Create Animations in PDF Documents Using R

November 11, 2009

(This article was first published on Statistics, R, Graphics and Fun » R Language, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

Since animation 1.0-9, we will be able to create a PDF document with an animation embedded in it; the function is saveLatex(), and its usage is similar to saveMovie() and saveSWF(): you pass an R expression for creating animations to this function, and this expression will be evaluated in the function; the image frames get recorded by a graphics device. In the end, a LaTeX document is written in a directory, and we can get a PDF document by running pdflatex on the document.

In fact, the key point is the LaTeX package named animate, which can be used to insert image frames into a PDF document to generate an animation. The interface of animations created by this package is quite similar to the HTML animation page by the R package animation, moreover, it also uses JavaScript (in PDF) to animate the image frames.

Here is an example:

oopt = ani.options(interval = 0.1, nmax = 100)
## brownian motion: note the 'loop' option and how to set graphics
#    parameters with 'ani.first'
    brownian.motion(pch = 21, cex = 5, col = "red", bg = "yellow",
        main = "Demonstration of Brownian Motion")
}, ani.basename = "BM", ani.opts = "controls,loop,width=0.8\\textwidth",
    ani.first = par(mar = c(3, 3, 1, 0.5), mgp = c(2, 0.5, 0),
        tcl = -0.3, cex.axis = 0.8, cex.lab = 0.8, cex.main = 1),
    latex.filename = "brownian.motion.tex")

Download the demo: Brownian Motion in PDF (205K)

The PDF document will be automatically opened if there is nothing wrong with LaTeX and your PDF viewer; if nothing happened, you can find the PDF document brownian.motion.pdf in the directory ani.options("outdir").

The animation will work in Acrobat Reader 9.0, and I do not know if other PDF viewers can deal with JavaScript correctly (AFAIK, the default PDF viewer in Mac OS will not).

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