Printing Animations: Can you spell oxymoron…?

Jeffrey Kontir of Deloitte LLP asked an interesting question the other day on the Powerpointers group at LinkedIn. “How do you print a final copy of a slide deck that has a lot of builds and animation?”

Central to Jeffrey’s dilemma is the nature of object animation. Unlike a slide transition — where motion takes place only after all of the slide is visible — animation on a slide involves objects coming and going and objects often being layered one atop the other. Were you to print the slide, you would see every object on the slide, without regard for when and where the objects made their entrances or exits. If an object were supposed to fly in from the left and then exit stage right, neither of those events would be represented accurately in print. If Jeffrey wants to represent the builds in a printout, he needs to be able to print a slide while right in the middle of it.

The stock answer to this problem is to tear down the animation on a slide and instead create a series of slides, each one representing a part of the build. That would be a perfectly fine approach were you to think of it before you started, not so good as a mid-course correction. But who ever thinks of these things out of the gate?

The strategy I would suggest instead does not require a total upheaval to your normal slide-creation style. All it requires is screen capture software, such as TechSmith’s Snagit and the following procedure:

  1. Configure your screen capture software to activate with a hotkey and to save to sequentially-named files on your system.
  2. Run the slide show.
  3. At the critical points in a build, capture the screen image.
  4. Keep capturing as the build of a slide progresses, pressing the hotkey at the appropriate times.
  5. When done, locate all of the JPG files that represent the builds. It will be easy to follow the sequence, thanks to the sequential filenames.
  6. If you own Adobe Acrobat, combine the JPGs into a single PDF file and print.
There are plenty of ways to print JPG files, but the little-known technique with Acrobat is the best. Versions of Acrobat released within the last four years place a command on the Windows context menu (the right-click menu) named “Combine supported files in Acrobat.” That is perfect — gather and print, and you’re set.
Essentially, you are converting each build to a static image, much like if you were to convert each build to its own slide. But this is done on the fly and does not involve any tearing down and rebuilding of the slides. Try it the next time you encounter the challenge that bedeviled Jeffrey.

6 thoughts on “Printing Animations: Can you spell oxymoron…?”

  1. Corey dePride

    Where were you four days ago?? I spent over three hours tearing down animations and turning them into separate slides because I didn’t think to try it this way. And I own three screen capture programs! Thank you for hitting me upside the head — it is sure to knock some sense into me the next time this comes up.

  2. I’d modify step six slightly. Stay in PowerPoint and use the Insert (ribbon or menu) Photo Album command. This guides you through importing all those photos back into a PPT deck that you can print right from there. (Choose the Fit to Slide and Rectangle options in Album Layout.) You could also do additional annotation of the deck (particularly the animation steps slides which may need a little explanation) right there in PowerPoint.

  3. Thanks – a really clever idea for those times when one doesn’t have the time or inclination to just edit slides to create static builds.

    A lot of presenters are so wedded to the idea of printing their slides that they would rather give up animations than give up their handouts. Thanks for a solution that might encourage more people to design slides that work.

  4. Shyam Pillai (http://skp.mvps.org) has a free CaptureShow add-in that’ll automate the process of capturing screens during a show; I believe it currently only works up to PPT 2003, not beyond.

    We have customers that use our PPT2HTML converter (http://www.pptools.com/ppt2html/) to put presentations up on web sites. Slides that consist of complex animations look like a hash when you export them as a single image file for HTML, so we’ve built a DeAnimate feature into PPT2HTML.

    As it happens, I was just upgrading it today … new version to ship soonish, but for now, it may do the job for you if you hold SHIFT while clicking the Make HTML button on the PPT2HTML toolbar. While working on a COPY of your valuable presentation, please. This works even in the free demo version of the add-in.

    If it does the job, great. If not … hey. It was free.

  5. I just find it unbelievable that the handouts print feature does not automatically recognize the transition stopping points as requiring separate handout pages. Print to handouts should automatically create a word file that can be printed as is, or saved for editing. If unneeded slides are created, the user can delete at that point prior to printing. I have seen around 15 years worth of posts from people looking for this feature, and still Microsoft has not responded by doing something they should have thought of to start with as common sense necessary to create handouts for a presentation.

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