Recently, we received rather funny animated card via e-mail, complete with 3D characters, telling a story customized to specifically fit us and our relationship with the sender. While it wasn't the most sophisticated animation, the characters smoothly lip-synced the customized dialog. We knew the person who sent it wasn't particularly savvy about computer graphics, so we were curious to know how she managed to create the animation. Her answer: Xtranormal State, a free, simple program, that does all the hard work for you.
With Xtranormal State, you choose from among various premade characters and scenes, decide how many actors you want, then simply type in the dialog you want them to say. You can drag and drop animated actions (such as walk or run to a placed target, head movement, look at camera, etc.) into the typed conversation, to create motion automatically timed with the dialog. Actions can be edited (depending on the specific type) for delay, duration, or even type. For instance, you can choose among various gestures, such as wave goodbye, chin scratch, hand to head, and others. Creating different camera angles is nearly as simple, as is moving actors within the scene. Other options include being able to add photos, movie inlays, and music.
Xtranormal State does have a small learning curve. The provided tutorials are simple animations with dialog showing you what can be done and offering advice on how to edit the provided templates. We expect that some folks who aren't comfortable moving objects in 3D space may be initially frustrated. But it doesn't take much to become proficient with the program.
The Publish dialog provides direct publishing to YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, with fields for title, description and tags. Xtranormal State exports to various screen sizes (iPhone 3:2, Widescreen 16:9, Fullscreen 4:3 and HD 720) and saves to AVI MPEG4, MPEG 2, and MOV. To watch some example videos, check vendor Xtranormal Technology's YouTube channel.
Although the actors are plasticky, and the scenes have little detail, Xtranormal State is fun to use. It makes it easy to quickly create amusing animations, even if you have no graphics or animation experience.