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Xtranormal: Browser-Based Movie Making at WRT: Writer Response Theory




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A few years ago, we blogged about the movie-making tool built into Activision’s Sim-Tycoon video Game The Movies. It had proved an easy-to-use and powerful tool for creating the machinima “22 Short Films about Grammar.” Now it seems an even easier-to-use movie-making film is coming to a web browser near you.

Enter Xtranormal, an online movie making tool that allows users to create Lego-style animations complete with backdrops, simulated voices, and camera angels to perform scripts you write and edit online. The movie making system allows turn-key production of micro-movies, rendering changes to script or shots in less time than it takes to Twitter your new six-picture deal. Early experiments are promising (see below). However, (spoiler alert) the language of the site suggests that the pay-to-play shoe will drop quickly on this beta release, so make movies while you can.

Interestingly, the site’s tagline, “If you can type, you can make movies,” creates a metaphor of text turning to moving pictures automatically. My experience suggests the system is more of a “if you can play with dolls, you can make movies,” since the dominant feature of the interface are these little Fisher-Price action figures. (Actually, there are 4 styles of animated figures: Fisher-Price Dolls, Sims, Hello Kitty, and balloon head). Of course, the addition of text-to-speech does fulfill at least part of the promise, and indeed they have trade marked Text-to-Movie (i.e. if you can type, you can trademark). What’s interesting is that they are appealing to typing at all in a time where interfaces always seem to value the image over the word even at the expense of clarity. In any case, these virtual actors are ready for your a screenwriting class or idle time.

By far, the most enticing feature is “remix” which allows you to access all of the assets (scripts, camera angles, backdrops) of any of the movies posted to the site. In other words, you can make your own movie from someone else’s just by changing some dialogue or even camera angels. This is open-source filmmaking!

As belts tighten in this global economic crisis, this kind of system might offer an alternative to those oh-too-expensive studio actors (real or 3D). It is certainly an interesting move in the world of online editing software and machinima tools. See my first film about the US economic stimulus plan. Sign up and remix it into your own!





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