Move over Pixar: Instant animated movie with Xtranormal State

Like a lot of people, I stumbled across this hilarious video lampooning the typical iPhone buyer (NSFW, language warning towards the end).

Once I stopped laughing I was curious about the tool used. The good news is the tool is great, fast, and free (ish).  It’s called State.

State works by simple animating chosen characters to reflect a written script that you enter.  It does the text-to-speech conversion for you.  Simple and effective approach.  But then what makes it even better is the ability to add gestures, facial expressions, camera moves, sound effects, etc through your script.  The beauty of this approach is you bang your words in and get the first draft almost as fast as you can type.  Then it’s up to you how much you gloss it up afterwards.  My first pass at a 1 minute teaser video for an internal newsletter took 20 mins (and that included learning how to use the tool).  Spicing it up added an hour.  And that was that.

Two versions: online or download exe
You can use State online or download the executable (Windows only).  Which to choose?

  • downloaded version only gives you a single scene and single character when installed.  After that it connects you to an online marketplace where you can purchase additional characters, scenes, voices, at  costs from USD $1 – $15 (July 2010).  For a conversation style you can download Sarah Palin and Larry King for free, which explains why they ended up in my first film.
  • online version gives you a lot more characters and scenes to choose from (although nothing with more than 2 characters).  But it only allows you to publish online (Youtube, Facebook, Twitter).  The downloadable version gives you additional options to export as MPG, MOV or AVI video files. 
  • even with the downloaded version you need to be online when working as it requires you to create and register into an account (this is what determines what bonus features you have).  To work offline what I needed to do was login while online, and then not logout/close-down when moving to offline time.
  • the online version was reporting serious delays in previewing content, due to high usage.  Not such a long wait with own copy.

Mainly for the ability to work offline I went for the downloaded version.  Worked fine once I got past the online-to-register issue.


State is a great tool if looking for something very quirky and engaging for some brief communication or announcement.  It will quickly get stale if overused.  So have fun with it now.

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