Making my maps move?
May 17, 2008 6:12 PM   Subscribe

How do I build animated maps - say, of a city getting built up, or immigration patterns?

Looking for specific software recommendations for building animated maps.

I have a few different specific map types in mind:

1) a city getting built up over the course of time
2) migration patterns (say, in history, the Visigoths moving from spot to spot)
3) an individual moving from spot to spot - say, Doc Ricketts moving from address A to address B to address C

I have access to a Windows machine but prefer working on my Mac. Freeware highly preferred.

posted by kristi to Technology (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
how accurate do you need these to be? If specificity down to latitude/longitude is not important, and you're just trying to communicate general concepts, I'd just use Photoshop/ImageReady or similar to create an animated gif or a swf. If you need extremely accurate maps, then you need GIS software, and I'm not sure of freeware that will do that for you. The industry standard is ArcGIS which is most definitely not free (or, AFAIK, available for Mac).
posted by desjardins at 6:51 PM on May 17, 2008

The animation part is trivial (e.g. ImageMagick), what you need to concentrate on is how to get a series of frames. This in turn will depend on what format you have your population data in, and what format your geographical features data in -- those are the things you need to specify. Once you have that, you just find a program that can read those formats and generate an image, and then you run that program in a loop to generate each frame. Once you have still images, the animation part can be done with a number of readily available non-GIS-specific tools.
posted by Rhomboid at 7:18 PM on May 17, 2008

It takes some artistic skill, a plan of attack, and lots of research. A task like this is no small feat for one person unless you want something pretty simple. Although freeware might be preferred, alternatives such as Flash might be much simpler and less likely to force you to commit hari-kiri.

Your example 1 could be extremely detailed or could be a series of ten frames of a city overview during a 100 year span. The latter could easily be done with any image editor such as Inkscape and a GIF animator of which there are many. An 800x600 animated gif could take an afternoon to make. A highly detailed map with zoomable features and all sorts of fancy mouseover controls and speed controls definitely needs Flash and will take plenty of time.
posted by JJ86 at 7:35 PM on May 17, 2008

Best answer: You might look at Keynote, which was likely included with your Mac. It exports to Flash and lets you set up simple animations (object moves from A to B), and with transitions between slides you could build a city in a series of slides. You could also include interactivity to a limited degree (click a suburb to "zoom in" on it, which would really be a transition to another slide).
posted by PatoPata at 9:55 PM on May 17, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all the good suggestions - I actually hadn't looked at ImageMagick before.

But the Keynote suggestion was brilliant. That's an option I'd totally overlooked, and it may be just what I need.

Thanks, all!
posted by kristi at 12:17 PM on May 18, 2008

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