Last time, we looked at how to rig your animated character and frame their walk cycle. Now let’s set the walk cycle in motion and start animating your character.
Animating the Walk Cycle
Create a new slide, which will be where all your animation happens. To prepare, we’re going to make eight separate textboxes and label them in the Selection Pane like so: 1st-2nd, 2nd-3rd, 3rd-4th, 5th-6th, 7th-8th, 8-9th. This will help organise your Animation Pane later and help remember the walking frames for reference. Apply an Appear animation to all of them that happen After each other. Now we’ll have clear bookmarks in the Animation pane for each Frame. You can move these textboxes off-slide.
To start with Frame 1, copy and paste your whole figure from your 1st frame onto the animation slide. Then in your Selection Pane, turn off visibility for all the other body parts except one of the Upper Arms. As we’re animating one limb part at a time, it’s easier starting from the limbs closest to the torso and then animating out. Turn off all the other layers so that you don’t get confused or accidentally move a body part you didn’t intend to move.
Mastering Motion Paths
Now go to Frame 2, select the same body part and copy and paste it to our animation slide. It should copy to the exact same spot as it was on Frame 2, so now we see two Upper Arms, one from frame 1 and one from frame 2. We want to animate from Frame 1 to Frame 2, so first we are going to apply a Motion Path animation to move the Arm to its next position. To get the exact motion path positions, you’ll want to apply Motion Path animation to BOTH arms. Select both, then go to the Animation Tab and select Motion Path from the animation library list. You’ll see the motion paths of both objects now on your slide. Now, we only really want to move the Frame 1 arm but applying the motion path to both gives us the exact position of Frame 2’s arm. Click and drag the red end of the motion path of Frame 1 to the green end of Frame 2. Now our arm will move to where the next frame begins. In the Animation Pane, you can right-click the animation and in Effect Options, change both Smooth start and Smooth end to 0 (otherwise the animation can be quite jerky).
Perfecting the Spin animation
There is a second animation we want to apply to this arm to match it’s Frame 2 counterpart, and that is the Spin animation. It is very likely your Frame 2 limb has rotated a little compared to Frame 1. To check the rotation, click on Frame 1’s limb (the Group including the pinwheel), right-click and Format Shape. In Shape Options under the Size & Properties submenu, you can see a Rotation setting under Size.
It is recommended to make a new textbox or keep some record of these rotation numbers somewhere, as you will need to keep track of them. Write down the Rotation degree. Now click on your Frame 2 limb and do the same. Write the rotation degree after the 1st. If the number has INCREASED to Frame 2, then your limb will be spinning clockwise. If it has DECREASED, then the limb is spinning counterclockwise. Do the maths and record how many degrees Frame 1 must spin to match Frame 2. Then on the same Frame 1 limb, click Add Animation and add a Spin animation to it.
Right-click the Spin animation in the Selection Pane to edit Effect Options. Change 360 clockwise to the new rotation you’ve recorded, and either the clockwise or counterclockwise you’ve determined.
Great, that’s all the animation you need on one limb, to animate from frame 1 to 2. In the Animation Pane, set them both to happen With Previous, and move them after your 1st-2nd frame bookmark. You can also change the duration of the animation to happen faster. I usually like to set it to 0.25sec for now.
Rinse and Repeat
Now we’re going to repeat the process for frames 2-3. First, delete your 2nd Frame limb on your animation slide – we don’t need it anymore. Then copy and paste your 3rd Frame limb over to the animation slide. Just like before, we’re going to add a Motion Path animation, and a Spin animation. Make sure you use the Add Animation button to continue adding to the Frame 1 limb, and not the Frame 3 limb. The only difference this time is in the Motion Path animation – you will move the red end of Frame 2’s animation to the beginning of 3’s. But then you have to remember we are starting from Frame 2’s position, not 1. So you will also have to move the green beginning of the motion path of Frame 1 to where Frame 2 started. Apply the spin animation the same way as before, not forgetting to record the rotations. If you happen to miscalculate one at the end, its good to have the whole record to double check.
Continue to repeat the process until Frame 9. Frame 9 is the same as Frame 1, so make sure the limb goes back exactly to how it was as the start. Feel free to play the animation at any time to see how you’re tracking. If you see a sudden jerky movement, or something spinning the wrong way, it is probably a miscalculation on the spin or a misalignment of a motion path.
Once you’ve done one limb, you’ve pretty much got the process down pat. You’ll need to apply the same process to each individual limb. Use the selection pane to turn layers on and off as you work. In some cases, some limbs may not need either a spin or motion path- and that’s okay. The majority, however, will.
Subtle Extra Animations
When all limbs have been animated this way (that is, all the arms, legs and feet parts), we are left with just the head, torso and hips. Now for these, we want a much subtler animation. The head can nod up and down just slightly in time with the walk cycle (for our example we have a 1 degree rotation on the head). Similarly, the hips can shift slightly in time with the legs (I also have a 1 degree rotate on the hips). And lastly, this is optional, but I applied a very tiny motion path of the torso so it bobs up and down just slightly as the figure moves, to give it the illusion of breathing. When it comes to these animations, subtlety looks better than exaggeration.
Looping the Walk Cycle
And we’re done! The last thing to do is to loop the whole animation. We can do this by importing a blank soundtrack (or use any sound file and mute it). Drop the file off-slide, then right-click and select Trim. We want to trim this file to the exact duration of the walk cycle. My walk cycle animations were all set to 0.15 seconds per frame, so I Trimmed my audio to 1.2seconds altogether. When you’re done, click OK. Now while it’s still selected, you’ll see a little playbar right under your sound file icon. Click the very beginning of the track and go to the Playback, and click Add Bookmark. In the same tab, you can check the Loop until Stopped option in Audio Options.
What we’re going to do is to trigger our entire animated walk cycle to play every time the audio plays through this Bookmark. Because the soundtrack is looped, it will play endlessly. So now select all the animations in the Animation Pane, then in the Animation Tab click Trigger, then On Bookmark, and then Bookmark 1. Play in full screen to see your figure walk endlessly.
Congratulations, you’ve animated an entire walk cycle in PowerPoint! From here, you can add a background if you like, and animate it moving the opposite direction to the figure so they will look like they’re walking forward. You can also add a drop shadow beneath the figure to add some grounded realism to the walk cycle, by using a rounded shape with a transparency on it. Adding a gentle horizontal Grow Shrink on it, timed to the walk cycle, can add just that little extra finesse to the walk cycle.
Feel free to export as an mp4 for a video, or a GIF for infinite looping, by going to File, Export, then Create a Video or Create an Animated GIF.
To see the final results and download these digital assets for free, check out our Walk Cycle Animation asset here.