Going beyond the static slide: Creating engaging animations in Apple Keynote

by corinnew on September 12, 2010

There’s no question that slideshows have matured over the course of the past few years and that we are finally seeing a trend away from simple bullet point design. As I was looking over this collection of 28 creative PowerPoint and Keynote presentations, one thing stood out: most of them rely on static images and text. While I do believe that good layout and design principles can imbue a sense of dynamism to a slide, I don’t think that most of us are taking full advantage of all the features slide design packages such as PowerPoint and Keynote offer.

To illustrate the extent to which a program such as Apple Keynote can be used as an animation tool, I have included a slide from my colleague and husband, Shannan Butler’s, Interactive Media: Design and Production class. The slide introduces the history of the print media through the concept of a media time machine. The video below is a screen capture of two slides created entirely in Apple Keynote. The first slide contains 81 builds and the second one 64.

I think these two slides nicely illustrate what Keynote is capable of when used to its fullest potential. Here’s a screenshot of the builds contained in the first slide:
click picture to enlarge
And here’s what the second slide looks like:

So the entire content of the video you just watched is contained as builds in these two slides. In order to do this, you first need a frame — in this case, the media time machine. That frame basically acts like a canvas and looks like this:

Notice all the red diamonds? Those are action builds. In this case, they make the needle on the clock and the years move forward, and they also spin the gears. These animations alone might fall flat without the addition of a few space-age gizmo sound effects. Although I don’t usually endorse sound effects, I think that in this case, they work and might even be necessary in order to make the concept of the time machine more visceral.

So where does the actual slide content go? The content for each of the slides was joined together into a single horizontal strip and animated as an action move. As you can imagine, the workspace gets a bit cluttered after a while — hence the need to split the content into two separate slides. You can see the line-up of the action moves below:

click picture to enlarge

Shannan’s intent here was to make a potentially dull and dry topic come to life through the use of dynamic slides. Of course, this type of slideshow takes a lot more time and patience to design and construct than a simple static presentation. But isn’t this more fun?

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