Text-to-movie: XtraNormal makes it easy – if they survive [VIDEO]

Text-to-movie-making is easy with XtraNormal.com. “How to text-to-movie” below.

Xtranormal allows users to create 3D animated scenes using a drag and drop interface. I played around on the site for 10 minutes before I was hooked.

Here is a commercial I made for XtraNormal.com and for #blogchat, @MackCollier‘s weekly chat on Twitter about blogging. (If you haven’t checked that out, you have two things to do after reading this post!) “How to text-to-movie” right after the video.

How to Text-To-Movie
Once at XtraNormal.com, click on “Make Movies” and you’ll be able to choose among nine “text-to-movie showpaks.” Click around. Pick your favorite.

Nine Text-to-Movie Showpaks to choose among

You can choose among a number of characters. Then add dialogue to the boxes. Below, I show you how to drag one of the icons from the left (camera angles, animated gestures, facial expressions, looks, pointing, pauses, and sounds) directly into the dialogue box. Where you put them in the box matters.

Text-to-movie-making with text and drag and click animations

You can, for example, have multiple camera angles in the same dialogue box.

If you have any trouble, there is a “Quick Tips” box to guide you through. There is an “Action” button to save your work for preview and an “It’s a Wrap!” button to create a higher resolution to share with friends. It is easy to upload to a YouTube account.

XtraNormal, the company
XtraNormal (xtranormal.com) is based out of Montreal, Canada and was founded in 2006. It seems as though it has been in beta for four years now and they’ve raised $14-million in venture capital funding.

According to October content on “Demo 08,” they said, “Online communications and near life communities are booming. Our content creation platform empowers consumers to create/publish their ideas and companies to extend their brands. According to PEW, more than 57% of teenagers make their own content on the Web, 35% of adults create content online and 57% of Internet users watched /shared videos.”

They stated they had no competitors.

In November, 2008, Montreal Tech Watch reported Xtranormal cut 50% of its staff:

Xtranormal which launched with much fanfare a little over a month ago has laid off today 36, which is half of its staff.

Xtranormal invested heavily in research & development efforts in the past year, understandable since they were tackling a new challenge, user-produced videos, but this mass layoff shows lack of planning, focus & guidance from its CEO & founder, Richard Szalwinski … many at xtranormal expected him to lead product development but he didn’t.

As sources of money & funding disappear, Xtranormal is now forced to downsize its staff. I guess xtranormal’s investors are defaulting on committed payments due to markets crashing left & right….

A commenter on another blog said xtranormal laid off another 20 in January 2009, leaving 17 employees.

And a cursory look at their “About Us” section (there doesn’t seem to be any other company content on the site) gives the impression the company is left for dead.

Xtranormal videos are fun - when they work!

Too bad, too. Really a cool technology.

XtraNormal.com user feedback

From the limited amount I could find, most comments were positive: “Cool.” “Awesome.” “Addictive.”

Some groused about the tedium of setting up the camera angles. (I thought it was fun.) I did have some bad experiences with xtranormal.com though. I lost my work after an hour when the unhelpful message told me I lost my work. xtranormal didn’t get back to me on Twitter in a timely way, either.

At least, I was able to copy + paste my content (including action icons) into a new template when I tried xtranormal on a different computer later on.

It’s free. It’s fun. It may be on shaky ground and I don’t expect innovations out of it from here – but I also don’t expect them to take down what they presently have.

If you give it a try because of this article, come back and post a link to your creation for all to see!

Thanks for reading.
Joe Hage

2011 postscript:
Things seem to have turned around for XtraNormal. They charge for all videos now and XtraNormal videos have a “meme” cache now for ranting. There are new “actors,” settings, etc. Maybe they’ll make it after all.

2013 postscript: XtraNormal shut down as of July 31. They say that was “the end of Act I.” I doubt there will be an Act II. As a consolation, check out these four videos. It seems as though XtraNormal was a venue for profane ranting. All have curses, so you’re warned.

iPhone4 vs HTC Evo (16+ million views, profanity)

The Joy of a Salesman (2+ million views, profanity)

Anesthesia vs Neurosurgery (350,000 views, profanity)

TweetFired (200,000 views, profanity)



  1. I just discovered xtranormal last week. I created a humorous movie and posted it to my blog. I have to admit that the flick is pulling in a some new traffic, which is exciting for me since my blog is fairly new. I think if your content is interesting enough, you can very easily create something that catches everyone’s attention and markets your company/product/website very well, FOR FREE. To see what I created go to: http://www.fergyville.com/2010/10/humor-water-cannon/

  2. Well, that was some video, Katina!

  3. Yeah, I know lol! Don’t ask me why I’d make my text-to-movie debut with that kind of material, but I couldn’t help but laugh every time I thought about the script. So I just gave it a go. Like I said, the video is pulling in traffic and once people are on the site, they notice the “real” information. The next topic to catch everyone’s eye is the post I wrote about NACA, and why they are the best way to buy or save a home. 🙂

    My next movie isn’t going to “go there”, but I’m expecting it to work just as well.

    Thanks for a great post 🙂

  4. It is good to see that xtranormal has made a comeback and you can see more of their videos. Doesn’t one of those Geico commercials use xtranormal? I thought that was pretty funny.


  5. Kimberly Harris says:

    I’m am a big fan of xtranormal and it’s awesome to know that they are back in the scene. And your script is real funny,definitely made my day!

    Kimberly Harris
    ImagineConsultation.com – “SEO Company that Cares!

  6. Its very cool stuff

    The dangerous thing about xtranormals (if you can really call this dangerous) is that its easy for an hour to go by playing around with this stuff and still want to do more with it.

    I loved the water cannon vid. Katina definitely has a talent for using this tech with satire.

  7. I just love the way this works. The software has some incredible features, but even if you haven’t used it much, you can create a great animated video. I do find it worthwhile to get the script and the copy right first. That way you can really work on the fun too.


  8. I love the software, its a great development that deserves to survive and now with a film festival they are developing a good line that will take the creative early adopters which is the early path of the adoption curve.


  9. Just my opinion but this software sucks. Not only is the sound horrible with all sorts of
    words mispronounced but every one I’ve heard had the speaker missing part of sentences, sort of lunging forward here and there. I think it’s more a toy than any kind of serious tool.

  10. It’s good for what it is, in my opinion. I don’t think anyone using it expects much more than its current functionality.

    Thanks for the comment.

  11. Fraser McEwing says:

    I am a freelance writer for a magazine which is moving its focus to internet publishing. I have the opportunity to produce, for the publisher, a regular animation about some topic in the industry – rather than my usual written column.
    Even if I buy the Xtranormal professional package, the rules do not allow me to charge the publisher for my animations nor do to they allow the publisher to seek paid sponsorship for the animation. This seems crazy. Xtranormal has a commercial product and I have the means to sell it, but it doesn’t want the business. I understand that the Xtranormal tools were originally for fun but that doesn’t bring in an income, for me or the company. I hope Xtranormal will change the rules so that we can all benefit.

  12. How did you do this:
    At least, I was able to copy + paste my content (including action icons) into a new template

    My son hit “Back” after 3 hours of work (and no save) and now his project is gone. Any ideas how to get it back?

  13. Yikes, Kim. I’m sorry, I don’t know how to retrieve it. Perhaps their Customer Service is better than I recall?

  14. Moni Wilbur says:

    if the xtranormal.com site is not working for me. what do i do?

  15. Moni, the site is out of business. Perhaps another product is out there?

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