Don’t Be So Two-Dimensional, Use 3D in PowerPoint!

3D Cats

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Hi, I am Elisabetta, the Lead Designer at The Prezenter, here with another article to show you the… power of PowerPoint. If I had a nickel for every time someone said to me, “PowerPoint presentations are boring, can you do X instead?” I would be very rich. But if that were the case I wouldn’t be here writing this, so you are in luck.

A lot of people associate PowerPoint with bullet points and the name doesn’t do the program any favours. However, over the years a lot of new features have made this program a lot more powerful than people think, so upgrading to that 365 subscription is really worth it. One such feature is the ability to use 3D models.

How to Insert a 3D Model

PowerPoint makes adding a 3D model into a presentation really easy. All you have to do is go to Insert > 3D Model. A pop up window will follow, asking if you want to use a model from your device or from stock. PowerPoint’s online library is free, so let’s pick Stock 3D model.

Some of you might remember the 2D version of this cat… And yes, I just dated myself.

As you can see, this 3D model is animated, but not all models are. I’d like to point your attention to the circled icon below. Any character that is animated will have that icon. If the icon is missing, then the 3D model will be static.

Stock 3D Models

If you decide to import a 3D model with an animation from your device, you will be able to see that in PowerPoint as well.

As a note, if you use a custom 3D model there might be some issues when you import it into PowerPoint. This has to do with the compatibility of the various 3D authoring tools and formats, and warrants an entirely different article, if not an entirely different course. Just be aware that if you use a model from another source it might not work as you expect, unless the artist made it with PowerPoint in mind.

Scenes

So you have your flashy 3D model in PowerPoint. What now?

Before you do anything with your new cat, select it so that the 3D Model tab appears on your ribbon. Click on it.

3D model tab

On the left, you will see an option called Scenes. Scenes are just the animations of your 3D model – for example, the animation of the cat writing on the piece of paper. The Play and Pause button will start/stop the scene if your model has one, but in present mode the animation will still play. If you want your 3D model to not move at all, go to Scenes and press None.

Scenes Menu

None will simply stop the last scene you were playing. You can see that this cat has 7 scenes, which means you can also stop the cat at any point in any of those 7 scenes. Just make sure you first select the scene you want, then you select None. Basically, this is a “stop” button.

How to Manipulate and Animate Your 3D Model

Given that the cat is 3D, you are not stuck with just the view from the front. You can view it from any angle. There are a couple of ways of going about this. 

With the “freehand” method, you just need to click on the gizmo in the centre of the 3D model and drag the mouse in the direction you want to rotate it in.

If you want to be more precise, you can go to 3D Model Views and pick the one you want.

Like any object in PowerPoint you can animate 3D Models. Aside from the normal animations such as Fade, Wipe, etc., 3D models have other options. When you go to your Animations tab you will notice that you can pick your scenes here too. But you also have 5 extra animations: Arrive, Turntable, Swing, Jump and Turn, Leave.

In the Animations tab you will also find the Effect Options button, which allows you to change the direction of the animations amongst other things. I’ll let you play around with that.

Examples

This is all well and good, but how would you use 3D objects into a presentation? There are many ways of doing so. 

Here is our Space X presentation. The planets, rocket, spaceship, engines, etc., were 3D models I imported from a third party website. Then I used a combination of animations and transitions in PowerPoint to create this animation.

This other example from Microsoft shows you how to use a 3D cross section of a house. Make sure you download the PowerPoint, otherwise you won’t see the animation.

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