CG Blogging

No, this isn’t an April Fool’s joke.

Since November, blogger Dave Stratton has been posting in the form of “daily dialog-driven animation.” Stratton prefers to create these pieces instead of writing. Oh, have I mentioned Stratton is a professional copy writer? He certainly isn’t a professional animator.

Check out all his posts at Dead Pan Inc. – if you dare.

(Thanks, Alex Rannie)


  • joe

    Well this guy doesn’t do any 3D animation. Its provided to him by an online service called http://www.xtranormal.com (he uses “The Beige” world preset) – which is the link found at the end of the posted youtube.film.

    So I was curious and here is my research:

    Basically, you upload your script, pick a style of 3D animation, create some limited camera moves, expressions, etc.. (with automatic lip sync) and viola: a 3D film in minutes (you can instantly post it to Youtube as well). The animation is generic of course, but they must have animators working for the company, creating a database of actions with fully textured worlds to choose from.

    They are releasing a software version called “My Movie” which will give you more options.

    I’m not endorsing this software in any way, and find no desire to use it personally, but do see its potential in the market place, allowing anyone to create a simple 3d animated film with minimal hassle. I call it database driven story telling (like going to turbo squid for props but with more options and categories to choose from). Imagine 5 years down-the-line, if they release an advance version with GI and AI capabilities (and a huge web-based library of animation pre-sets and “stylization” filters). Some people who prefer to just write and direct may may see this as a convenient approach to get their stories. It could be used to create quick animatics….

    But this would hopefully create a backlash, pushing artists and independent animators to consider more creative approaches in the design and look of their work, stay away from the mainstream 3D animation (i.e. dialogue driven, soap opera-esque, anthropomorphic characters, mild takes, limited crazy morphs), be little more experimental, and even try other approaches besides 3D.

  • Peter Leisetreter

    This is funny : )

    I hope I’am allowed to post this (link). Whatever. I tried that If-you-can-type-you-can-make-movies-service. Here is the result

    http://www.xtranormal.com/watch?e=20090401070707466

  • http://www.animationinsider.net/ Aaron H. Bynum

    skinsuits!

  • http://www.deadpaninc.com Dave Stratton

    Thanks for the repost and link. I can see how animators might be annoyed by xtranormal animation, but I actually like the limitations of that software because it forces an emphasis on the writing. Think Dinosaur Comics or Get Your War On rather than Pixar. Xtranormal’s tag line “If you can type you can make movies” bugs me a bit. Typing isn’t writing.

    Thanks again.

  • http://justforspite.blogspot.com Gene Hole

    wow, it’s like the “animated” version of the RedMeat.com “comic” strips, and just as “funny.”

  • http://justforspite.blogspot.com Gene Hole

    oops, wait, there’s already an “animated” RedMeat, it’s called Shadow Rock. But THIS adds a whole new “dimension”… doesn’t make it funnier though. Except for in the ironic sense that folks still don’t seem to get that CG is not the cure for a lack of good writing.

  • http://www.nyfa.com/film_school/programs/animation/ Film Animation

    That was awesome!

  • http://www.xtranormal.com Luc Tremblay

    Dave uses xtranormal.com to animate his blog. He is, in essence, “just” writing, not animating directly, short of pauses and simple gestures.

  • http://robcatview.blogspot.com robcat2075

    Hopefully these automatically generated things will so infest YouTube over the next month or so that everyone will get sick of it and it will never be heard from again.

    But the xtranormal app itself is an impressive exercise in reducing a daunting task (directing and animating a dialog scene) down to a few interface buttons that anyone can master. (Of course, I haven’t bothered to look for examples by someone who couldn’t even write.)

    I compliment the programmers and request that next time you use your powers for good and not evil.

  • Sues

    I thought this was great. I found the writing alone to be a clever and amusing dialog, and its contrast with the bone-dry “performances” just made it even funnier. I don’t at all think this is a “way to go” but I think it works great for weird little character exchanges that you like but don’t think is worth hours and hours of effort/time.

  • jim

    For whatever it’s worth, as a novelty item I enjoyed and was amused by the single clip featured in the CB post. But I have *zero* desire to click on any links to watch more of them.

    The slow, droll, mechanically-even pace is mildly funny on a one-time basis, in my opinion, but shall be excruciating ever more, no matter how clever the writing may be. ~~ The void of maestro filmmaker will always be a dealbuster for longevity, methinks.

  • Matt

    Oh no this is the end of animation as we know it, no one will be creative any more and just type their films!!!

    Yes, Pixar are downing their tools right now, thinking “What are we doing? How much time are we wasting? Let’s just use this!”, Dreamworks have already churned out four more Shrek movies with it and Seth MacFarlane has emailed the link to Korea so they can start work on the new series of Family Guy.

    It’s just a fun application. I’ve quite enjoyed playing with it and creating silly little movies for my own entertainment. I’m certainly not going to use it to make an actual film (probably not). You might as well complain that camera phones and imovie are a crime against cinema (unless it is happy slapping. That is a crime).

  • http://www.candlelightstories.com Alessandro Cima

    My god! I just love this 3D software the guy uses for his blog posts! I’m playing with it right now. It’s called XtraNormal. Several years ago, I made a machinima film called ‘Dracula’s Guest’ with the game engine from ‘The Movies.’ Wired wrote about it in a machinima article they did, but I responded to several inquiries by saying that machinima was a very limited form and would not mature until someone built a true moviemaking software with easy choices for camera angles, etc.

    I think this XtraNormal thing is a step in that direction. It’s a simple tool now, but it has enormous potential.

    I’m going to make a whole bunch of these little animations. Totally fun! Genius.

  • http://www.deadpaninc.com Dave Stratton

    I agree wholeheartedly with Joe. I’m NOT an animator – never claimed to be. I’m using minimal animation simply as a tool to convey a certain style of writing. I’m certainly not playing to hard-core animators who will be too caught up in the tech (pro or con) to even hear the jokes. Comments about the tech are about as interesting to me as someone asking if I write with Word or WordPerfect. So I don’t do my own animation — I freely admit that. I don’t expect anyone to visit Deadpan Inc. for the animation.

    The backlash Joe describes is kind of like how photography led painters to non-representational directions in the late 19th century. At first, many artists sneered at photography as “not art” because it didn’t require the effort representational painting required. It drove others to find new forms of visual art once basic representation could be accomplished with a simple click.

    By the way, I’m a big fan of highly creative animation. I know what I’m doing is not that. But hopefully it has merit as something else. Sorry for the long comment. A writer, you know.

  • http://www.lippy.com Lippy

    I made a dirty one!

  • http://meridiandream.com/ jim m.

    I went to his blog, found some of them pretty damn funny. Kudos to Dave.

  • http://www.candlelightstories.com Alessandro Cima

    Very cool blog, Dave. Thanks for bringing this software to my attention! You’re in my favorites list now.

  • http://www.elliotelliotelliot.com Elliot Cowan

    This thing is brilliant.
    Time consuming to do, but a wonderful time waster.
    I did one months ago:
    http://sandwichbag.blogspot.com/2009/01/brilliant-idiocy.html

  • Sues

    I’m becoming curious about what percentage of CB posts are either Dreamworks-bashing or freaking out that an easy and fast piece of innocent software will reduce animation to a creatively bankrupt art form.

  • http://www.shamoozal.com Frank

    sues, it depends on whether that particular blogger has a book coming out that month based on a DW property or not.

  • http://dailygrail.com/blog/8389 red pill junkie

    They should do something about the voices. If they weren’t so electronically dull & annoying I might want to watch more of those little cg blogs.

    PS: The pirate bikini wax idea is pretty funny :)

  • http://www.casinomorongo.org CasinoMorongo

    That was funnier than most of the websites today on the internet.

  • joe

    Thanks Dave for commenting on my comment. Its great to have a software package that brings the storyteller’s vision to a wider audience. Software has enabled many people who lack the ability to draw, but talented in other ways, to tell their stories through performance and animation.

    I’ve met a couple of talented writers here in LA who have struggled to bring their stories to a wider audience. They quickly learn of Maya and Flash, but the software can became daunting and time consuming. Xtranormal gives them a chance to release their creative muse.

    You mentioned photography creating a backlash leading to others forms of representational, which was true, but a confluence of cultural and technological factors lead to artistic evolution as well. Such as radical artists (the impressionists and fauvists) rebelling against the French Academies and the development of oil paint in tubes. Art evolves and so will animation.

    Software products such as Xtranormal are important – by no means will they bring an end to animation as some posts have sarcastically mentioned, its quite the opposite – animation will flourish and evolve as more animators tell their stories. It’s the democratization of animation, and thanks to software and web technologies, it will occur on a global level.

    Personally I like to experiment and rebel against the social norm and at times abandon using software products all together (or use them in unexpected ways). But I love using Maya and Houdini to tell my stories – I just wish such products where as easy to use as xtranormal because I have so many stories to tell. But what hinders me is the writing. It would be great to have a software package that would make me a better writer, or write stories for me. Better yet, I should collaborate with a talented writer, to bring my animation and art to a wider audience. Dave, I will send you an email.

    Thanks.

  • http://www.sonofthecucumberking.com/ Ray Errol Fox

    “If God had had the Internet, he could have rested on the fourth day. … Adam would have been computer-generated, photo-shopped, j-pegged and pinged in an HTML. His rib? Cut and pasted into Eve’s virtual pecs.”

    CG Animator and copy writer both–think you’ll enjoy “If God Had Blogged” at http://www.sonofthecucumberking.com/.

  • it’s pat

    In a convoluted way this reminds me of a hilarious prank I read about.

    Long story short: there was an ad for “vanity record service” that promised “you can be a star.” (You send lyrics, they send “contract”, you pay to get it recorded, they profit.) He tried it and “A Blind Man’s Penis” was created as an obscene dada poem with a bad country/western singer.

    http://www.songpoemmusic.com/trubee.htm

  • http://www.onedotzero.com dayo fawehinmi

    this is really cool stuff. check this out sounds like fun.
    http://www.onedotzero.com/submissions

  • http://www.blendfilms.com patrick smith

    i can’t believe i’m saying this.. but i totally dig xtranormal.com!!! it’s amazing technology that really works!! and when it doesn’t work, it looks funny as hell!!!

    SEE THE FUTURE OF CG!!! go back to drawing kids.

  • Victor

    This is awesome! He should write for one of the feature animation film studios, he has got better ideas than they do!

  • http://tomboycomics.blogspot.com Emily

    That was kind of genius.

  • http://www.myspace.com/thetinyorchestra Half

    Please don’t call this “animation”. It’s the same as calling writing “typing”. By definition, animation is a way of giving life to an idea. Except in a one-time-only, moronic (or is it ironic) way, there is only anti-life on display here. I never thought I would ever consider Sims and superior acting in the same sentence but that’s definitely called for with this creative black hole.

    In fact, please don’t even call this a “movie”. There’s nothing moving about it.

  • http://wingedelfgirl.blogspot.com Lauren Rasmussen

    oh…. ugh. arg. ……………………. i’m really sad now.

  • http://www.frankpanucci.com FP

    I tried it. It’s fun, in a Fisher-Price kind of way.

    Suggested for ages 2-4, Caution: Choking hazard:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfCqWch_YmE
    A heartwarming example of xtranormalilty.

  • Steve Gattuso

    A silly idea, but not unwelcome. This fellow can at least write, which is a helluva change from a lot of the lovely, full-featured animated borefests I’ve run into.

  • captainmurphy

    How does it compare to Maxis (sims) the Movies, or other such machinima. I have to admit there is something seductive about simply waldoing and mocapping virtual robots to move around like cartoons, simply because the end product is produced faster.

    Ask Bob Clampett why he switched to puppets.

  • joe

    Story is the most important thing anyways. Everything else is bells and whistles. I would rather hear a great story around a camp fire rather than seeing a horrible Bruckheimer (or whatever his name is…) film with tons of explosions and a lame story. Great visuals add to a great story – they don’t make up for it. Without a great story, you just have eye candy.