm first. Then move the lower arm to the elbow and rotate it (you may have to adjust the lower arm after rotation).  Move and rotate the hand, followed by other parts as needed.

Here are a few more poses:


The head, chest and hips parts can be rotated and moved as well as the limbs. Considerable expression and liveliness can be created with these simple figures (without faces or costumes) just by “posing” them.

The profile version of the male figure uses some of the same parts:


The “hip” section is a union of two shapes to create some curvature.

Here are some poses of the profile version:


I’m going to limit the characters to only a front and a profile view (kind of a “South Park” approach). This will work for our stories and reduces the complexity considerably.

A female figure is similarly constructed but it is a little shorter and the waist is slimmer. Also, the profile chest and  hips are more rounded:


The Oval/Trapezoid union is used several times.

Here are some poses using the female figure:


Look at people, photos and cartoons to get posing ideas.  Fairly subtle impact can be obtained. For example, compare the male and female running figures. The body lean and higher legs of the female figure represents a more intense activity, compared to the male who just seems to be jogging. Also compare at the walking figures. The straighter legs and arms (and the wrist) of the female look more graceful.

You may need additional body types; here’s how you might create kids (remember, these are cartoon people, not real):


The first kid is about 4 and a half heads high – a ten year old (the adult male is shown for comparison).  His body is compressed proportionally but his head is the same size as the adult.

The the next kid (~6 years old) is a little less than 4 adult heads high and his body is compressed vertically. The toddler (~3) is less than 3 heads high and the body is more compressed vertically. The head is slightly smaller.

Not all of us are as fit as these figures would imply, you might need someone like this:


The red and blue outlines show shapes from the male figure that have been modified.

In the next post, I will show you how to create individual “characters” for your stories using costumes and other details. But it is worth noting that you can create useful “bubblehead” icons representing activities, industries and occupations using these basic figures and a few embellishments. Here are some examples:


If you want a free copy of the PowerPoint file containing these figures, use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download the file:

Powerpointy blog – PowerPoint People – Basic Figures u

See this page for more on downloading files.

If you have questions, praise or complaints, please add a comment below. If you appreciate my efforts, liking or following this blog might be a good idea.

Robots and Droids in PowerPoint

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.

“PowerPoint Wars”

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:

The Bot

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, use the link below and click on the PowerPoint icon to download a “source” PowerPoint file:

Powerpointy blog – bots and droids

See this page for more on downloading files.

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