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BY J. CARLTON COLLINS

Q: We would like to produce and publish on our website a simple, three-minute movie clip featuring two people talking about the merits of our financial services. I don’t want to spend a lot of money or take a lot of time, but I am finding this task to be a far bigger production than I expected. Can you suggest some inexpensive and easy-to-use tools that might help us accomplish this goal quickly?

 

A: You might want to consider tossing out the amateur actors and handheld camcorder and instead produce an animated movie clip using cartoon characters. Once you have prepared your written dialogue, the website Xtranormal.com (free, registration required) enables you to produce and publish a movie based on your dialogue. Here’s how it works:

 

1. On the Xtranormal.com website, click the Make Movies menu option, then choose the type of characters you want to appear in your movie, and select the 2 Actors option. A few examples of available character types are pictured below.

 

2. Select the background setting you prefer, the specific characters you want and voices for each character. If desired, you can also insert background noises, such as the noise of a city street (see screenshot below).

 

3. Add dialogue to your video by copying and pasting the dialogue into separate story bubbles. Use the Xtranormal icons to animate your characters and control the camera angles. For example, you might direct one character to scratch her chin, while the other character signals “air quotations” using his fingers. You might also add additional sounds, control facial expressions and make pointing gestures. To use these icon tools, drag and drop the desired gesture icons into the dialogue text where you want the gesture, sound or motion to occur.

 

4. Preview your video and, when you are satisfied with the results, click the Publish button to render the final movie clip. Xtranormal then produces your movie and provides you with a URL and embed code so you can publish the movie seamlessly on your website.

 

The Xtranormal Make Movie tools are easy to learn, and once I prepared my dialogue, I was able to produce a three-minute movie in less than a half-hour. Given your situation, you may find this to be an effective and practical solution. To view sample Xtranormal movies, visit Xtranormal.com and select the Watch Movies menu option.

 

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