BY BILL FERRIS
Last year we reviewed Xtranormal Text-to-Movie, a free computer animation app that lets you create your own cartoons. The folks at Xtranormal have made an even more impressive program called State, which adds characters who can walk around, advanced camera movement, movies with multiple scenes, and the ability to record your own voiceovers to your movies for free.
Before you go and download State, make sure to read the system requirements. State is a talented program, and it expects to be compensated as such in the form of your computer’s processing power. My laptop, though not ancient, isn’t exactly fresh off the assembly line, and it was barely usable when I opened State, so check to see what your computer can handle first.
Now that that’s out of the way, when you start running State, you’ll recognize many of the intuitive controls you’re used to if you’ve used Text-to-Movie. You’ll also see icons for camera panning, having the characters walk around, voiceovers, and so on. These are pretty easy to figure out, too. The voiceovers are a particularly welcome addition, but if you’re like me and don’t like the sound of your recorded voice, you can still raid Xtranormal’s catalog of electronic text-to-speech readers.
So what can you do with State? Lots. Digital storytelling. Have kids adapt a scene from what you’re reading in English class. Use it in ESL or foreign language classes. Create an animated sub plan. Or just have some fun with it.
While State is free (for now, at least), you don’t get a whole lot of options right out of the box. It comes with only two usable characters, and only one background. You can download a few backgrounds and characters for free, such as Larry King and Sarah Palin on a talk-show set, but Xtranormal’s business model appears to focus on paying for fancy character and background packs. Full packs cost about 20 bucks, but you can buy individual characters for 99 cents each, so you can get more options without a large outlay of money.
If you liked Xtranormal’s Text-to-Movie (and have a computer that can hack it) State will supply you with hours of fun and learning opportunities in your classroom.