I’m a sucker for just about anything that makes me laugh. When I am having a particularly stressful day I look at the slideshows on the Huffington Post, and I always feel better. What I like even more is making myself laugh, and then having people laugh with me (sometimes, they’re laughing AT me, but I don’t really mind). I have found it especially useful to make people laugh during a presentation or class I am giving. Taking a minute to lighten the mood or just change the energy in the room is almost always a good idea. Now I admit, I have a hard time paying attention to almost anything for longer than 30 minutes, and I assume others have a relatively similar attention span. That is why I like Xtranormal.
What is Xtranormal? Xtranormal is a web site that allows you to create cartoon movies and publish them on the web. Their movies have been used as Geico commercials, and even have their own YouTube channel.
I used to LOVE Xtranormal, but now that it is charging to make movies I’m not nearly as smitten with it. Signing up for Xtranormal is free, and they even give you 300 points to start with. After those 300 points are spent you will have to pay for more. The points can be purchased in bundles such as 1200 points for $10.00, 5000 points for $25.00, and 15000 points for $50.00. I was able to make my most recent movie for less than 200 points.
There are lots of decisions to be made about each movie you make. Xtranormal lets you play around with lots of characters, movie angles, gestures and even background noises. They have holiday themed characters, like people in Santa suits or sporting shamrock shirts that might add some festive flair to your movie. You simply have to type what you want them to say in the characters’ dialogue boxes. You can rely on the auto camera to provide the shots you want, but I usually edit those and pick my own camera angles. There are also many gestures that you can have the characters make. These are a little unreliable because even if you get a gesture that makes sense, the timing can be almost impossible to execute exactly as you want it. The backgrounds range from a plain white screen to a news anchor’s desk. I have not played with the background noises, but I’m sure some of them could add quite a lot to the movie.
There are a variety of useful ways Xtranormal movies can be used in libraries. I have used my movies to explain a concept that I wanted to reinforce, like field searching. I’ve even seen these movies used as a way to give students an assignment as though it were coming from a partner at a law firm. It’s a good way to evaluate their skills at figuring out how to start and identify the issues of a particular problem. Most students aren’t going to expect their librarian to make movies (or have a sense of humor), so it may make them pay attention a little more closely.
I also find making movies to be a great way to express some of the things you just aren’t allowed to say to people in a more direct way. Back in 2009, West released an advertisement that seemed, to many, to indicate that knowing the name of a librarian was a bad thing. Understandably, many people were offended by the advertisement, and some people expressed their displeasure by writing strongly worded emails. I decided that I would try a different approach and express my feelings about how stupid that advertisement was by creating the Anonymous Librarian. Another example of this is the most recent episode of Anonymous Librarian. I remember entire dreams better than some students remember something I say to them 15 times in the space of an hour. I think this video expressed how I feel without any real people actually being harmed. Xtranormal allows me to express my frustration and make some of my coworkers laugh since they are experiencing the same type of student issues.
I encourage you to try Xtranormal. It’s an easy way to add some spice to a class, LibGuide, or just a fun way to relieve stress and share with those who suffer as you do. Who knows? Maybe, you will discover a hidden talent and become the next Martin Scorsese.