Xtranormal is a cool online video creator. If you haven’t checked it out, give it a try. It’s a bit like a digital puppet theater, you write a script that includes stage directions for your characters, and then the characters “act out” your script. Your words come out of their mouths using text to speech. They provide quite a few options for characters, backgrounds and character actions – everything else is up to you.
There are obvious ways that this could be used in a classroom. It allows all aspects of the production process that are important to learning – planning, creating, sharing, and editing. It requires writing, always a good thing. It gives shy or quiet students, or students who are learning English the same “voice” as everyone else. Being able to quickly see and hear the results of your script and polish it endlessly is a real positive. This editing process is where the real learning happens, yet is often overlooked or rushed through in schools because it takes “too much” time. So this may be a be a good solution when real video production is too time consuming or too costly.
Now, you have to be careful – if you allow complete access to the site there is a gallery of user-submitted movies that have no guarantee of being appropriate. Xtranormal has an “education safe” setting that allows for some degree of protection.
However, the biggest issue of all – this is NOT free. When you sign up for an account, you get a few free “points” that you can use to buy characters and backgrounds. You can also get a discount as an educator by contacting them. There is a full explanation here.
If you read this blog – you know that I’m not an advocate of free stuff in all cases. There are certainly great free services, but increasingly I believe that you generally get what you pay for. We pay for hardware – if you want to do video production, you would pay for the cameras, for example.
Xtranormal is having a contest/film festival that might be just the ticket to get started. I believe you can enter the contest using your “free” points without having to spend any money. If anyone knows this is not true, let me know!
“Fame and fortune awaits you (maybe): submit your decision-themed film to the Xtranormal Film Festival between March 24 and April 14. Entrants are eligible to win their share of over $10,000 in prizes, and one lucky winner will be immortalized as an Xtranormal character.”
I’m not sure what a “decision-theme” is, but since the sponsor is Bing, and that’s their slogan, I suppose that’s the connection.
The contest is open to US residents over the age of 13. See all contest rules and entry instructions.