A few weeks ago I needed to create a video for my entry to speak on The People’s Stage at the Web Summit in Dublin at the end of October. Strictly a two minute video or less to explain your pitch was the brief and I ended up shooting a low-light, black and white film complete with (I hope) subliminal message. Over the couple of days when I was pondering my two minute pitch I almost settled on producing something animated; an avatar of me does the pitch was the plan, maybe in a quirky setting with quirky guests and the likes, so I started looking for animation tools that would work. GoAnimate and PowToon are two applications I like that work well, but they wouldn’t allow me to create the sort of expression-filled video I needed. Then I came across a press-release for Plotagon, available as an application for Mac & Windows which cleverly stores your movies in your online Plotagon account.
“All of us at Plotagon love literature, love film. We are creators, just like the fans we would like to use our software. But we are humble to the fact that we could never know these characters so intimately as the people who are here. So we come to them enlisting their help and input.”
Instantly I liked Plotagon and particular its focus on the story. You write your script in a screenplay format, either in traditional Hollywood style or a simpler, proprietary ‘learner’ format. You define dialog, characters and scenes and then you can start adding the lines that the characters speak. As you go, you can add music, sound-effects and scene changes – edit them, change your mind or remove a scene or reposition an entire scene in the narrative.
“By combining computer animation with the craft of traditional scriptwriting we have created something new – we make anyone who can write into a filmmaker.”
— Christopher Kingdon, founder of Plotagon.
I liked it a lot it and bought the beta version for $25 there and then. Before I got stuck in to make my Web Summit pitch video I thought I’d create something a little flimsy, and ended up with a tale of bitter tech-romance set a few years in the futire; Data Parole : a love (data) story was born. I have a few niggles about Plotagon, for instance you can’t drop in your own scenes or backgrounds or add your own audio – features I’d like to see added. The characters move in sequence, so scenes can be longer than you’d planned, and I’d like to see a feature to share straight to YouTube. Put those few issues aside though, and Plotagon is a superb piece of software. The current array of characters is pretty good – from a gender and appearance perspective, and Plotagon have already promised to add more – including a Jane Austen collection which even had the Plotagon team visiting Bath for the Jane Austen Festival to enlist the help of dedicated fans in getting things right.
I paid the initial price of $25, and recently I received an email from Plotagon telling me they were reducing the price to $4.99 and as an early subscriber I will get the new ‘content packs’ of Jane Austen and Alice in Wonderland for free, and access to the Plotagon Backstage community for six months at no charge. Fine by me and ample compensation for being an early adopter. I think the introduction of these content packs, which will sell for $9.99, is one of the exciting developments for Plotagon – maybe they’ll even open it up to designers to create characters and scenes that can be sold via Plotagon as specialised content packs – sort of a creative-app store . Now even better value, Plotagon may not be perfect yet but it’s on the way, and there’s a million movies I want to make with it.