Dispatches from the living amongst journalism's walking dead

First try at using Xtranormal for news at TBD

In a wjchat a few weeks ago, we were brainstorming ways to use non-traditional new media tools for news. One of those tools was Xtranormal, an animation site that allows you to make cartoon videos with no offsite tools or experience. In that chat, I had suggested using it to re-enact conversations or press conferences.

Today, I put that idea into action at TBD, using Xtranormal’s tools to make a cartoon re-enactment of a phone transcript from the FBI investigation of an indicted public official in the D.C. area. I had enough free credits to build the most basic video (though it doesn’t cost much to buy more), so I built the one you see around the web where animals talk to one another.

Xtranormal’s tools made it very fast and easy. You pick a package, background and characters. You enter the dialogue as text in the order you want from the characters you want. To add pauses, sounds, camera angles and movements, just drag and drop them into the text at the right place. All told, it took me about 40 minutes – and that’s just my first try at a long transcript.

Jack Johnson, the former county executive for Prince George’s County, Maryland, is talking to his wife (also indicted) about hiding money and destroying evidence. The video is after the jump.


Whether this resonates with our audience or not remains to be seen, but it took me about a half hour to put together from the transcript – and I had a great time doing it.


TBD’s future is TBD, but then again, it always has been


Chatting live with Poynter today

1 Comment

  1. I like Xtranormal videos a lot. I watched this and have mixed feelings. I would be concerned that a source or the subject of the video would think you are mocking, ridiculing or making light of whatever the video is about. Would it jeopardize an objective position on the story? I think it’s possible. I can see the video working, but depends on the subject matter and how the movie is made.

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