Custom eCards with Keynote

I’m a big fan of Hallmark’s ecards. The artwork is gorgeous, but my favorite cards are the simpler ones that combines photos, artwork and text with music and motion to create an elegantly simple sentiment that’s perfect for just about any occasion. It dawned on me the other day as I was searching for an appropriate anniversary card, that the technical side of these cards was really quite simple and can be done with any presentation graphics program. Although I don’t have anywhere near the artistic inspiration of the Hallmark designers, that won’t stop me from trying my hand at creating my own cards.

This Valentine example is used to give you an idea what you can do with the builds and actions component of Keynote. I’ve limited the elements to text with background music for demonstration purposes, but any element – photo, text, graphic, etc. – can be used to add movement to your card. Here’s how to make your own. Click on any image to see it full size.

Basic slide layout

As you can see here, this card consists of only one slide. Begin by adding a background and then including the text that will be a part of the card. Once that’s done, open the Inspector panel and select the builds and actions panel. Now select the first object that will be set up with a build effect. In this example, it’s the “I love you” text object.

Define build for first objectThis object will only get a Build In effect. In this case, I’ve chosen the Dissolve effect, set the delivery to “All at Once” and the duration to 2.50 seconds. By the way, the Build Order panel is visible because I clicked the Open Drawer at the bottom of the Build pane. When you have a lot of objects on a slide, this makes it easier to keep track of which one is doing what and when.

Define the effect for the second objectNext, I selected the “every day” text object and assigned a Drift effect to it with the Left to Right Direction setting. It is the second object to move into my card so it’s number 2 in the build order. I’ve also set a duration time for this object. Notice at the bottom of the drawer that you can define what initiates this build and, if it’s set to automatic as this one is, how long after the previous object finishes whatever it was doing before this object begins doing its thing (Delay).

Define the third object buildThe “every minute” object gets the same treatment as number 3 in the build order. Don’t forget the Start Build and Delay settings in the Drawer.

Build settings for the fourth object.

The last object, “ALWAYS”, is selected and set up with the Dissolve effect and the timings are set. Click on the Play button in the toolbar to view the entire presentation and check how your effects work. Try other effects until you’ve got your card set up the way you want it.

Add background music

Of course I’m going to include background music for my card. I found the perfect 30-second clip of royalty-free music in the Vimeo Music Store. This one is Gentle Harp by Jack Waldenmaier and cost me a whopping $1.99. Drag the music file (a .wav file in this case) into the Soundtrack box on the Audio pane in the Inspector and set it to play once. After the Keynote presentation has been saved, I hit the play button to play the slideshow. My original timing was about 3 seconds short of the 30-second music clip so I adjusted the timing of each of my effects to stretch them out a bit longer until everything was just right. Once everything was the way I wanted, I saved the presentation again.

Now, to turn this presentation into a movie file. From the File menu, choose the Record Slideshow command then sit back and watch your masterpiece do its thing. When the presentation is finished, click anywhere on the screen to complete the recording. Choose the File > Export > Quicktime command and when the Quicktime settings panel appears (example below), choose your Formats option (I chose Full Quality, Large in this example) and uncheck the “Include the slideshow recording” option, then click the Next button.

Export the recording as a movie

You’ll be asked to name and define where to save the resulting movie file. A small popup window appears to show the progress of the export function. When it goes away, your ecard video is complete. You can open and view it in Quicktime. Quicktime also includes functions (File > Share command) to email your creation or upload it to Facebook, Flickr, YouTube or Vimeo.

That’s the basics for creating your own ecard. Cruise Hallmark or your favorite ecard platform for design inspiration, then see if you can’t create your own.