Using GoAnimate and xtraNormal for Learning

We’re hoping to create something really original for our Planet GED study program. It’s important to us to get beyond the “buy a book” or “take a study course” method.

One of our priorities is to make the program user-friendly. Not just easy to use, but also friendly to the users. There are probably lots of ways to do that, but we’d like to use animated characters.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve been involved with an animation project, but they can be brutal. Animation is a super technical process to start with, and figuring out how to use it is a whole separate challenge. Every time I get into anything involving animation, it reminds me why it takes the folks at Dreamworks years to create their movies.

Anyway, there are two very cool online animation sites on my radar screen these days. Both make it possible to create animated clips without actually having to learn animation.

Both are free for casual users. Both have commercial licenses for business, education, etc.

Both launch animations from their own servers. You can build, publish to YouTube or a video hosting site and then embed in your own site. It’s kind of clunky, but there’s probably a tech reason for it.

GoAnimate is a burgeoning site and community for animated filmmakers. It features a ton of stock images and characters, plus the capability to create your own.

I like …

  • Its ease of use. A couple quick tutorials and I can at least build my first animation (no, you’ll never see it).
  • I can upload background images, characters, props, etc.
  • It has a very active user community.
  • Support seems very helpful.

I don’t like …

  • No lip sync feature. It does provide for a sound track upload, but the movements won’t sync.
  • The commercial license that I’ve seen so far is quite pricey ($500.00 per mo., at least).

xtraNormal allows users to create animated clips much the same way as GoAnimate, but uses a text-to-speech engine that makes it possible for you to enter text and have the character actually speak.

I like …

The text to speech feature I like massively.

The characters and scenes are pretty cool.

xtraNormal has produced a desktop version called “State” which promises to put the whole process in your lap.

The “State” product will feature a voiceover, so you can record audio and have the character “speak” your piece. It features a lip sync function, and looks very impressive.

The commercial license is only $250 per year.

I don’t like …

The technology still seems a little bit primitive. It has a very “in development” vibe about it.

The beta version of “State” has some pretty serious bugs.

I can’t quite get a handle on the company or its support function. It uses a forum approach and looks like user questions go unanswered for quite a while at a time.

At this point, I haven’t quite decided which product to use for the Planet GED study program. I’d like to have the customization features of GoAnimate and the lip synch and speech to text of xtraNormal.

Can’t have both, I guess. So I’ll keep evaluating and figure something out within a few days.