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PowerPoint Tips

Clipart.com How To: Morphing Photos in PowerPoint
Here's a complicated-looking, but easy-to-achieve, trick that you can use in PowerPoint when you want to go from real to surreal, or vice-versa. The ability to morph from one image of a photo to another can prove useful even in business settings.

Start with a photo from the Clipart.com collection—we found a nice one of three kids. In the first illustration, we have it open in our preferred image editor, Corel PhotoPaint, but this can be done in virtually any image-editing software, including any flavor of Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, and many others.

The next step is to apply some sort of distortion to it, using the Effects, Filters or Distortion choices available in these programs. The next illustration shows the result of using the "Palette Knife" effect. It almost doesn't matter which effect you use, as long as the picture is substantially altered in appearance but remains the same size and shape.

Export the distorted image to a file and then head into PowerPoint. Import both photos on a blank slide, size them up, and place them directly atop one another. Use the Send to Front or Back command to layer them as you wish, keeping in mind that the photo that is on top is the one that will be shown last—the one that the bottom image will morph into.

Select the one on top, open the Animation task pane, and set a Fade. You choose how fast and how it starts. In the third illustration (click to enlarge), we have set the morph to begin when we say so (On Click), and to take place in 5 seconds (Very Slow).

Play this slide to see the cool effect of the real photo gradually morphing into the surreal photo. We use this technique when we want to create a background to use for the placement of other images. It is too distracting to use a literal photo as a background for other photos, but when the background photo is distorted it provides a nice canvas, as you can see in the fourth illustration (click to enlarge). If the distortion leaves the photo with a lot of dark tones, you might want to use the Hue-Saturation-Lightness controls of your image editor to lighten up the image. You can also use the More Brightness command on PowerPoint's picture toolbar.

You can also do this in reverse: morph from the distorted photo to the real one. This is useful and effective any time you want to gradually reveal the identity of people in a photo. The classic use of this technique is to simply begin with a blurry photo (use the Gaussian Blur command from any image editor) and gradually morph it into a sharp one. If you are creating a slide show of pictures, this technique can buy you an entire segment of the movie:
  1. Start with a nice photo of loved ones.
  2. Gradually morph it into a surreal one.
  3. Place a sequence of photos atop it.
  4. When the sequence is over and the photos have exited, gradually morph back to the real photo.
  5. Gradually fade out and proceed to the next segment.
Warning: discovery of this technique could be responsible for many hours of time wasted in elated experimentation...

Rick Altman has authored two books and a series of training videos on PowerPoint. He is the creative director of PhotosToMemories.net, offering customized digital video and slide shows for families with big events in their lives.



Using Clip Art in PowerPoint
by Rick Altman


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In today's age of digital photography when Photoshop is used as a verb, it is all too easy to forget that there are two basic flavors of graphics: vector and bitmap. Bitmaps are the sexy ones—the photographs that you take with your camera phones and email to all of your friends. But vector objects—clipart and objects drawn in Adobe Illustrator and CorelDRAW—are often more useful in creative presentations. This is especially so if you are aware of a little-known trick in PowerPoint.

The first illustration (click to enlarge) shows a creative party invitation created in PowerPoint for electronic delivery to a group of friends. The artwork is one of hundreds of selections available at Clipart.com, and as you can see in the Animation task pane, it is set to make its entrance from the left side of the screen. But it is all one object, so it will enter the slide all as one—not very imaginative...

But this piece of clipart is different than a photo—it is a collection of shapes and objects, grouped together, saved as a WMF file (one of the file formats you can specify in a search on Clipart.com). And as WMF files can be grouped, so too can they be ungrouped. PowerPoint's Group and Ungroup commands can be found off the Draw menu that resides lower-left on the Drawing toolbar. You will likely need to apply the Ungroup command twice—once to tell PowerPoint to treat it like a native Office object, and a second time to tell it to separate the objects.

Once you do, however, the second illustration shows the myriad possibilities, as each of the pieces of this graphic can be individually animated. The confetti is falling down from the top, the balloons are floating up from the bottom, and at the end the right glass will rotate just enough to toast the left glass. We've even added a ding sound to complete the toast, which we admit is hokey, but hey, it's a party invitation...

You can download, play, and deconstruct the final PowerPoint file.

Rick Altman has authored two books and a series of training videos on PowerPoint. He is the creative director of PhotosToMemories.net, offering customized digital video and slide shows for families with big events in their lives.



Achieving Transparency in PowerPoint
by Rick Altman

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If every presentation had a white background, your job as a PowerPoint content creator would be a lot easier. But you'd probably get bored and quit your job, so it's better that this task provides some challenge for you. The first illustration (click to enlarge) shows the results of a search for some pumpkin images to include in a Fall-themed presentation. The clipart image top-left needs no extra work at all, because you can download it from Clipart.com as a transparent .png file—a file format that PowerPoint knows well. You'll be able to use that pumpkin against any background.

The other two, however, need varying degrees of work before they can be used as freely. The middle image of a plastic pumpkin-shaped container is a "photo object," meaning that it is a photograph with subject matter that has had its original background entirely removed. With such a uniform background, PowerPoint's own transparency tool will be able to render the white areas transparent. Right-click the object and choose Show Picture Toolbar to invoke the set of tools for formatting pictures.

The second icon from the right is the Set Transparent Color tool, and that's going to be the ticket for a photo with as clean a background as this one. Click the tool, click the white part of the object and you're done. As the illustration at left shows, all of the white was removed, including the eyes and nose. Clipart.com provides thousands of photo object images, many of which are appropriate for presentation usage.

The photo lower-right is another story. With the leaves and the soft shadowing, there is no one color that makes up its background. This photo requires a trip into an image-editing program, where you must separate the foreground from the background with masking or selection tools, and then export the image as a transparent .png file. The third illustration at right shows the result of 15 dedicated minutes with Corel PhotoPaint.

Rick Altman has authored two books and a series of training videos on PowerPoint. He is the creative director of PhotosToMemories.net, offering customized digital video and slide shows for families with big events in their lives.



Fabulous Fades in PowerPoint
by Rick Altman

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Here is a great way to make two big achievements in one easy step. There is one singular technique that will at the same time make you look really good in the eyes of your audience and will reduce by one the opportunity for a dreadful presentation to further degrade the reputation of Microsoft PowerPoint.

It's one four-letter word: Fade. If you were to never again use any animation effect except for Fade, your efforts with PowerPoint would most likely improve many-fold, while the time you spend creating slides would drop substantially.

And while using Fade to animate your bullets is nice and safe, applying the same technique to photos can leave an audience speechless. And only you need know just how simple it is to create.

The first illustration at right (click to enlarge) shows three photos downloaded from the Photos section of Clipart.com and placed on a slide. Select all three of your own photos with Ctrl+A, open the Animation task pane, and click Add Effect | Entrance. Fade will probably appear on the first flyout; if not, click More and find it. Now adjust the Start for each of them to be After Previous and from the context menu (the right-click menu), set a Delay for each of three seconds. Your screen should look like the second illustration. At your option, lower the speed to Slow or even Very Slow.

Now select each photo one at a time, starting with the one in the back and stretch it out to full width, positioned at the same location. Your objective is to place all three photos in exactly the same size and position. The Format Placeholder, and its Size and Location tabs, can help here.

Now see your handiwork by pressing F5 (View | Slideshow). Few effects can do so much with so little effort. To see a finished version of this file, you can download and play it here.

Rick Altman has authored two books and a series of training videos on PowerPoint. He is the creative director of PhotosToMemories.net, offering customized digital video and slide shows for families with big events in their lives.



Animate a Shape, Not a Photo, in PowerPoint
by Rick Altman

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It's true that Clipart.com provides lots of photos that can be used within PowerPoint presentations. However, here is a scenario that many of us know all too well: You have imported a photograph into PowerPoint and you are working on a complex animation for it. Perhaps it appears with a fade, waits two seconds, pans across the slide while it grows 25%, and then fades away.

As soon as you get it just right, like clockwork the decision is made to use a different photo or do some retouching to the photo. Perhaps fix a bit of red-eye or adjust the exposure. Something relatively minor. Except to you, because the photo now needs to be re-imported and re-animated.

PowerPoint users the world over are all wishing for a set of animation styles that can be applied and transferred from one object to another. In the meantime, unless you fancy pulling your hair out you need to think creatively to prepare for those times when outside graphics are not yet set in stone.

The solution lies in an inconspicuous feature hiding in the Format Autoshape dialog. As you probably know, any object in PowerPoint can be animated and any object you create with the program's tools can be filled. One of the options under Fill Effects is to fill an object with a photo, as shown in the first two illustrations (click to enlarge). If you created a rectangle and filled it with a photo, you could make it look identical to a photo that you simply imported and dropped on the slide. And because it is easier to import a photo directly onto the slide, many users disregard the ability to import into a shape or never knew this existed.

But when you animate a rectangle filled with a photo, the animation belongs to the rectangle, not the photo. If your needs change and you find that you must alter the photo, all you will have to do is specify that a different photo be filled into the rectangle. You will not need to re-apply any animations, because the rectangle that contains the animations is still there.

The third illustration shows the subtlety of this. At top-left is a photo imported directly onto the slide and animated according to a careful specification (one-second delay, fade that takes 3.2 seconds to complete). At lower-right is a rectangle filled with the same image and animated identically. The Animation task pane assigns an uninspiring name to the rectangle, instead of using the name of the image, but that is the only price you pay for using this strategy. No matter what is inside that rectangle, it will animate the same way.

Animate the shape, not the photo, when you are unsure of the status of the photo. You'll save time and no small amount of aggravation.

Rick Altman has authored two books and a series of training videos on PowerPoint. He is the creative director of PhotosToMemories.net, offering customized digital video and slide shows for families with big events in their lives.





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