Xtranormal Launches Text-to-Movie Making

Who would have guessed that the create-your-own-animation-online space could get crowded? But with yesterday’s launch of newcomer Xtranormal’s text-to-movie service, that’s precisely what’s happening.

“Show up with nothing, leave with a movie,” promises Richard Gratton, Xtranormal’s product manager. “You don’t have to capture anything with your camera; you don’t have to bring anything; there are no technical barriers to entry.”

The site provides stock backgrounds, characters, soundtracks and movements that you string together to create your animation. There currently aren’t many elements to choose from (it did just launch) and what is there is pretty crude. But what separates Xtranormal from similar services is the text-to-movie functionality.

Actions are controlled through the script window, which replaces the traditional timeline. Type in what you want your characters to say and the service translates that into a voice. You can choose between American, British, Australian and other accents (though truth be told, they all wind up sounding like Stephen Hawking).

To animate your characters, you drag and drop commands into the script window. Have them shrug, change their expression, change the camera angle all by sticking the command where you want it to happen in the script.

After a first look, Xtranormal seems to fall in between competitor Animasher on the low end and GoAnimate on the high end. Xtranormal offers more features than Animasher, but isn’t nearly as good-looking or robust as GoAnimate. The text-to-movie feature is nice, but the ease of use is weighed down by the stiff characters and the Dire Straits Money for Nothing look of the backgrounds.

The company started with a core R&D team four years ago, but kicked off in earnest a year and a half ago. The company founder, Richard Szalwinski, previously founded Discreet Logic, which was acquired by Autodesk. Xtranormal also offers pre-visualization and natural language processing for the film industry.

Headquartered in Montreal, the company has 70 employees, is privately funded and is not seeking a second round at this time. It plans to make money by charging for premium assets (characters, backgrounds, etc.) as create-your-own greeting card and slide show products.