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.
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