Add Animated Characters to Your Content

Jan192007
Written by Gabe Anderson Director, Customer Advocacy — Posted in Customers, E-Learning Industry

Whenever I feature content that includes animated characters, people always say, “Wow! How’d they do that?!”

In a high-tech kind of way, animated characters help to bring your presentations to life. Plus, it’s always fun to hear a computerized voice reading your words.

SNAG-2268.png

View Mia demo character

There are a number of character animation vendors in the marketplace, but many I’ve come across require you to subscribe to a hosted service that streams the characters from the vendor’s server into your content, and you pay residuals for as long as you want to use the characters.

What makes Media Semantics stand out is that you pay a one-time fee for their Character Builder product, and you own the .SWF character output — no recurring fees, no lifetime residuals.

And guess what? You can bring into your Articulate Presenter content any .SWF characters you create with Character Builder — simply go to Articulate -> Insert Flash Movie. Your animated guide will play just like any other Flash movie.

“Our Character Builder product lets you easily create Flash .SWF files with cartoon or realistic characters that speak and gesture, given a simple transcript,” said Doug Copeland, president of Media Semantics. “I’ve just tested the Character Builder with Articulate’s Insert Flash animation feature, and I’m pleased to report that the integration works VERY well.”

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View Al demo character

You build the character. You write the script. You bring greater interaction and personality to your training or marketing content.

23 responses to “Add Animated Characters to Your Content”

1

There’s a software called CrazyTalk that lets you convert any still image into a talking character complete with emotions.

Amit Agarwal // Posted at 2:03 pm on January 19th, 2007
2

Maybe it’s just me, but these Text2Speech programs still have a long way to go.

I find it distracting listening to the audio on these.

I like how the pronounce Ar-TEEE-cu-late

Mike Yared // Posted at 9:12 am on January 24th, 2007
3

Right, I agree that text-to-speech should only be used if there’s nobody around with a voice. :-) But the good news is that these animated characters work fine with real audio…you don’t have to use them with text-to-speech.

Kalil // Posted at 9:16 pm on January 29th, 2007
4

Is there a way to caption (for Deaf individuals with disability) what the character is saying (the speech) so that it is 508 compliant?

Teresa // Posted at 9:46 am on February 3rd, 2007
5

Teresa- You could probably just include the transcript in the notes section of PowerPoint/Articulate Presenter… or launch a Web Object with a transcript. More on that here.

Gabe Anderson // Posted at 5:16 pm on February 7th, 2007
6

Can the animated character be laid in as a talking head on the left hand side of the slide?

eric // Posted at 4:36 pm on March 26th, 2007
7

Eric- Yes, you can certainly insert an animated character anywhere in your slide (just position the Flash movie placeholder via PowerPoint), or in the presenter panel of your content. More on how to Insert Flash Movies here.

gabe // Posted at 10:35 am on March 27th, 2007
8

Hello,

Has anybody used this software or something else like it? I have dozens of modules to develop and the client and I are looking for a way to record audio w/o having to use a company employee. There is limited budget and the employee is not a professional. Thanks. Sean

Sean Quinn // Posted at 2:14 pm on April 24th, 2007
9

Hi Sean. We used to use our TV studio to record audio, then import it. Took a long time and was costly. We found that using an inexpensive mic (plugged into a USB port) and recording directly into the Articulate (or Breeze, or other type of module) works just as well. It also makes updating audio content easier and quicker. In the Articulate menu choose “Record Narration” and follow the prompts.

Lisa Forgatsch // Posted at 4:51 pm on April 24th, 2007
10

I’ve played around with the demo for Character Builder, and it is a pretty sweet program. The best part is that you don’t have to use the text-to-speech. You can record your audio the same way you do in Articulate. Just locate your saved audio file and you can copy it into your character builder project folder. Then you can import it line-by-line and hit a one-click button to sync the audio w/ the lips. It is quite impressive and much better than a text-to-speech character.

I think combining Articulate, Character Builder, and Camtasia can make for some truly amazing interactive videos. The perception is that either you hired some professional company or you are a programming wizard, but really all 3 programs are very simple and straight forward.

Jeremy // Posted at 2:52 am on June 3rd, 2007
11

Thanks for sharing your experience, Jeremy! Please feel free to share a link to any sample content you’ve created, too. I’m sure others would love to see it!

gabe // Posted at 6:51 pm on June 4th, 2007
12

What other avatar generating programs would you recommend?

Rick Koskinen // Posted at 11:06 am on March 22nd, 2008
13

I’ve been doing some R&D on using characters as ‘presenters’. I personally don’t think it adds or helps a website unless the character is a signer for the deaf. However, as part of my job I’ve been asked to look into this as an option for certain clients, because…well…they want it:o. I have done much research and found that a lot of programs offer characters that don’t move anything apart from thier heads, eyes and lips. Poser for example has a Talk Designer, but when trying to do this AND animate the character, it become time consuming and not cost effective, unpredicatable with it’s result and doesn’t actually work 7 out of 10 times. However it has good quality rendering, and if talking is all you want then Great! Codebaby has a good software package, however it’s expensive, but it does have a library of character gestures that can easily be dropped onto a simple timeline, only I don’t like the characters they are quite low poly 3d objects. I need a software package that has a set of animated gestures so I don’t have to do it manually (I’m a designer). And be able to import a script that generates the character’s vowel shapes in it’s speach. Any ideas? Could go for a real human on a green screen i guess…

doug // Posted at 5:23 am on June 19th, 2008
14

I want to create a character of myself and use my own voice to put on an online class I am creating. I want the character to be able to talk to another character on the page. Is this possible?

Sherral // Posted at 11:38 am on October 9th, 2008
15

can you put the animated character into the presnter panel?

and if so, how can you sync it with the presentation effect ?

cause i try to do so and i can’t hear the sound and sync the effect at the same time.

thanks :)

guy zakin // Posted at 2:57 am on April 2nd, 2009
16

Hi Guy- Yes, you can insert Flash video into the presenter panel, too. And here’s another blog entry about syncing video to your slide animations.

gabe // Posted at 8:19 am on April 2nd, 2009
17

It has been almost 2 years since the posts discussing Media Semantics were made. I recently looked at both the Media Semantic and Codebaby sites and was impressed with both.

Has anyone had a more recent experience using the products,I ask this because i assume the products have been updated since June 2007.I am particulary interested in people’s thoughts on TTS applications.

I would love to see some of the work Jeremy has done but I he has not responded to Gabe’s invitation to demonstrate his talent! Maybe you could ask him again Gabe.

Codebaby was very impressive, but it appears to be 5 times more expensive than the Media semantics product. I can’t see that it is that much better, am I missing something in my evaluation of the 2 products?

Philip // Posted at 2:20 pm on May 4th, 2009
18

Hi Philip- I just sent a follow-up email to Jeremy to see if he’d be willing to share some examples.

gabe // Posted at 10:58 am on May 5th, 2009
19

We are a newly found 501c3 (non-profit) looking for assistance in taking our computer security course to the next level. I was wondering if anyone who reads this is interested in helping us apply this awesome technology to our current boring powerpoint (with full voice over) presentations which are in Articulate and delivered on an LMS. All that we would need is for someone to create an Avatar (a stock one should be fine) and to apply the gestures and lip-sync. The current course is approx 35 minutes with six 10-minute modules. – So, all in all about 1 1/2 hours of presentation. Our recording is with a male and a female voice, so we would need both. If you are interested, please contact me with your contact info, a sample of your work and a ball-park on your fees.

Regards,

Don Cochran
dcochran@scippinternational.org

Don // Posted at 7:38 am on May 25th, 2009
20

Thank you Gabe for hosting this discussion. I work for Media Semantics and am happy to provide myself as a contact (dougc@mediasemantics.com by email, 425-831-6384 x101 by phone, or ‘dougcopeland’ by skype).

There are an impressive number of corporate users who use the Builder as a source of animations for Articulate – you can find some notes on Character Builder/Articulate integration here: http://www.mediasemantics.com/KB/KB105.htm.

As with the folks at Articulate, we are constantly trying to improve the breadth and depth of our offering. Since this original writeup we have added mix-and-match clothing, including career clothing, as well as swappable hair and props for many of our realistic and illustrated characters. You can also use the new Photofit capability to create your own character based on a photo – so you can have your head trainer deliver that Powerpoint. We are currently gathering feedback about a new “seated” format (also with hand gestures).

Finally, while recorded audio sounds best, we find that about half of our training users go on to use high-quality Text to Speech products, which have really come a long way in terms of quality. We resell products from several vendors with special pricing and distribution rights. One of my favorites, especially in terms of foreign language support, is Loquendo – you can check out their demos at http://tts.loquendo.com/ttsdemo/default.asp?page=id&language=en.

I hope these links are helpful in answering some of the questions that have been posted. As always, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Doug Copeland // Posted at 12:44 pm on March 26th, 2010
21

the presentations are excellent

msv // Posted at 6:43 am on December 7th, 2011
22

Using animated characters can add a nice touch to a storyline, especially if it contains some heavy subject matter.

Some eLearning vendors offer a wide variety of characters, both live and animated, without having to pay residuals for using them. The best I have encountered is elearningstock.com. Everything there is high-quality and royalty-free. You can even get a freebie once a week on their blog. I highly suggest checking it out!

Best!

Mike

Michael // Posted at 3:21 pm on July 30th, 2012
23

Thanks. I didn’t know it was possible to add these avatars to the slides. Awesome.

Julian // Posted at 1:07 pm on August 11th, 2012

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