Friday, December 13, 2013

"Franticlaus: Son of Santa"

Santa Claus contends with a variety of challenges in this humorous Christmas animation by Daniel Kouts, accompanied with music by Nick Kouts:

related web site: *

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"Text To Speech for Video", new open source program

I am pleased to announce that Text to Speech for Video is now available. Having been rather disappointed in the quality, price, and licensing conditions of many of the text to speech products in existence, I decided to create my own free and open source alternative specifically intended for creators of animated videos who want an easy to use way of generating speech for their characters.  Below is a short video demonstrating what the output sounds like:

Right now there are two voices available - one male with a southern U.S. accent (demonstrated in the video above) and one female with an asian accent (I'd describe it as Indian subcontinent).  Each voice has about 1500 words now (including some duplicates with different emotiveness - questioning, emphatic, etc.).  I hope to add more words to the existing voices and more voices as well in the coming months/years.

It's also quite easy (if you have the patience) to record your own "voice". Since each word is stored as a separate wav file (22 khz, 2 channel stereo), the voices take up quite a lot of room (program plus the two voices currently about 80mb which will grow over time as more words/voices are added).  The upside is that, in contrast to many synthetically generated voices, the output can sound a lot like real speech (since it is real speech, at least on a word for word basis). *

Saturday, November 9, 2013

"In Sickness" animation

Here's a scary but touching animated short from "The Animation School" in South Africa entitled "In Sickness":

It won the gold medal in 2011 The New York Festivals International Television & Film Awards in the Short Animation File category. *

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Experiment Using the Daz Transfer Utility

Recently I watched the following video about how to use the Daz Transfer Utility in Daz Studio to change static objects into clothing for Daz figures that move with the figure:

The foregoing caused me to wonder if this feature could also be used to allow modifying the figure itself in an external program such as Sculptris or Wings 3D and having it still move in Daz Studio (rather than just coming back as a static object).  Below is a simple experiment of this concept where I exported the Daz Genesis figure in obj format, imported it into Wings 3D, extruded some spikes from the head, re-exported it in obj format, imported it back into Daz, and finally used the Transfer Utility to export all of the Genesis figure default items onto the imported obj file so that it would move around just like the original Genesis figure.  Sure enough, it worked!

(I messed around with the surface settings in Daz to give it the appearance shown above).

I tried to do the same thing in Sculptris, but I ran into a problem in that when I ran the Transfer utility the imported object kept going out of vertical alignment with the Genesis figure (even after I aligned it correctly beforehand).  After some experimentation I realized this was a problem not specifically with Sculptris but with the fact that I had moved the object in Sculptris so as to be able to zoom in on the head.  Trying again with the added step in Sculptris of moving the figure back to the original position as close as I could get it resulted in the alignment in Daz being almost correct, the difference presumably being due to my being slightly off in my attempt in Sculptris to return the figure to where it was before i moved it. *

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

"Destiny" - Another Great Animated Short

I enjoyed watching this animated short posted by YouTube member Fabien Weibel.  It reminded me a bit of the movie Ground Hog's Day:


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"Brain Divided" - Animation Short

Here's a humorous and well-animated short from Josiah Haworth, Joon Shik Song, and Joon Soo Song:

related web page: *

Monday, September 23, 2013

After Xtranormal - Some Alternatives for Easy Animation

Up until recently a lot of people were making animated YouTube videos with a limited but very easy to use program
called Xtranormal.  Although Xtranormal did not have the power or flexibility of a more traditional animation program, such as Blender, K-3D, Maya, or Cinema 4D, one could, with a little creativity, use the program to produce some pretty neat videos by writing a simple script which the program would then animate. Text to speech and lip-syncing were included. Xtranormal seemed particularly suited to creating short comedies and many of those created became quite popular on YouTube.

In late December of 2010, however, Xtranormal began charging fees to users for some services which were formerly free (such as publishing a video). Then in June of 2013, the company announced that they would be shutting down their web site services down after July 31, 2013 (thus making it impossible for Xtranormal users to continue producing videos).  This indeed took place, and since August 1, the Xtranormal website has basically been replaced by a big "pause" button.

So what alternatives are there for someone looking for the same type of capability with similar ease of use? Three
alternatives which seem to fit the bill reasonably well are iClone, Moviestorm, and Muvizu.  All three appear
reasonably easy to use, provide access to multiple characters and props, and are available for the Windows
operating system (Moviestorm is also available in Macintosh format).  All three come with lip-syncing features.
All three appear to rely primarily on importing recorded speech rather than (as was the case with Xtranormal) on text to speech. (Moviestorm has a limited TTS feature, see comment by Phil Maker below).  There are stand-alone TTS packages that can be purchased but using the voices from many of those packages can be problematic in terms of what the license does (or does not!) allow, or expensive, or both, so often it might be better to just record your own voices.




None of the three are free for commercial use.  iClone and Moviestorm have to be purchased (although you can try
them out for free, non-commercially,  for 30 or 14 days, respectively).  Muvizu is free to use, but you have to pay the company (by minute of footage) to get the Muvizu watermark removed and allow commercial use. [3/23/2014: Or you can buy Muvizu+]

Another interesting animation program is Plotagon. It actually looks more similar to Xtranormal than the other three to me. In particular, it appears to have a text to speech feature. As of this writing, however, it is still in beta mode, contains some rather restrictive terms of use, and allows upload to Plotagon only (no YouTube, Vimeo, etc.).  It will be interesting to see what it evolves into over the coming months.

I wish I could say that I found an open source program that does everything Xtranormal did, but I can not, at least not yet (although Alice certainly has some of that functionality).  Given the rapid rise in the quantity and quality of open source programs in recent years, however, I predict that it is only a matter of time until we see an open source program which equals and eventually surpasses the achievements of Xtranormal.  Perhaps someone could build on the SmartBody platform or build on one of the many open source graphics or game engines now available. Let's hope it is soon! *

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Animation Experiment using Daz Studio Pro 4.5 and an imported object

I rendered a short animation in Daz Studio, testing it with an imported object (the creature).  I created the creature in Sculptris and exported it in wavefront/obj format before importing it into Daz. All of the other objects in the scene came from the "Genesis Starter Essentials", which were included with Daz Studio.

Beauty vs Beast

The animation for the woman came from the "punch" animation included with the Genesis Starter Essentials.  As the creature in this case was just a static object with no rigging, its animation possibilities were more limited - I rotated it and moved it for a rough approximation of falling down.

related web sites:,


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Girl and Robot (short animation)

Here's a whimsically endearing and well animated video by Mads Dam Jakobsen, Kenneth Haunstrup, Nils Henric Wallmark, and Slaven Reese ("The Animated Workshop"):

related web site: *

Friday, August 30, 2013

A very brief look at animating with Daz Studio Pro 4.5

In order to get an inkling of what Daz Studio Pro 4.5 could do (and how easily it could be done), I created the following simple animation:

The portion created in Daz Studio Pro consists of the figure moving her arm up and down.  After exporting that to an avi file, I added the background and electricity in Paint Shop Pro 6/Animation Shop where I also shrunk it and exported the gif you see above.

First impressions of the program:

(1) Learning curve - It took me a little while to figure out how to do what I wanted, but it wasn't too bad, especially once I realized that not every element can be loaded on every figure.  Posing the figures is quite easy once one gets the hang of it.

(2) Power - The program has some pretty nifty capabilities.  With a little more effort, the figure above could be jumping around, spinning in place, and slapping herself in the head.  The amount of items (clothing, hair, etc.) that come free with the program is somewhat limited, but much more is available if one is willing to pay.

You can learn more about Daz Studio on the Daz website (including the Daz forums).  Also, feel free to take a look at (or participate in) a discussion that Stuart Whitmore and I have been having about Daz in this thread on his site,

P.S. Version 4.6 is available on the Daz website. They seem to update fairly frequently. *

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Ink Monster Cometh

This video started out as an exercise to see what would result when I based a video on an abstract digital drawing I created a number of years ago: