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Animation basics

Animations allow you to tell a story with your 2D and 3D GIS content, such as showcasing a critical region or by flying through a 3D view of the area and turning on analysis results. You can then export it to a common video format. Animations are built by defining a small set of keyframes, or waypoints, within the view and then configuring how the software interpolates the transitions between them. A keyframe contains the viewpoint, layer visibility, time, and range properties of the map, which can be used singularly or in combination, depending on your needs.

Examples of animations include the following:

  • Previewing a parade route (camera animation in 3D)
  • Communicating rezoning impacts on critical habitats (layer animation in 2D)
  • Visualizing historical population changes (time animation in 2D)
  • Viewing individual floors for a building (range animation in 3D)

The Animation tab

The Animation tab is a contextual tab, so it only appears when the active map or scene contains an animation. To start working with animation, click the Add button Build Animation in the Animation group on the View tab. This opens the Animation tab, which contains all of the tools for creating, editing, and exporting your animation. The controls and settings on the Animation tab are grouped according to their desired use and purpose and are described below.

Display group

Display the path and keyframes for visual feedback

In the Display group, you can control the visual feedback of the path and keyframes of your animation. The path and keyframe graphics help to make it simpler to find and fine-tune the line of action and keyframe timing. Sometimes a quick visualization is all you need to help you understand a playback behavior you may not have been expecting, and improve your editing experience with dynamic feedback. The path and keyframes will not show during export to video or live playback.

Create group

The Create group tools on the Animation tab

The Create group is where you begin to build your animation. The Append Keyframe tool is the primary tool for creating keyframes and defining the path between those keyframes. Append has four transition types—Fixed, Linear, Hop, and Stepped—which give you control over the interpolated camera path. Use the other controls to create animations by importing bookmarks, use time or range data as a reconfigured animation format, adjust the default spacing between keyframes, and indicate whether you want to author keyframes that maintain the travel speed between them. You can also control whether your keyframes are appended to the start of your animation rather than the end.

Edit group

The Edit group tools on the Animation tab

The Edit group contains tools for modifying an animation. You can update keyframes, insert a new keyframe along the animation path, delete keyframes, and modify the timing between keyframes. The Keyframe List allows you to quickly select a keyframe from a drop-down list and adjust properties such as the flight path (curvature type for the line of action to the next keyframe) and keyframe timing. Use Zoom To Zoom To to update the map or scene to a selected keyframe's location. For highly detailed editing, use the Animation Properties pane Properties.

Playback group

The Playback group tools on the Animation tab

Playback controls allow you to review your animation. You can play it at real speed or manually step through individual keyframes, configure playback as a continuous loop using Repeat, or only play back the camera position if improving playback performance is necessary. The Duration time box allows you to increase or decrease the total time of the animation, whereas Current Time is exactly what you want to see in the view. When you type a value into Current Time, the view updates to show where you are along the animation timeline. There are also keyboard shortcuts associated with playback for convenience. The Animation Timeline pane Timeline is docked at the bottom of the application. It provides a visual display of the keyframes you are authoring and allows you to work quickly with keyframe selections. You can play back a selected keyframe or group of keyframes to verify changes, rearrange, delete, or update. The Animation Timeline also allows you to only show keyframes containing particular properties to focus your interactive editing and playback experience.

Overlay group

The Overlay group tools on the Animation tab

Overlays are text or image elements added to the animation to provide additional information. There are numerous overlays provided as presets for both 2D text, images and dynamic overlays. Presets have specific formatting already defined to simplify the process of incorporating them to your animation, but can still be fully customized. Text overlays include titles, paragraphs and copyright information. Images include photographs and watermarks. Finally, dynamic overlays go a step further and incorporate camera information, range slider and/or time slider information. Dynamic text overlays change automatically based on the current property of the map for the selected keyframe. Edit text and image overlays by first selecting the overlay and then using the Overlay tab on the Animation Properties pane. On-screen editing is also supported by clicking Edit Text for the selected overlay.

Export group

The Export group tools on the Animation tab

Once you have created your animation, you can choose to export the animation to a video. A set of preconfigured settings is available, and you can also define and save your own custom preset formats. By default, Lock View Size is enabled so your view size more closely represents what you will see based on the export resolution settings. The Preview Frame window allows you to see the current time in the animation as it would appear in the exported media format. Using the preview, as a companion to your animation authoring workflow, helps when preparing to export your animation. This way you can confirm if your overlay elements will be included and not become clipped due to resolution settings.

Animation authoring

The easiest way to author a new animation is by capturing the state of the view. Create first keyframe is a button on a new and empty Animation Timeline and captures the current state of the view as the starting point for your animation. The first keyframe is always at zero seconds (00:00.000). Navigate around and update your map or scene, and continue to use Append to create keyframes and specify the transition type as you go. This workflow can create a fly-through, tour, fly-around, or stepped animation as you customize the curvature type of the transition path between keyframes. Properties such as layer visibility and map range and time are automatically captured in each keyframe.

Learn more about animating the camera

Another way to create an animation is to autogenerate keyframes using a preconfigured playback style. Click the Import drop-down list in the Create group and choose to create either a fly-through or a tour-style animation (hopping between locations) using the current map's bookmarks. You can also autogenerate keyframes by importing time slider or range slider data in the map.


If you have an existing ArcGIS Desktop map, globe, or scene document that contains an animation file, the animation will not be imported into your project.

Animation editing

Creating an animation often requires iterative updates and improvements. You can view the animation path, and the edits you make to it, by turning on the Path option in the Display group. This will allow you to visualize your edits as you make them. The camera path is automatically interpolated between your keyframes so you can update, insert, or delete keyframes to change the camera path.

Learn more about improving the camera path

Changing the timing between keyframes will change the speed at which the camera travels along the path. By default, the transition time between keyframes is three seconds. You can either edit the default Append Time for each newly created keyframe, or change the value between keyframes by selecting the keyframe from the Keyframe Gallery on the Animation Timeline pane and opening up their respective properties. The Keyframe List drop-down control also allows you to select and edit values for keyframes.

Learn more about updating animation timing

Finally, you can modify the interpolation method that the camera uses to move in space between keyframes. The default camera transition type is fixed path, which guarantees a tight, reliable curve between locations. Use the Animation Timeline pane Timeline or Animation Properties pane Properties to switch the transition type. You can interactively make edits as needed using the Keyframe Galley by clicking on the transition symbol on the keyframe thumbnail and use the expanded list of options. The Properties pane is useful to update a set of multiple keyframes at the same time. The available transition types are as follows:

  • Fixed
  • Linear
  • Hop
  • Stepped
  • Hold

Learn more about animation transitions

Animation sharing

When your animation is ready, you can export it to a video using one of the predefined settings, or your own custom settings. When you click the Export Movie button Export Movie, a new pane appears. The Export Movie pane is where you'll find Media Export Presets, File Export Settings, and Advanced Media Export Settings.

The predefined video settings include YouTube, Vimeo, HD720, and HD1080, but the output format, resolution, frames per second, and quality can all be configured as needed. Optionally, you can also define and save custom settings for future use.

Learn more about exporting an animation

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