Last night, I stumbled across a show on the History Channel which analyzed various Biblical battles, complete with animated routes showing troop movements, translucent overlays showing the territories of the twelve tribes, and 3-D maps of Israel's terrain. Naturally, I pulled out my iBook and followed along using the Accordance Bible Atlas, overlaying the same animated routes the TV program was displaying.
Now, the History Channel's maps were very cool looking, with each line snaking across the map giving off a fiery glow (as if the army was burning everything in its path). Accordance Bible Atlas simply uses colored lines with arrows. But it's fun to think that while the History Channel had to pay large sums of money to professional animators, I could produce very much the same thing on the fly, simply by choosing "Battle of Gibeon" or "War of Gideon" from the Routes pop-up menu on the Map window. Then, if I really wanted to analyze the terrain, I could create a 3-D map that I could examine from any angle—rather than being limited to whatever view the television show gave me.
Okay, enough bragging. How about a tip for those of you who have read patiently while I break my arm patting ourselves on the backs? Did you know that you can choose from three different animation styles for the animated routes of the Atlas? And you do it using the one keyboard shortcut you absolutely must learn: namely, command-T.
This will open the Set Map Display dialog box, which contains a pop-up labeled "Animation." You can choose from Normal, which shows a faded, pre-drawn version of the entire route which gets filled in; Continuous, which is just like Normal except that it loops over and over; and No Faded Route, which removes the pre-drawn route and simply draws the lines across the map as the route unfolds. For me, "No Faded Route" is the clear winner. It's much more dramatic than the others, and looks much more like what you'll get in a History Channel documentary.
Oh, by the way, the History Channel used the recently maligned Papyrus font on its maps, one of the looks I recommended for Accordance maps. I guess Papyrus is better for maps than for business ads. ;-)
It looks like the History Channel show I saw will air again tonight at 2 a.m. Eastern time—for those of you who want to set your VCRs. (Am I dating myself, should I be talking about TiVo?) Anyway, I'd highly recommend it.