Cut Lines: Using Apple Keynote as a Motion Graphics Tool
Posted Jul 1, 2008

Keynote is the application in Apple’s iWork ’08 software suite that does presentations based on the slideshow model. It’s very similar to PowerPoint, but it’s easier to use. It does powerful graphics work that is automated to make creating a presentation very fast and easy; other key benefits include its ability to output to QuickTime files (as well as many other formats) and the variety of third-party add-on components available.

In this installment of Cut Lines, we’ll look at a growing trend among Final Cut users: utilizing Keynote as a quick-and-easy motion graphics tool. Everything you can do with graphics in Keynote can also be done in LiveType or Motion or directly in Final Cut Pro, and those larger apps can do much more than Keynote. The value in Keynote is that what it can do is really cool, really fast, and really easy. I’ve found I can do some graphical elements in Keynote faster and easier than I can in any of the Final Cut Studio (FCS) apps. Even with its limited abilities in this area, it’s still a valued part of my video graphics arsenal.

To give you a general idea of what’s possible, I’ll throw together a super-fast-and-easy DVD motion menu using Keynote. This DVD menu will be for an Earth Day river cleanup event. I’ll have a spinning globe off to the left, a title on top, a video loop of the river in the middle, and my three buttons below that. It’s very simple and very fast to create with Keynote.

Step 1: Import Background Element To begin, I open Keynote and create a new project using the generic Black theme (Figure 1, below), then I highlight and delete the default text boxes. In the Inspector window, the second button from the left at the top, is the Slide Inspector button. In this section of the Inspector window, I set this slide’s Effect to Dissolve, Duration to 1 second, and Start Transition to Automatically.

figure 1

Next, I create a new slide by clicking the New button at the top left of the Keynote screen. I then import my background image in that slide. I’ve added the SuperSet 2 Keynote Theme Park from Wow You Design) to my system. It’s a third-party add-on that gives you more slide themes, layouts, elements, and more. So I’m using the Forrest1024.jpg file from the Backgrounds included with SuperSet 2.

From the Insert menu I select Choose, navigate to the file I want to use, and click the Insert button in that window. Next, I click the file to select it and open the Inspector from its button in the toolbar. The Build Inspector is the third button from the left, and I click the Build In button. From the Effect drop-down menu, I choose Scale and set the Order to 1, Scale to 200%, and Duration to 45 seconds. My loop will be only 30 seconds long, but I’ll also have a 15-second intro that will not be included in the loop. (I’ll explain DVD Studio Pro’s Loop Point function toward the end of this tutorial.)

Finally, I click the More Options button at the bottom of the Inspector window to open a drawer. I select my background graphic’s Build In from that list, and at the bottom, I set Start Build to Automatically after transition. Finally, in the Graphic section of the Inspector, I’ll set its Opacity to 25%.

Next, I add my globe. You can obtain spinning globes from a variety of places, but I’ll use one that came with my SuperSet 2 Theme Park. To import it, I select Open from the File menu, navigate to the file Global Cool Extras.key, and open it. Next, I go to the Aqua Movies slide, highlight the large spinning globe (Wow You includes detailed instructions for using elements right there on the slides), copy it, close that Keynote project without saving, and paste it into my DVD menu Keynote project. I move it off to the left so that only half of the globe is visible in the slide. I then go to the Metrics section of the Inspector window (Metrics looks like a little yellow ruler) and perform a horizontal flip. (Because there is a glow on the left side of the globe, I prefer to show its right side.) My background elements are done quickly and easily—more so than any of the FCS apps alone.

Step 2: Work with the Clip in the Video Pane
Next, I return to the Insert menu, select Choose (Figure 2, below), and navigate to my Blind River video clip. Once the clip is imported, I go to the Graphics section of the Inspector window and select Stroke, open its drop-down menu, and set it to Picture Frame. Next, from the frame’s drop-down menu, I select the bottom-left option, which gives my video clip soft, faded edges. Next, I set the Scale to 27%.

figure 2
Once I’ve positioned this clip in the middle of the slide, I move it to about one-third of the way from the right edge, I go to the Build Inspector, set Effect to Start Movie, and set the Order to 2. In the drawer I set Start Build to Automatically with build 1.

Switching to the Build Out section, I’ll set Effect to Scale, Scale to 180%, and Duration to 15 seconds (the length of my menu’s intro before the loop point). I won’t bother with the Order number or Start Build for this "build out" of the video clip just yet.

Step 3: Build Titles and Button Text in the Text Box
Next, I go to the toolbar at the top of the Keynote screen and click on Text Box. A text box appears on my slide and I type in three lines of text: Earth Day, River Clean Up, and April 2008. While in text edit mode, I drag to highlight Earth Day, click the Fonts button in Keynote’s toolbar, and set the font to Bank Gothic, Medium, 84 point. I’ll set all my text to the same font type and style, but the sizes will vary: My second line will be 17 point, and my third will be 48 point size.

Next, I click out of the text box to deselect it and click back on it to select it as a box, not in text-edit mode. In the Build Inspector I set it for Swoosh, Left, Order 3, 5 seconds. Automatically, after build 2, I set a Shadow for black, 315 degrees, offset and blur to 4 px, at 100% Opacity in the Graphic Inspector.

Next, with my text box still selected, I go to Build Inspector and, in the Action section, I set Effect to Scale, Order 4, 85%, 5 seconds (Figure 3, below). At the bottom of this window, I click the Plus symbol button to add an Action. This next Action will be set to Opacity, Order 5, 25%, 5 seconds. To wrap up, I set all three of the Title events I just created in the Build Inspector’s drawer to Start Build "Automatically after build #," with the build number being the number of the build event just before it. This way they all work with the timing I’m after—one right after the other, not all at the same time.

figure 3
A quick note here: With every Build and Action I add to the drawer in the Build Inspector, I keep moving my video clip’s Scale to the last event in the Order list. This action will be the very last one we want throughout this entire tutorial. You can simply highlight it in the Build list (More Options button) and change its Order number in the Build Inspector to make sure it remains the last one in the sequence.

Next, I save the work I’ve done so far and click the Play button in the upper left of the Keynote screen. My globe, background, and video clip appear right away. The background is growing very slowly, almost imperceptibly for effect, the globe is spinning, and my video clips grow out as my title text comes swooping into place, then shrinks slightly, then fades slightly. The thing to bear in mind here is how fast and easy this has been so far to put together. Having to manually add and adjust keyframes in the Final Cut Studio apps for such simple graphics would have been much more involved and time-consuming.

Now we move on to button text. I begin by clicking the Text Box tool in my toolbar to create a new text box. I type in Play Video, and in the Fonts window, I set the font for this text to Bank Gothic, Medium, 34 point size.

Then, I switch to the Text Inspector, and in the Bullets section, I set Indent Level to 1 and Bullets & Numbering to Text Bullets, and I put a check mark in the Scale with the text check box. Then, from the Text Bullets drop-down menu, I select my right-pointing arrowhead shape. Next, I click outside of the text box to deselect and get out of Text Edit mode. I place this text box below my video clip, aligning the left edges.

Step 4: Create Advanced Animation
Now I’ll do some advanced animation in Keynote. I begin by moving my Play Movie text box to the upper-right corner of my slide, just outside of the viewable area. I use the drop-down menu at the bottom left of the Keynote screen to change my view to 50%. Then, I set an Action in the Build Inspector with the following settings: Move, Order 6, Acceleration to Ease In & Ease Out, Path to the curve symbol, Duration to 6 seconds.

When you set the Path to the curve, you’ll see a red keyframe path. I’ll add some keyframe points to this and adjust their curves by holding the Option key, hovering the mouse over a spot in the keyframe line and clicking. To move these points, mouse over the line, and when the mouse cursor changes to an arrowhead, click and drag. Each point also has Bezier handles to adjust its curve. Be sure to set the keyframe points to ones that will show movement in the viewable area. I set mine to the path shown in Figure 4, below.

figure 4
Then, in the Build Start drop-down, select Automatically with build 5. This sets it to trigger off just as our title text is beginning to fade. To finish out this text box, with the text selected, I go to the Build Inspector’s Action section and click the Add Action button and apply the following settings: Opacity, Order 7, Opacity 50%, 6 seconds. The Start Build setting for this action is Automatically with build 5 (Figure 4, above).

I need two more button text boxes, so I simply highlight the one I just made, hit the Cmd+D keyboard shortcut, and Keynote duplicates it. I align it just below the first text box and click inside it to type new text: Slideshow. Next, I press Cmd+D to duplicate the text box, move it down so it falls third in our column, and change the text to Interviews.

Finally, I Cmd+Click each to select them all together, and in the Alignment menu, I go to Distribute Objects and chose Vertically. When I duplicate a text box, its keyframes and actions are copied with it so that all the boxes remain aligned. And I’m sure to make the video clip’s Scale action the last in the Build Inspector’s order list, as mentioned earlier.

Step 5: Export the Menu and Apply it in DVD Studio Pro
To get the menu I’ve created into DVD Studio Pro for authoring to DVD, I go select File > Export, and in the Export window, I choose QuickTime. I set Playback to Manual Advance and set Formats to Full Quality Large. All the check boxes can be left blank. Then I click Next, give it a name, choose a destination, and save (Figure 5, below).

figure 5
After the file is exported, I open it in DVD SP, apply it as a menu background, and set that menu’s Loop Point to 00:00:15:00. This will cause the menu to start the video at the beginning when it first comes up. Then, when it hits the end, it will jump to the Loop point for the repeating loop behavior, not the very beginning of the whole menu.

Setting up a simple or overlay highlight for active buttons is a whole other tutorial for another time, so let’s stick with what we’ve created here for now. I simply wanted to show you how useful Keynote can be for doing basic graphics work in conjunction with Final Cut Studio.

I hope this article gives you some insights and inspiration for your own work. To see the final video created in this tutorial, click here.

And until next time, happy editing!

Ben Balser (benb at is an Apple Certified Trainer based in New Orleans. He specializes in training and consulting and also produces documentaries, educational material, and commercial work. Contact Ben with Final Cut Studio questions and he will try to address them in future tutorials.