Whilst Wall Street sighed with feigned non-interest at the outcome of Apple’s “Let’s Rock” presentation on Tuesday, and others wondered if Apple had lost its sparkle with no surprises – the rumour sites put paid to that – another group of Apple observers were watching keenly.
This is a group that has come to learn that there is one Apple product that Steve Jobs does not keep wrapped up tightly and hidden under a bushell, lest the rumour sites steal his thunder. Indeed, I think what I’m talking about is the only product that Apple regularly lets the public see ahead of its release, with nary a mention. Those who have visited my blogs from time to time know of which product I speak: Keynote, Apple’s presentation software first released at Macworld 2003.
Nowadays, during each of Steve Jobs presentations, Keynote observers watch for tell-tale signs that an update is imminent. We saw a little hint at this year’s Macworld keynote, when the Macbook Air was released: a few new transitions.
But at Tuesday’s “Let’s Rock” iPodfest, we got the message loud and clear that a significant Keynote update, perhaps a version update, not just a point-update (ie Version 5 rather than version 4.0.4) was on its way.
Since my teachings with Keynote so emphasise the visual (“the visual system is to broadband what the audio system is to dial-up”), how better to demonstrate the likely forthcoming update by sharing with you screenshots of Let’s Rock presentation, in the order I spotted them. Perhaps there are others I missed, so please let me know: les-at-lesposen.com
The first hint comes very early in the keynote, just a few minutes in:
This is actually the placing of the word “Music” onto the screen, in a starburst kind of way, much like the old Screen Gems logo used in TV shows of long ago. Let’s see what happens a moment later:
Now we can see the word “Music” appearing. The effect is hardly subtle, but one that really draws your attention. Let’s see what happens next:
The starburst finshes its “orbit” and the full word is revealed. This is a full-on animation which these screenshots can barely illustrate in an adequate fashion. But even so, I see them as evidence of new effects. Together with what else we see as the keynote progress, it can be taken as evidence of continued improvement in the Keynote app.
Next – new image manipulation abilities or just an imported Photoshopped image?
I want you to notice an effect I use frequently in my own Keynotes, especially when I’m showing book covers, newspaper articles, or journal papers. This is a skewed image where the left edge angles down to a shorter right edge, as if the image was rotated slightly. This has the effect of drawing the eye along the image from left to right, and in my own slides there is a large amount of black (or white space) where your eye moves to and you just “know” something will appear there. This is me taking control of the message delivery by directing your gaze where I want it to go – let’s call this “direction” as compared to the magician’s “misdirection” where he sets you up for a “gosh, how did he do that?” moment.
Currently, to do this effect in Keynote means using another software, such as Photoshop or GraphicConverter. Indeed, even Powerpoint for Mac 2008 has rudimentary image manipulation tools which I have used to distort and image then import it into Keynote. My guess is, judging by this image, Keynote is about to match Powerpoint’s ability, if not leapfrog past it. Look further at the image above, and note how the reflection leaves no gap at the bottom, which is what would happen if you just dropped in a Photoshopped image. This gives further support to the notion that Keynote has received upgraded photo tools.
Next: New text animations
Keynote has far fewer animation effects than Powerpoint, but what it does have screams at you that you are seeing a Keynote rather than more of the same Powerpoint. In the next series of slides we see a new text animation effect. We start with a number displayed, “8,500,000″ and underneath it, “songs” in smaller print.
In actual fact, the animation has just begun, if you notice how the “5″ and the third “0″ are a tad brighter than the other digits.
In the next slide, a moment later, we see this:
In fact, we now see a new text image: 125,000 Podcasts. But notice how the “5″ and the “0″ in 125,000, and the “o” and “s” in Podcasts are brighter, having remained from the previous text (8,500,000 songs). What an interesting transition, and I’m going to be curious to see when to use it in my own slide creations when I get my hands on this version of Keynote. And what the development team have called this effect!
Moving along… a “flip and hang” transition
In the next new transition, we start at the point where Steve is discussing the pricing of Standard Definition (SD) television shows (priced at $1.99) and how iTunes 8 will also now support High Definition (HD) at $2.99.
But in the next slide, below, we see the fun element. The “HD” has now appeared but the price $2.99 is still flipping around on a different time basis. Again, another transition that captures the gaze.
Next: Follow the bouncing hoola-hoop
One of the things I teach in my Presentation Magic classes is how to draw the eye to specific locations on the slide. There are any number of reasons for doing this, and any number of ways. Most presenters are utterly lazy and use those awful laser pointers to circle or point to something on the slide. Most times, it looks as if they have early onset Parkinson’s Disease because it’s very difficult to hold the pointer steady, and drawing circles around specific areas is usually of little help.
My preferred solution is to know ahead of time, when you prepare your slides, just what on the slide you want your audience to look for. You can state it: “Now, of you notice this column in the spreadsheet” or “Let’s take a closer look at this aeroplane’s engine exhaust”. Or, you can either circle these areas with a shape outline, or grey out the areas around the target location, leaving the target the only object in full colour or you can cut out the target, enlarge it, and bring it forward over a fuzzy background image. These are but two ways of drawing the audience’s eye where you want it to go.
In the slide sequence below, we see that Keynote’s developers have attended to this and we get a new way, probably one of several, to highlight a specific area of a slide. We start with the iTunes interface once more:
I’m guessing this is just one of a few new ways Keynote will allow you to highlight various aspects of a slide, and I am guessing its developers have been looking closely at how some of us have been using Keynote’s abilities and both making it easier for us (less clicks) as well adding features from their own imaginations.
Jobs reaches the end of the new Nano announcements with a replication of the “screen gems” effect but its orientation is vertical, whereas at the beginning of the keynote it was horizontal. Let’s see. We start with the new Nano:
Were there other new effects I missed?
Well, I kind of got the feeling that one of my wishes for Keynote came true: A Ken Burns’ effect where one could enlarge and pan across the slide, dropping down onto a section to highlight. But perhaps I was only seeing things, and it was the camera videoing the keynote that was performing this effect.
In any case, out of all this rather obsessional Keynote watching, comes the renewed belief that we are in for a Keynote upgrade, hopefully way before Macworld, so I can incorporate its new effects in my two-day workshop, shortly to be announced by IDG/Macworld.
I’ll write more about this in the next few weeks as the Conference starts to shape up, and perhaps the Keynote community can share with me some of their desires for Keynote. I have a strong suspicion the Keynote team at Apple will be listening closely to our ideas for how to further improve Keynote, and help it to help us elicit more creativity and less boredom in our audiences.