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Working with Animations in Adobe InDesign CC

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Even if you’ve never created any sort of video or animation, it’s easy to apply motion effects to InDesign elements. Learn how in this excerpt from Digital Publishing with Adobe InDesign CC: Moving Beyond Print to Digital.
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It’s hard to find anyone under 65 who didn’t grow up watching cartoons on television. Kids have fun watching cartoon characters run, jump, and fly around the screen. It’s the same creating animations for presentations and displays. Images and text can magically appear and disappear on the screen. Objects can jump up and down for emphasis. Illustrations can come to life.

Even if you’ve never created any sort of video or animation, it’s easy to apply motion effects to InDesign elements. We like this better than leaving InDesign to work with Adobe Edge Animate. However, the output options for animated elements are limited. (See the sidebar “Exporting InDesign animations” on this page.)

Basic Animation Settings

Most of our favorite animations simply move a text frame or image onto a page. You can apply animations only to whole frames. You can’t have just a single paragraph, such as a bullet point, move onto the page; each bullet point in the text would have to be in its own frame. However, as you will see, there are a wealth of ways to move objects around the page.

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Objects can be animated to fade into view as they move onto a page.

Applying motion presets

The easiest way to animate objects is to use the animation presets that ship with InDesign. After you have applied a preset, you can then modify the actions of the animation. The primary controls for animations are applied using the Animation panel.

To open the Animation panel, choose Window > Interactive > Animation. Select the object or group that you want to animate. The object can be on or off the page.

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The Animation panel and an object with the animation icon visible.

With the object selected, choose one of the animation presets from the Preset list. This applies an animation to the object, as indicated by the animation icon displayed in the lower right of the frame.

Most of the presets are well described by their names. For example, Fade In applies the effect of the object fading into view. But the effect of a preset such as Pulse may not be immediately understood. You can preview its effect by applying the preset to the animated object. The picture of the butterfly in the Animation panel then animates according to that effect.

Naming the animation

When you apply a preset to an object, the object’s Name field fills in with a generic description of the object. An empty rectangle frame is called rectangle. A text frame is named with the first few words of text. A graphics frame contains the name of the placed image. If you work with many animated objects, you will likely want to change these generic names to something more explanatory. Select the text in the Name field and replace it with a more descriptive name.

Setting the duration and speed

The Duration field controls how long (in seconds) the animation plays. The motion presets apply a default setting that you may find too short. You can lengthen the animation by increasing this setting.

The Speed menu controls whether the animation accelerates or decelerates as it plays. Applying these settings makes the animation look more realistic. (Think of a car that starts, builds up speed, slows down, and then stops.) You can choose from the following options:

  • From Preset uses the speed control that is applied by default to the animation preset.
  • None keeps a constant speed throughout the animation. This is useful for animations that move in a single place, such as rotations.
  • Ease In starts slowly and speeds up. Think of a car starting at slow speed and accelerating. Since you don’t want the car to stop abruptly, you will most likely want the object to move off the page.
  • Ease Out starts at a constant speed and slows down at the end. This is like a car that is moving slowly down to a stop. Since you wouldn’t want the object to start up suddenly, at full speed, it is most useful when the object starts off the page, and then moves into view.
  • Ease In and Out starts slowly, remains constant for a period of time, and then slows down. This is most useful when the object is visible throughout the duration of the animation.

Playing the animation multiple times

Use the Play field to choose how many times the animation repeats. For most animations that move onto a page, you will want to set them to play only once. But for presets such as Gallop, which moves the object up and down, setting the Play field to more than 1 causes the object to jump several times.

Select Loop to repeat the animation endlessly. Setting an animation to endlessly play on a page is distracting. But that doesn’t mean you can’t loop objects such as the wheels on a car that moves across a page. The wheels should loop in that situation.

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