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Nested Spheres

Using the Spheres

These nested spheres can be used to illustrate two unique concepts: objects inside other objects and as the shells in a "shell game." This series is meant to be used with animation, so don't dismiss this series based on the comparatively hum-drum series example. The frameworks used within a concept are exciting and impactful, and this tutorial is packed with all the information you need for formatting and animating these frameworks.

We've included as a download in this tutorial an example of how you might use these spheres with the shell game concept. It's also the Power Chart for November 2010. It's probably best if you are fairly adept at motion path animations before you try this one. We actually had to graph it out and it's not really that complicated a sequence – just two sets of moves. If you really wanted to confuse someone, you'd probably need to do more sets of moves.

The motion paths overlap each other and the start and end points for one look like they're attached to another shell. Visually, it is impossible to look at the animation and tell what goes where and when. The solution is very simple, however.

  1. Decide how many shells you want and set them up on a "table" or something. They need to look like they are sitting on something. Create one shell and duplicate it as many times as you need.
  2. Make copies of the slide for as many shells as you intend to use. On the first copy of the slide, delete all but the far left-hand shell, on the next slide delete all but the shell to the right of the far left-hand shell, etc, until each slide has its own shell on it.
  3. Assign a number value to the positions of the shells: 1 for the far left-hand position, 2 for the shell to the right of the far left-hand position, etc.
  4. Layering is something you'll need to factor in. Set the shells at different layers and then make a note of which layer they occupy. The shells will move in front of and behind each other. Since it is impossible to change the layering of the shells in an animation scheme, you must accommodate the layering by always moving the shell in the same manner. If the shell is on the top layer, it must move forward (down) and either left or right. If the shell is in the back layer, it must move behind (up) and either left or right. One middle layer shell can just move right or left (no up or down). Another shell that is in the middle layers should go behind (up) at a slightly lower "altitude" than the shell at the very back layer and then left or right. Anyway. you get the picture.
  5. On a sheet of paper, plot each shell's movements within the numbered positions and whether they move forward or behind. For example, the far left-hand shell plotted scheme might be 1 (because that's where it started), 3, 4, 2, 1. Assign positions for each of the shells in the same manner, making sure that multiple shells do not occupy the same position at the same time.
  6. Format the animation for each shell individually on its own slide. Then combine them one by one by copying and pasting the shells onto one slide. Check the animation scheme each time you add a fully animated shell so that you can be sure the animation is working with each addition.
  7. Since each shell's animation is lumped together, the order of the animations needs to be manually changed in the animation menu. All of the shells' first moves need to be together, all of the shells' second moves need to be together, and all of the shells' third moves need to be together. Therefore, see the graphic below for an explanation of how to identify and adjust the animation order.
    Powerpoint animation for shell game
  8. Set the speed uniformly for each shell. All animation looks best at "very fast" because of the nature of the concept.
  9. Reveal the hidden object. The download we've provided keeps the hidden object right with the shell with its own set of animations. You don't have to do this. You can reveal it in the beginning and then make it disappear. Then when you reveal it again, just make it appear again under the correct shell.

If you need a split sphere that is semitransparent, there is one in cn048. There are also other series of spheres, each conveying a unique set of reveals: they are re010 and re033.

There is only one download; it contains all of the frameworks variations for this series. Simply delete those you don't need.

Customizing the Spheres

Adjust size

If you want to change the size/shape of the spheres, be sure to group them and resize the entire group. Once resized, ungroup to proceed with other customizations. If you are using more than one set of spheres in this series, import them both and size them at the same time. Then place each on their respective pages and begin customizations. They will be uniformly sized within your presentation.

Color variations

Select color from your document's color palette or a complimentary color so that the sphere will reflect the color scheme of the rest of your document. The outside of the spheres halves (both the top and bottom) should be template palette colors. The inside of the lower half of the sphere should be a darker hue of the template color chosen for that sphere. You'll need to create these as you color this frameworks: 1) color the interior of the sphere the same color as the palette color chosen for the two halves of the spheres; 2) double click on the interior section that you want to change; 3) in the Format AutoShape menu, click on the downward pointing arrow on the far right of the fill color display; 4) click on "More Colors" and then the "Custom" tab; 5) drag the arrow next to the gradient column down until you like the "interior" color; 6) click okay twice or until you get back to the sphere drawing on your slide. The shaded field should now have the darker hue you chose. Do this until all of the interiors of the spheres are darkened.

formatting colors for nested spheres

Make the line colors the same as the fill colors. Use line colors only if you choose not to create a gradient for the spheres (see below).

PowerPoint 2007 options

The spheres are already drawn with shadows, so it's not advisable to add more shadows. Also, the spheres are drawn in 3D, so don't add any other 3D effects. Basically, we don't recommend formatting for these frameworks other than color.

One nice feature in PowerPoint 2007, however, is the ability to add text directly to a shape that is not in the AutoShape library. If you want to add text to a sphere half, simply click on the field and begin typing. If you begin typing and the text is appearing top left of the sphere, you'll just need to do a little formatting: align the text to center (in the Home ribbon) and middle (right click on sphere half and select Format Shape, select Text Box, and select Vertical Alignment) in the sphere half.

Adding text to spheres in PowerPoint 2003

Here's an easy way to add text to the layered fields in this series. This helps you keep track of your layering.

3D variations

Do not apply 3D to these spheres.


Do not apply shadows to these spheres.

Gradients, patterns, and pictures

You can add some gradients to these spheres. Here's a possibility for you.

gradients added to sphere halves to show depth

Since this is a front-on view of a sphere, this gradient works reasonably well to add depth to the graphic.

If you want to import a picture into the sphere halves so that they create one continuous photograph when the sphere is whole, then use the FAQ technique entitled, "How do I cut a photograph into puzzle pieces?" While is focused on puzzles, the technique is just the same. Just think of the two halves of the sphere as a two-piece puzzle. The results will be very nice if you choose your photographs well and they complement each other.


This series is meant to animated, so let's take a look at managing this effort easily and effectively. The downloads have been separated so you can work easily with them. Before you add the animation, you'll need to put them together. When moving the top half of the sphere down to meet the bottom half, hold the shift key down to keep it from drifting from side to side. When you get it close, you can use the up or down arrows on your keyboard to fine tune the position of the top-half sphere.

Now we'll add some animation. Pay attention to the numbered steps. If you use these steps, you can format your animation as quickly as we did in the video. When you add motion path animation to an object (not just with these), make sure you click the start point in the center of the object. You can use the handles as guides: their "intersection" is the center. You'll have to eyeball it. You'll see in the video clip that we take a little bit of time lining up the start point for the motion paths.

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