Thursday, September 27, 2007

Crazy Talk promising animation tool for web apps

I’ve been having great fun with a new tool called Crazy Talk. It lets you create talking heads for your website that include automatic lip synching by just importing a .wav audio file. I have one on my web page. It does require installing a plugin but I read there is a way to automatically embed the player in the web page so installing a plugin is not necessary. I’m checking into it.:

Here are some others I created:

A Talking Character can be created quite quickly. You simply import the image. Crop it. Then place indicators at the outside corner of each eye and outside corners of the lips. If you want to tweak the mouth shapes during lip synch there is a phoneme editor. You can also apply emotional animations. On the Marc Antony image, I applied an “angry” emotion.

The website where I got it is

I’ve also been working with their machinma software IClone. It’s quite impressive as well. I’ve created a couple of characters so far:

I created the Roman character in iClone using Ciaran Hind’s face (He played Caesar in HBO’s Rome). I used pictures of lorica segmentata I got from a reenactors’ supply website to create the armor using the costume design addin called “Clone Cloth”. The product not only lets you easily create figures with your own imported faces but can import motion capture files from other programs as well. I found a treasure trove of free motion capture files up on a website named iClone includes a BVH motion capture editor so you can match up the joints to the IClone avatars properly. Like Crazy Talk, the product also has a built-in automatic lip synch function so you just have to import a .Wav file and it automatically syncs the characters mouth and teeth to the words. It’s digital studio features are also quite impressive.

Here’s an iClone version of Act 2 scene 1 from Macbeth:

You have complete control of the avatars and their movements, lighting, camera angle, atmospheric effects, etc. There is even a particle generator for fog, lightning, etc.

There’s over 100 iClone films on YouTube that you can find by simply searching for IClone.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Google promotes advertising widgets

Google is seizing on the popularity of widgets — small online tools that function like mini-Web sites — for its latest push into advertising.

An ad for Honda Civic was an example of Google’s widget program. Users can give the ad a ubiquitous presence on the Web.

The online giant will announce today a Gadget Ads program that will provide tools for advertisers to run widget ads in Google’s AdSense network.

Marketers can use space within these display ads on Google’s network to show videos, offer chats with celebrities, play host to games or other activities. If consumers like the widget ad, they can save it onto their desktops or on their profile pages online on sites like Facebook and MySpace.

The new widget ads represent a more aggressive push by Google to attract big brand advertisers who like flashy ad units rather than the simple text ads commonly run in Google’s ad network.

One big advantage of the technology is that the consumer does not have to click through to a Web site. A weather widget, for example, would constantly update the weather report in a particular area. Similarly, marketers could feature content to attract consumers while constantly updating their own messages.

More than 48 percent of Internet users in the United States — over 87 million people — now use widgets, according to comScore, the online measurement company. Some of the most popular widgets on Facebook, for example, are the “Top Friends” tool, which allows people to go to their best friends’ profiles with a single click, and iLike, which lets users add music to their profiles.

“Consumers are pulling in content from multiple sources” said Christian Oestlien, a business product manager at Google who is overseeing the new ad program. “It is what we are calling the componentization of the Web. The Web is sort of breaking apart into smaller pieces.”

Monday, September 17, 2007

Emusic to challenge iTunes

It finally looks like iTunes is going to get some serious competition. I use iTunes on a daily basis but, even though, their individual song price is reasonable, their video price at $9.99 is way too high. I'm hoping EMusic will be more reasonable with its video offerings. It looks like its audiobook offerings are going to be cheaper than However, since I have an extensive library on, being one of their early members, I won't desert them now.

"The company that has given Apple’s iTunes the most competition in the song-download arena will now compete with it in selling audiobooks, too.

Beginning tomorrow, eMusic, which is second to iTunes in music download sales, will offer more than a thousand books for download, with many of them costing far less than on iTunes. For example, “The Audacity of Hope,” read by author Barack Obama, will cost $9.99 on eMusic compared with $18.95 on iTunes. The retail price for a five-CD version of the same book is $29.95.

The biggest selling point for eMusic is also its biggest point of controversy: the site uses the MP3 format, which works on any digital player but lacks the technology, known as digital rights management, that protects copyrighted material from unlimited duplication.

Some publishers are just dipping in a toe. Random House Audio, for example, will be selling about 500 titles, roughly 20 percent of its catalog, through eMusic. “We’re very interested in testing this, but we didn’t think it was appropriate to put all of our titles in a test program,” said Madeline McIntosh, the group’s publisher.

Like her counterparts in the music business, Ms. McIntosh is concerned about piracy, but doubts it will be as big an issue for audiobooks, which draw an older audience and are unwieldy to circulate. Unabridged audiobooks sold in stores often comprise more than a dozen CDs, and, in digital format, the enormous files cannot be e-mailed as easily as single songs.

Hachette Audio will start by selling only about 15 titles on the site, but that includes bestsellers like “America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction” by Jon Stewart.

At the other end of the spectrum is Penguin Audio, which will sell on eMusic all the audiobooks it currently makes available in a digital format on iTunes, about 150 titles. “Publishers have been waiting for other companies to play ball,” said Patti Pirooz, the executive producer.

Most publishers have been playing ball with Audible Inc., which pioneered downloadable audiobooks 12 years ago and sells its wares through iTunes and its own Web site, Audible sells about 15,000 audiobooks and another 20,000 recordings of public radio shows and periodicals like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

Audible has its own proprietary digital format, which plays on both iPods and non-Apple devices, but still cannot be duplicated except to copy onto CDs just once. Spokesmen from Audible and Apple declined to comment on eMusic.

Since it was founded in 1995, Audible has grown steadily. It went public in 1999, and its 2006 revenues of $82.2 million were up 30 percent over the previous year."