By Hugh John
John Martin IIReallusion's John Martin II: check out his blogLoquacious lions, rabbiting rabbits… they're all part of the voluble menagerie generated by CrazyTalk, the animation program from award-winning software company Reallusion.

Now in its sixth edition, CrazyTalk is a powerful and sophisticated application that enables users to animate and breathe digital life into a wide range of characters. You can embed facial expressions and individually edit component parts such as mouth, eyeballs, eyelashes,teeth and lips. Easier still, choose from a set of Automatic Emotives - Happy, Angry, Peaceful etc - and let Crazy Talk do the rest.

As well as a comprehensive set of templates - the aforementioned animals, some dodgy looking coves, Anchorman, Super Hero, Cyborg, Just Mike , CrazyTalk Boy - it's possible to use your own real-life characters from photos or to download more templates from third-party vendors. You can even add speech bubbles.

The first teacher to bring CrazyTalk to our attention for engaging students with their learning was Jonathan Boyle, by way of a delightful Scouser Dalmation attached to an email. You can read his first impressions of using the software, which he discovered in a supermarket bargain bin on a shopping errand for his wife, here.

Reallusion's affable John Martin II (pictured above with the talking camel he created with his young daughter), gave interesting insights into how much further the software has been developed when he visited London earlier this year. John is responsible for marketing at Reallusion but is an enthusiastic user of Crazy Talk and you can get a good sense of its capabilities from the animation (below) that he created with photos of Berlin Wall graffiti on a recent visit to Germany.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7E9C9NXXcxQ

John says it's now possible to create productions that would previously only have been the preserve of expensive media production houses. He describes it as "real-time digital puppeteering". You can find out more on his blog, where there is also information about a related program, I-Clone 4.

Marrying up speech and image in CrazyTalk is a simple enough process. Click on the Script tab and then the text-to-speech button and type away. The software will do the rest and place the resulting text and image into two timelines. If you're feeling imaginative, make use of the option of different voices - Anna, Claire, Ingrid, Tom - and use the slider controls to manipulate volume, pitch and speed.

Otherwise, just drag some of the template speeches or quotes onto the time line. Some are quite funny, some maybe a little near the knuckle for use in an education context. 'You're shagadelic, baby", for example, might not go down too well with the head... or parents for that matter, or maybe The Spy Who Shagged Me has changed all that?

If you pay extra for the premium version, CrazyTalk Pro (around £109), you'll find it has many new features including support for multiple talking characters within a single project, a direct upload to YouTube and more natural animation and facial expression. It's an ideal vehicle for digital content creation and is flexible and adaptable enough to be used at primary and secondary level.

But don't take my word for it. Go to www.reallusion.com/crazytalk/ and download a free trial version. You won't regret it.

Ratings (out of 5)

Fitness for purpose   4.5
Ease of use               3.5
Features                    4.5
Quality                       4.5
Value for money        4.5

Crazy Talk 6

Animation software for Windows PCs. Can be used to animate/script existing images and to create new ones. Typical education prices ex VAT, single user £3, 5 user £125, 10 user £240, 20 user £455.
www.reallusion.com/crazytalk
www.inclusive.co.uk/catalogue/acatalog/crazytalk_6.html
www.taglearning.com

BETT 2010BETT 2010 January 13-16
Reallusion Stand T27
TAG Learning (BLI Education) Stand C50
Inclusive, Special Needs Fringe (January 13-15), Oympia Hilton
www.bettshow.com


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