Anyone who’s spent any time in any design industry will tell you it takes practice to produce something great. Now that PowerPoint supports 3D animation, it’s not enough to add a few shapes and act like that’s the end of it. If you’re determined to know how to produce powerful 3D animation in PowerPoint, follow our five tips.

Learn the Principles of animation

Anyone who wants to do more in PowerPoint should learn the principles of animation. Animation is an art form, and art forms need knowledge. Just as grabbing some oil paint won’t make you Van Gogh, clicking “Boomerang In” on the animation tab won’t make you an animator. There are fundamental rules for good animation design. The most foundational of these are The 12 Principles of Animation, by Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas.

Johnston and Thomas were Disney animators from the days of drawing by hand. Their insights into creating believable but exaggerated animations define everything you could want to animate in PowerPoint. Even bullet points! Their principles can be found online, as well as many examples of our motion design. When you add these elements, your animations become understandable and appealing.

On top of traditional animation, PowerPoint includes five 3D animation options. The “Jump & Turn” animation incorporates anticipation, squash and stretch, and arc movement. This makes it one of the best animations to date, and an easy way to produce powerful 3D animation in PowerPoint.

 

Use mise en scène and perspective

 

Look at this frame from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

5 Tips to Produce Powerful 3D animation in PowerPoint

In film, this frame is a classic case study in the power of mise en scène and perspective. Now that you’re animating in PowerPoint, it’s time to understand these two tricks. Mise en scène simply means staging. What are you putting in your scene? Where are you putting it all? Why? Perspective is simply where you place your audience’s eyes in that space.

This frame is from an early scene in the film where our hero, Indiana Jones, is approaching a golden idol in a booby-trapped temple. Without seeing any other frame, this shot tells a rich story through mise en scene. The overgrown stone tunnel in the background reflects the danger and decay our hero has gone through. Our hero‘s clothes seem out of place, putting him in the 1930’s. The immaculate golden idol stands out from its dirty, dark surroundings. That gives it an almost mystical quality, emphasised by its position on the plinth.

This shot also uses perspective to tell a powerful story. Within the shot, the idol is shown slightly higher and larger than our hero. Though it is obviously much smaller than a man, this perspective gives the idol a sense of power. The fact that we cannot see its face creates a sense of mystery, making us share the wonder and confusion we see on our hero’s face.

 

Wait, what does Indiana Jones have to do with producing powerful 3D animation in PowerPoint?

 

Well, that depends on what impression you want to give your audience. Let’s say you’ve been hired by an ecotech startup to animate a pitch for their new product: A small solar charging station for outdoor use. The startup want to stress its durability in the outdoors. They also need to emphasise their environmental friendliness.

Your mise en scène could include a model of the charging station, a tree, and a rainstorm. Your perspective could show the charging station dominating the frame, standing tall as the tree shakes violently in the background.

While your use of these two techniques is up to your imagination, films are an ideal source of inspiration. After all, “research” is a great excuse for Netflix in bed.

Explore and experiment

Now that you’re playing in 3D, you’re playing with power. You’re playing with a whole new dimension of creativity. Just as the bounds of PowerPoint have been pushed to print, animation, and interactivity, now they’ve been pushed to Pixar. Don’t let it intimidate you. Instead, start experimenting. Explore different ideas you couldn’t integrate before. Look to unconventional education sources for this unconventional feature. We’ve already recommended movies. Why not sculpture, painting, and other 3D design forms? Below are three brilliant places to start:

*Every Frame a Painting – This channel produces easy to understand video essays on the art of film-making. Videos like The Geometry of a Scene show the power of composition and depth in three dimensions.

*Inspiring Examples of 3D Art – This article by Creative Bloq shows some incredibly well designed works of 3D art, as well as linking to the portfolios of talented 3D artists.

*3D Imagination in Theatre Design – This lecture by British theatre designer Rae Smith reflects on her process of designing theatre spaces in 3D.

 

Study Microsoft Resources

As an MVP, it would be remiss of me to ignore the educational resources Microsoft are publishing. They are making a significant push for designers to produce powerful 3D animation in PowerPoint, as you can see in posts like this. Microsoft is pairing this educational approach with ongoing support, making 3D feel like a big part of their future. They’re also injecting the community with resources through their PowerPoint Help Page.

While these are great technical articles, you’ll be hard pressed to find any in-depth guidance. You’ll have to look outside the box to understand what makes great 3D composition, or how different depths can impact your audience.

 

Scour stock 3D sites

I won’t lie. When the 3D features were released, the first thing I did was to purchase some good 3D models to work with. Not because I can’t create a model myself, but because there are other designers who are much more efficient at creating effective models. I scoured a series of stock 3D sites to find some choice models to practice with. While I build the odd 3D model, I like looking at others to understand the process of producing them. They also give clear insight into the pros and cons of different filetypes.

To summarise our five tips to produce powerful 3D animation in PowerPoint:

1 – Learn the principles of animation design

2 – Apply mise en scène and perspective

3 – Explore and experiment

4 – Study Microsoft Resources

5 – Scour stock 3D sites

Happy animating!

Tom Howell

About Tom Howell

For the past decade, Tom has been designing innovative, persuasive presentations. As the founder and creative lead of Synapsis Creative, Tom develops solutions that offer clients beautiful, professional graphic design that is delivered in usable, editable PowerPoint documents. From big screen presentations to iPad interactives, animations to printed presentations and reports, Tom works at the cutting edge of presentation design. Tom regularly writes on presentation design on his blog and provides free resources for other Presentation Designers.

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