How to create amazing GIFs that tell a story

the amazing tools in Apple’s iWork Keynote

Adding animations to presentations and your writing can make what you have to say more clear and stand out. The update to Apple’s Keynote presentation software (Keynote 5.0) now makes creating GIF animiations easier than ever.

I recently created a GIF to illustrate the difference between the aggregation and social boundary defense models I use in my archaeological research on territoriality. A dry topic for some, but the difference between the two models comes alive with an animated GIF.

Animated GIF Created in Keynote 5.0

Five Steps:

  1. Find or create elements (e.g., pictures, vector art) and add them to a new Keynote slide.
  2. Animate element actions in the slide.
  3. Order element actions to sequence the GIF story.
  4. Alter the timing duration for each element’s action.
  5. Export the slide as a GIF.

Create GIF in iWork Keynote 5.0 Workflow Example

  1. Find or create elements (e.g., pictures, vector art) and add them to a new Keynote slide.
Add or create elements in Keynote

In this example, all of my slide’s elements were created within Keynote. The human figures were people shapes added from the Keynote shape menu. I made the “spear” that the woman is holding by modifying an arrow shape.

2. Animate element actions in the slide.

Selecting a slide element brings up the option menu in iOS (iPad or iPhone). On MacOS the same options are available on the slide’s right side. Animation options are Build In, Action, and Build Out.

Animation options Build In, Action and Build Out within the Animation menu in iOS Keynote

Build In and Build Out make slide elements appear or disappear in different ways (appear, dissolve, move in, etc.). In this example, I used the Build In and Build Out animations to make the words Aggregation and Social Boundary Defense to appear and disappear using the appear option.

Action is used to move a slide’s element on the slide in different ways (along a path, rotate, scale, etc.). In this example, I moved the human figures along a path. Note, on MacOS it is referred to as Move rather than Create a Path on iOS.

3. Order element actions to sequence the GIF story.

I created an action to move the human figures along a path from within the Animation menu in Keynote.

This step is necessary to double check the order in which the animations will occur. In most animations, the timing of Build In, Build Out, and Actions are important to sequence the story. In this example, I had to change the order of the animations several times until they were in the right sequence.

Adjust the animation sequence and animation timing within the Build Order menu in Keynote

The Build Order menu is accessed through Animation. Place the animations in order of occurrence (top first – bottom last) by dragging and dropping.

4. Alter the timing duration for each element’s action.

The time duration needed for each element to complete its animation is also adjustable within the Build Order menu. In this example, my words Aggregation and Social Boundary Defense were appearing and disappearing too quickly. I adjusted the timing duration for each of these elements to more slowly appear and disappear.

At the bottom of the Build Order menu are the options: On Tap, With Build, After Build. This menu is used to determine how the animations will be initiated during a presentation. A click or touch is required to initiate an animation with On Tap. With Build is used when more than one animation needs to occur simultaneously. It is grouping animations together. Select After Build if an animation needs to happen after a previous animation. In creating GIFs the On Tap and After Build are the same option. When Keynote exports the GIF it automates the presenter’s tap or click.

5. Export the slide as a GIF.

The export menu is reached by tapping the three dots on the upper right corner in iOS or through the Files menu on a Mac. Animated GIF is one of the export options. Within the Animated GIF menu are several choices to further customize the GIF including resolution, frame rate, and auto-advance. The Auto-Advance feature is how Keynote automates the presenter’s tap or click. Adjusting these settings will change the size of the final image and the speed of the animated GIF. In this example, I changed the size of the animated GIF from medium to large.

Export Animation GIF options in Keynote

Another important feature of animating a GIF within Keynote is that a GIF can be created across one slide or more. In this example, the GIF was created within only one slide. It is possible, however, to use transitions between slides as part of the GIF creation process. The options to create a compelling animated GIF are endless within Keynote.

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