A great use for PowerPoint animations, is combining them to bring the cover slide image of your presentation to life.
In this advanced animation tutorial, I’ll show you how to combine the motion path animation with the grow/shrink animation to create a city night scene with moving cars and blinking city lights.
Once you have this animation trick down, with a little skill and creativity you can animate just about anything!
PowerPoint Animation Demonstration
Look closely at the road to see the moving cars.
Building out the above city night scene animation is fairly straightforward and can be broken down into three parts:
Part #1: Find the right picture (see criteria below)
Part #2: Make your cars
Part #3: Make your city lights
Want to follow along?
Below is both a video and written step-by-step tutorial – choose the format that you prefer!
City Night Scene Animation – Video Tutorial
If you create something cool using these animation techniques and want to show off your work, send me your slides and I’ll share them with the community.
City Night Scene Animation – Written Tutorial
This PowerPoint animation trick is broken down into three parts.
Part #1: Find the right picture
Part #2: Make your cars
Part #3: Make your city lights
Also, make sure you save your work as you can easily reuse these animations to quickly build out similar effects in your other presentations.
Part #1: Find the Right Picture (this is a critical first step):
Now although you can bring just about any picture to life using animations in PowerPoint, finding the right picture will make your life a lot easier, so please don’t skip this step.
For a city night theme with cars running up and down the road, you want to select a picture that meets two specific criteria:
- Has a straight road (winding roads are more difficult for creating the motion path animations).
- Has few visible cars or traffic on the road, which will make the car animation more realistic (a picture with cars already on the road will make the scene look odd because the moving cars will be blurry while the other cars will stay clearly defined).
If you can’t find the perfect picture that meets your criteria, consider cropping down a larger image within PowerPoint.
For example, in this animation tutorial, I actually cropped down the larger picture below, into just the area highlighted by the white dashed lines, which is the only area of the picture with both straight roads and no visible traffic.
(Optional Part) Cropping Down a Picture in PowerPoint
With your picture selected in PowerPoint, from the Picture Tools Format tab, select the Crop command on the right. With the Crop command active, use the black handle bars that appear around the edges of your picture to resize the photo down.
The grayed out area is the part of the photo that will be removed, or hidden, leaving you with your cropped down area.
This is the resulting cropped image I will use for this Night City PowerPoint Animation Tutorial described below.
I don’t recommend skipping this first step, as spending extra time selecting the right picture (or cropping your picture down) will make animating everything easier. So spend the extra time finding the right picture for your slide before you get bogged down building all of your animations.
Part #2: Make Your Cars
Once you have the right picture, next you’ll want to create, animate and place the cars.
Step #1: Insert a Shape to Represent Your Cars
For this city night scene, I’ll use shaded ovals to represent the cars for this animation.
So from the Insert Tab on your Ribbon, open up the Shapes gallery and select the circle shape from the basic shapes group, and draw it on your slide as an oval (you want it to be elongated).
Step #2: Remove the Shape Outline
With the shape selected, from the Drawing Tools Format tab, select Shape Outline and from the dropdown, select No Outline.
Step #3: Open the Format Shape Dialog Box
With your mouse, right-click your shape and from the right-click menu, select Format Shape to open the format shape dialog box.
Step #4: Within the Format Shape Dialog Box, Set Your Gradient Fill
Within the Format Shape dialog box, make the following selections for your gradient fill.
- Select Gradient Fill
- For Type, select Radial
3. From the Direction drop down, select the “from center” option (in the middle).
4. On the Gradients tab stop bar, remove all but two of the gradient tab stops (one on the left and one on the right side of the bar). To remove a gradient stop, first select the gradient stop, and then click the X marker on the far right.
5. For the two remaining gradients, make them both white. First select the gradient stop and then from the fill color dropdown, select white.
6. For the gradient stop on the far right, you want to change its transparency to 90%. So reselect the white gradient stop on the far right, and in the transparency bar, type 90%.
Step #5: Duplicate Your Shape
With the gradient set, close the Format Shape dialog box and on your slide, select the shape and copy/paste (or hit CTRL + D on your keyboard for PC users) to duplicate the shape, so that you now have two cars to work with.
Step #6: Add the Cars to Your Picture
Now that you have two cars, copy/paste them (CTRL + C to copy and CTRL + V to paste on a PC) into your picture near your road. You can see that I’ve added them to the lower left hand side of the slide.
Step #7: Rotate Your Cars to the Angle of Your Road
With your cars next to your road, you want to rotate and angle them so that they fit your road (i.e. moving in the same direction as the road so that when we animate them, the animation looks realistic).
You can rotate your objects by holding the ALT key on your keyboard (on a PC) and hitting the left and right arrow keys, or you can grab the green dot above the shapes and rotate them with your mouse.
Step #8: Resize Your Cars to Fit Your Picture
With the car rotation set, next you want to resize your cars so that they fit on your road. You can play around with their size depending on your picture, but for this specific picture, I will use a height of .14 and a width of .4.
With the cars resized, you will then need to move them back together so they fit into their respective lanes.
Step #9: Adding the Motion Path
Select both of your cars, and from the Animations Tab, open up the dropdown and find the Lines in the Motion Path group of the drop down.
With the Line Motion Path applied, you should see some green and red arrows on your cars as you can see below.
With the motion paths applied, grab the red arrow (the end of the motion path animation) and stretch the Motion Path along your road.
Note: You don’t want your motion path animations to cross, or it won’t look right.
Step #10: Open up the Animations Pane
From within the Animations tab, select the Animations Pane to open it up so that we can work with the animations.
Step #11: Open the Effects Options Dialog Box
With your two (or more) animations selected in the animation selection pane, right-click the animations and select Effect Options in the right-click menu.
Step #12: Remove the Start and End
Within the Effect Options dialog box, remove both the smooth start and smooth end, so that they are zero in the input boxes.
Step #13: Set the Animation Duration on the Timing Tab
Moving to the Timing tab within the dialog box, from the Duration drop down, select a speed. I typically use 0.5 seconds (Very Fast), but you can adjust this as you see fit.
Step #14: Adjust the Repeat Duration for the Animation
Within the Duration dropdown, you also want to select a set number of times to repeat the animation. I typically loop the animations until the end of the slide to create a movie like effect.
With the adjustments made, click OK to close the dialog box, and you get a preview of what your animation currently looks like with the repeating motion paths.
Step #15: Delay One (or more) of Your Cars
With the motion path animation set, both of the cars now move down the road at the exact same time, which doesn’t look very realistic. So the animation trick here is to offset your cars to create a realistic-looking traffic condition.
So, select one of your cars and in the Animations tab, and in the Delay input area, pick something that is not evenly divisible by the Duration. For this animation, I will use .19 for the Delay, but feel free to play around with this.
Step #16: Set Your Motion Path to Start with Previous
Before we make the oncoming traffic, within the Animations tab, click the downward facing arrow at the far right for your first car (Oval 5 in this case) and select Start With Previous (which will make our lives easier in a second).
Step #17: Copy and Paste Your Car Animations
To create the oncoming traffic (cars coming in the opposite direction), copy/paste your two cars (CTRL + C to Copy and CTRL + V to paste on a PC). Move your new cars to fit your road condition, and then adjust their motion paths to fit the road.
Note: Again, make sure that you don’t cross the motion path animations.
Step #18: Reverse the Motion Paths on the New Vehicles
With the two new shapes set and their motion paths adjusted, from Animations tab, open the Effect Options drop down and select Reverse Path Direction.
With the motion path animations reversed, you should now have cars moving in both directions up and down your road.
Part 3: Make Your City Lights
Step #1: Create a Cluster of City Lights
After completing the cars, we will reuse those shapes and create a cluster of lights to add to the picture. Let’s start by duplicating the slide (CTRL + SHIFT + D on a PC) and resizing the car icons so that they are fully round instead of oblong (this means that their height and width are the same).
Then duplicate these new shapes by copying/pasting (CTRL + D on a PC) them so that we have a light cluster effect.
Step #2: Add Grow/Shrink Animations to Your Lights
Selecting your entire cluster of lights, from the Animations tab, select the Grow and Shrink animation.
Step #3: Select Your Animations and Launch the Effect Options
Select all of your animations in the Animation Selection Pane, right-click them with your mouse, and in the right-click menu, select Effect Options.
Step #4: Make the Following Effect Options Adjustments
Within the dialog box, make the following adjustments:
Within the Effect tab, select Auto-Reverse.
Within the Timing tab:
1. Set the Delay to With Previous
2. Set the Duration 0.5 seconds (Very Fast)
3. Set Repeat to Until End of Slide
Step #5: Set Animation Delay Triggers for Each of City Lights
In the Animations Tab, go to the Timing area and set delays that are different for each of your different lights in order to create a more realistic effect for the animation.
When doing so, you again want to pick delays that are not evenly divisible into the Duration.
For the six circles I’ve created, I will set the following delays:
- Oval #1: 00.07
- Oval #2: 00.13
- Oval #3: 00.21
- Oval #4: 00.37
- Oval #5: 00.40
- Oval #6: 00.49
The resulting delays creates a stacked like effect in the Animations Pane on the right.
Step #6: Resize and Cluster Your Lights
With the Grow and Shrink animations set, resize the lights to fit your picture. For this tutorial, I used a height and width of 0.1.
With the small lights, you will need to re-cluster them, so just move them closer to one another.
Step #7: Add the Lights to Your Cityscape
With your cluster of lights set, you can then add them throughout your city to line up with building lights, light poles or anything else that you want to have sparkle within your city night scene.
The level of detail you want to go into depends on how important the presentation is. In the picture below, you can see that I’ve placed the lights throughout the picture and adjusted the sizes to match the different windows and lights.
For your own city night scene animation, you can play around with the:
- Shapes and sizes of the lights
- Colors of the lights
- Speed of the lights
- Animations used on the lights (pulse animations, fade animations, etc.)
Try different variations to see what works best for animating your own picture.
Closing Animation Thoughts
What’s great about making your first night city scene animated picture is that you can reuse (copy/paste) both the cars and flashing lights into other pictures to quickly animate them.
For example, you can use the flashing lights for things like Christmas lights, fireflies, stars in the sky, electric signs, and many other creative scenes.
Give it a shot and see what ideas you can come up with – I’d love to see your work! Send me your slides and I’ll share them with the community.