YouTube recently launched its create your own animated video without a camera service. It actually does this via three applications built into the video sharing site, Stupeflix Video Maker, GoAnimate, and Xtranormal Movie Maker. All three services are free to use at their absolute basic level but there are 'in app purchases' you can make to enhance your videos. If you're a beginner to video production and timelines and effects, Stupeflix is the easiest to begin with, after you get the hang of it, GoAnimate lets you take your videos to the next level and finally, with Xtranormal Movie Maker, you're making scenes that are rough versions of professional looking products.
Stupeflix lets you create videos out of your own images and videos. In a way, it's like creating a slideshow, adding transitions and music in between your images and video. You're given three settings to choose from, Outline, Top 10 and Celebration. Outline creates white frames for your pictures and video. The frames are used as a method of transition when you don't apply a transition like a cross dissolve or fade to black dissolve. Top 10, as the name suggests, creates a top 10 style line up of your content and Celebration places your content in a Christmas holiday themed pop up book.
Stupeflix lets you make slideshows
There are various themes of music you can use and the frames automatically time themselves to go with the music. You can also add text to voice in your video and you have a choice of either a female voice or a male voice. As mentioned earlier, this is the baby steps to making your own video. Here's an example of a Stupeflix video I made, using a random assortment of pictures.
GoAnimate takes video creation to the next level. In GoAnimate, you're given two options for types of characters and animation, however, more will come soon. When you first use GoAnimate, the application will walk you through the creation of a video, and with this walkthrough, you're only allowed to manipulate one character, however, you can manipulate the background and set pieces. After you get used to it, you can start creating entire conversations with two or more characters using text to voice. You can make characters run or walk into the scene, have facial expressions, turn around and add text to talk. You can choose their character name which corresponds to the voice they use. In this app, the timeline is a little more complicated as you need to physically add a scene into the timeline, to extend the length of your video. When you select a new scene, you can pretty much manipulate everything that's in it, be it the set pieces or the character, just by clicking on them and selecting what you want to do with them in the pop up menu. The render time of some actions and the final output takes forever so be prepared to sit a little while with this one. The 'camera' in this app is stationary so you don't have to worry about cutaways when deciding your characters' actions.
Start some action based animation!
The application gives you script ideas for you to play with the features and get used to them before you start producing your own content. You can't add transitions to your timeline, neither can you modulate your characters' voices (nothing replaces real life actors!). You can add music to your scenes, cut the music as needed and modulate the volume as needed (you can't increase or decrease the volume in the same piece, you'll have to cut and add another layer of the same song where you want a different volume). Here's an example of a video you can make using GoAnimate.
Xtranormal Movie Maker
This is my favourite of the three animation applications, mostly because of the level of complexity it adds to the video. What's interesting though, is that you're not working on a timeline. The sample shown below is my first experiment with the application, and it still looks pretty sophisticated (with drawbacks of course). This application has in-app purchases where you have to purchase any character you want over the four that are currently free. You can choose your animation type among multiple options, choose your characters, choose your setting and you're good to go. You can add music if you want too, but because you're not working on a timeline, you can't place your music as a layer under a particular section of your video. The only part of making the video that has you working in some sort of sequence is the conversation bit. You can't add transitions like dissolves or fades either.
Make your animation a little more sophisticated
Two things I love about this application is one, you can add a character's action mid sentence (by dragging and dropping the specific action in the middle of the text to voice), thereby specifying when exactly you want them to make a gesture, and two, the application automatically adds in a million cutaways, so multiple different camera angles. You can make the characters have various accents, but this doesn't always work too well. The man's accent in the video I created below is supposed to be an Italian accent but it's virtually uncomprehendable. Check out the video I made on my first try with Xtranormal. With more practice, I really think some sophisticated videos can be made (thanks to the specification of gestures and multiple camera angles).
Overall, these three applications do empower people who have an interest in making videos but don't have the equipment to do so. It goes without saying that professional level videos cannot be made using these applications, but some pretty sophisticated 'home videos' can be made. All three embed their logos as slugs in the finished product so if you've made something you're really proud of, it will be hard to enter it in festivals and such. Also, as evident in the latter two applications, nothing replaces actors when it comes to voice modulation and expression. I rate the three apps collectively a 7 on 10 because I think they are good starters to pique interest in film making especially amongst youngsters, but I think each app brings something different to the table from the other and one app containing the services that all three provide would be awesome to have. For now, though, play away and if you're up for it, post the links of the videos you create in the comments section below.
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