PPT: How to make a plane fly using Motion Path

Just finished a one-week tour of New Zealand. Covered 20 customers and 1100+ users. During the session for Air New Zealand, I promised them that I will write a blog about how to make a plane fly using two simple yet powerful PowerPoint features: Remove Background and Motion Path. Watch the video. I have also put detailed instructions below.

Use this sample presentation (4 MB). Step by step evolution is shown in each slide. If you want, just use the images in the first two slides, and try the steps yourself. This requires Office 2010 or above.

Add the plane image and Remove Background

Start a new, blank presentation in widescreen mode. Insert Picture – choose the plane image.

We just want the plane. The sky we will manage separately. Click on the picture – Picture Tools tab – Remove Background.

Now most of the picture will become magenta in color and some part of the plane will be visible. PowerPoint shows a rectangle inside the picture. Resize this rectangle as tightly as possible. This way, PowerPoint understands which object you are interested in. So it keeps the plane intact. Use Mark areas to keep  to refine the removal process.

Plane with and without background
Plane with with and without Background

Click Keep Changes. Now the only the plane is visible.

Add the clouds

Let us add the cloud picture now. Right click on the clouds image and choose Send to Back. Now the plane is visible nicely on the new background.


Plane with clouds

Make the plane move

If we animate the plane, it will fly off the screen! Therefore, what we really need to do is to make the clouds animate (move) from left to right so that there is an illusion that the plane is moving forward.

The plane is in the FRONT of the clouds right now. If you click on it, clouds do NOT get selected. So for the time being we will hide the plane.

Choose Home tab – Select dropdown and Selection Pane. This is a very useful feature. Learn more about Selection Pane. You will see two objects. The one on the top is the plane. Double click on Picture 1 and change its name to Plane. Rename the second one to Clouds.

Selection pane showing Plane and Cloud objects

Click the Eye icon next to the plane to hide it. Now let us work on the clouds.

Animate the clouds using Motion Path

The clouds image is occupying the full screen. So if we move it towards the right, it will show the white slide background. We do not want that to happen. Therefore, we will have to enlarge the clouds image by the amount of movement we want.

Resize the image from the bottom left corner. Now choose Add Animation – Motion Path and choose the straight line path.

image   Animation - Motion Path

By default, the motion path is downwards. The red marker shows the starting point and the green one is the ending point. Drag the green point so that the movement is horizontal towards the right. The movement should be just smaller than the amount of image which is bigger than the slide. Otherwise, the movement will expose the slide behind.

Office 2016 onwards shows a semi-transparent image of the picture while you are dragging the end point (green marker). This minimizes the trial and error involved in fine-tuning the movement range.

Let us get cruise speed

All movement related animation in PowerPoint has an acceleration and deceleration associated with it. Open the animation pane and double click on the animation. Choose the Effects tab. Notice that there is one second acceleration and deceleration.

Change Smooth Start and Smooth End to zero. That way we have steady movement – cruise speed!

Smooth start and end Delay and Repeat settings

There is one more adjustment required. The duration of our animation is just 2 seconds. This is the default duration. But we want the plane to fly longer. Go to the Timing tab and change the duration to 30 seconds. You can tweak it later as required.

We want the animation to start as soon as the slide is shown. Change the animation type to Start with Previous.

While we are here, let us make this animation repeat. Open the Repeat dropdown and choose Until End of the Slide option. Now, after 30 seconds, the clouds will jump back to the original position automatically and restart the animation.

Fly the plane

Unhide the plane from the Selection Pane and run the presentation. It looks nice and smooth. Let us make one more change to make it even more realistic.

Add a shadow to the plane with Format Picture

Notice that the sun must be somewhere in the left top region. Therefore, the plane will also cast a shadow while passing over the clouds.

Select the plane and choose the Format Picture dialog. Add a shadow as required. Notice that every item in the Shadow setting is useful here. We want the shadow to fall far away, it should be smaller than the plane (because it is falling far away). It should be transparent and blurred. Adjust the angle to match the cloud shadows. Play with these settings to get a nice shadow effect.

Shadow Settings

That’s it. Now we have a realistic plane flying over the clouds. Enjoy.

There is more…

You can add more clouds (using Remove Background) and put them in front of the plane. This way you can see the plane passing behind some clouds – making it even more realistic. Use Soft Edges effect to make it look more realistic.

Of course, now you can add any object and use Format Painter to apply the same shadow as the plane. That way any object can fly!

To recap we used Remove Background and simple Motion Path animation to create a high-impact slide. The principle is simple. Understand the ingredients first and then combine them to create delicious recipes.

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