Sunday, April 01, 2007

How-to: Add animated maps to your presentations

 I was looking at a colleague's website the other day when I noticed a promotional video he had added.  What caught my eye was the animated map that was imbedded into the video.  It started over the United States and then flew over to a position above the Balkan Peninsula before zooming in to Macedonia. 

I thought to myself, that's just what I need to help explain to people where Kosovo is!  It looked like it had been done with one of the web-based mapping apps, but I couldn't figure out how he'd done it.  So I shot a note to my colleague, who graciously forwarded it to Peter, the guy who'd done it.  Peter said he'd done it with Google Earth, HyperCam and some video editing software.  So I sat down and created a simple one for my purposes.  I uploaded it here to YouTube for simplicity sake. 

Since it's so easy, I thought I'd write up a basic tutorial. Neither my resolution nor my frame rate are all that great because of the laptop it was created on; your mileage my vary.


To create simple animated maps like these you need only three applications, all of which are free.

  1.  Google Earth - Google Earth is a desktop application, as opposed to Google's web-based one.  The download is about 14MB and the installed app requires Internet access to use.  It downloads and caches all the map information as you fly around the world.  It's easy to use, has phenomenal detail and is, best of all, free.
  2. HyperCam - this is just one screen capture tool but it works pretty well.  It simply records everything on your screen (or a selected region) and saves the output as and AVI (movie) file.  There are other, perhaps better, alternatives to this one.  Microsoft's free "Windows Media Player Encoder" does this and much more. 
  3. MovieMaker - No hyperlink to this one, because if you're running Windows XP it's already on your computer.  Of course, you can use any other video editor too.  <sarcasm> If you use a Mac, well, it will just do this step all by itself like magic but you'll end up with a QuickTime file. </sarcasm>
  4. Presentation software of your choice.  I've inserted this in a PowerPoint deck as part of presentation on Kosovo.  You could also use it in a website (see the YouTube footage above) or other application.

 Step One - Create your mapping sequence

  1. Chose your starting point.  In the clip above I just zoomed into a position above the United States.  Just left click and drag the earth to where you want it.  Use the compass, zooming and pitch tools in the top right hand corner to find the perspective you're looking for.
  2. Add a "Placemark".  When you have the position you're looking for, click "Add" and then on "Placemark". A window will appear asking you to name the Placemark and assign it other properties, if you're interested.  Don't worry about anything but the name of the placemark and the icon it will use.  Click on the icon to the right of the name and click "no icon" at the bottom of that dialogue box.  This will create a Placemark without an icon.  Icons are great for your personal reference, but doesn't look good on a video!  When you click 'okay' you'll notice that you now have a new Placemark in the Places section of your sidebar.  My first Placemark was called United States.  You'll create other Placemarks for transition in your video.
  3. Decide on your ending point and any intermediate points you may want to show along the way.  You can see that my video above contains only three Placemarks, the US, Europe and Kosovo.  I have other places marked under Places (like one called Gjilan).  I haven't used those Placemarks in this video.  You can create your Placemarks in any order and sort them later.
  4. Create a tour of your places!
    1. Under Places check all of the Placemarks you want to visit in your video.  In the tour for the above video I have selected the United States, Europe and Kosovo.  You can have as many or as few as you'd like.
    2. Order them correctly by dragging and dropping the Placemark titles in the Places sidebar.
    3. Play your tour!  Go to "Tools" on the menu bar and then select "Play Tour."  Google will now take you through a tour of your Placemarks.
    4. You can edit the speed at which your tour moves by changing the options under "Tools/Options" and then clicking on the "Touring" tab.  Fly speed, tour speed and tour pause are all changed here.  Does your tour pause too long on a Placemark?  Change "tour pause" from the default down to a 1 second or so.
  5. When you tour runs the way you want it to, you're ready for the next step.

Step Two - Create your screen capture

Now you're ready to create your video file.  Lets use HyperCam for our screen capture.  As I mentioned, there are other applications for this step out there, but this works pretty well.  It will leave an annoying "unregistered HyperCam" logo in your upper left hand corner.  For now, I've decided I can live with that.  So go ahead and install HyperCam and run it. 

  1. A dialogue box will appear that allows you to specify which part of the screen will be captured.  Make sure that Google Earth is the "window" right behind HyperCam when you do this.  Click on Select Region.  When the crosshairs appear drag the section of Google Earth you want to capture.  You may not want to include the title and menu bars, for instance.  Note:  You'll have to decide how large a window you want to capture.  If you're working on a new machine with a cranking graphics card, go for full screen and capture as large an image as you're able.  If you're computer is older, or doesn't have a dedicated video card, resize the Google Earth window so that it's about as large a map as you'll ultimately use in your presentation application.  If you try to make it bigger than your computer can smoothly draw, your resulting video will look very jerky and will probably be missing a lot of frames.
  2. Click on "Start" recording to begin the screen capture.  The HyperCam dialogue will disappear and you should be looking at your Google Earth screen. Press Ctrl-Alt-P to begin playing your tour.  Using the keyboard shortcut will keep your mouse from being seen in the video.
  3. When your Tour is over, press F2 to stop the screen capture.  That's it!  You've just made a video of your Google Earth Tour.

Step Three - Edit your video

You may have gotten some extra artifacts in your video when it was created.  It may not have begun smoothly or ended smoothly.  In this step you'll trim out the beginning and end of your map tour.

  1. Open MovieMaker - this is probably hidden under Start/Accessories or something like that. Again, this already ships with Windows XP.
  2. Click 'Import Video"  Navigate to where HyperCam saved your video (MyDocuments by default) and import your tour.  It's probably labeled something like "clip0001.avi"
  3. In the center of the screen you'll have a new clip.  Drag it down to the timeline to begin editing your video.
  4. Click the Zoom buttons above the timeline to make it easier to work on your video.  Clip off any extra junk you have may picked up during the capture.  In my example above, for instance, the HyperCam dialogue box was captured at the beginning of the screen capture.  That needs to be edited away.
  5. Once you've trimmed that junk away you can add transitions into and out of your map tour, add picture, titles or whatever might be helpful.
  6. Save the project and export the video.  You now have a WMV vile that can be used in PowerPoint, uploaded to YouTube or run in MediaPlayer.

This is my first tutorial but I hope it's helpful in explaining to you how to explain to people, where you live.


Carolyn said...

Wow! Thanks Jeff. Wish I'd had this info while on HA, would have helped a lot in explaining where "Macedonia" is (especially when asked: "Now where exactly IS Mesopotamia or Macedamia....") Heck, you could even make the start point the actual city you're in. Very cool.

Jeff said...

Thanks. I wish I would have figured it out before tour too :) You can do even better with Google Earth Pro or EC, but they're not free. Check out his guys tour through the Alps:

Not only could start over the city, but you could start over the actual church you're meeting in :)

Taylor Martyn said...

I started using this same feauture about a year ago for a missions video for my church. I started zoomed all the way into my church and then over the small village in Sudan. It went over really well. I use a mac. I downloaded a free video screen capture app to caputre the "fly over" in Google Earth. The bummer is that the computer needed a ton of RAM and the flyover became very stuttery, not smooth at all. I didn't like it, and didn't want to pay the money for the Pro version (which I might revisit) and so I just set up my camera on a tripod and videoed the flyover on my screen. It turned out pretty good, but would be much better if you could actually caputure it in a RAW video format on the computer, in 30fps! Which is what GE Pro is for. Anyone had any luck using it? Any thoughts? Was it worth the money?

Jeff said...

Taylor, good idea. I don't have experience with GE Pro but I'd be interested in hearing from someone that did.

Great website, by the way Taylor. Good luck in Sudan in '08.

Phil said...

this is cool! thanks for this post... i may be able to use this and do it myself rather than having a customized video presentation made.

Jeff said...

Thanks for stopping by. Glad this was helpful.

Anonymous said...

Yes!! Exactly what I was looking for!!! And I read it and understand it so clearly...thank you!

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