Xtranormal is a service allowing users to turn text into video using avatars. Users begin by selecting a scene for their avatars, the most basic free option is a street corner. After selecting characters, users are able to insert text for the avatars to say aloud. Besides the audio component, aspects of the scene can be controlled. The emotions, movements and actions of the characters can be controlled. For example, as your character is saying “I hate politicans,” they can wave their arms in the air. The actions can be inserted by dragging the action after any word in the text box and there are several options available for each category. You can also have characters walk to certain marks within the scene. Similar options apply to the “camera” on the characters. Users can control the angle of the shot. This can transition within the movie. There are several different tools available for this task. When complete, the tool generates a link and embed code for your movie.

I’ve included the instruction guide I presented to our staff here.

We talked about how Xtranormal could be incorporated into the newsroom. I suggested using it tease the current issue of the paper. I’d have the characters talk about the latest headlines. Others suggested using it as a tool for advertising.

There are two ways to run Xtranormal, through Flash or a downloadable version. The downfall of Xtranormal is that each user gets a set amount of points to use when they first sign up to purchase scenes, characters, etc. Once you run out of points, you have to purchase more. Only the downloadable version will allow you to create a mock scene without points. The fee isn’t outrageous, but there are a lot of other items I’d invest in before this. In the past, the site has hosted free scenes, such as a soccer scene during the World Cup. I usually see friends post movies on Facebook when these are offered, so I try to keep my eyes open for them.

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