Last fall, I'd been watching some of the free, online, video-making sites - especially Xtranormal - and thinking about creating some "public service videos" about our programs. Then, a couple of the free sites became pay-only, and that was that.
But recently, YouTube kicked off a new partnership with three of these sites (see this Social Times story, or this Free Technology for Teachers post), offering free access to YouTube account holders, so I decided to try one out.
I used GoAnimate to create a short video, posted it on my YouTube channel, and then downloaded it from there using Firefox's DownloadHelper plug-in.
The video was pretty rough. I didn't know what I was doing, and had trouble making the most of the online preview and editing options. But that was okay, because it was a first draft. And, anyway, I figured I could use my Windows Movie Maker (WMM) on Vista and/or Windows Live Movie Maker (WLMM) on Windows 7 to clean it up.
I went back to GoAnimate, where they asked me to open an account. Okay. But things looked a little different. And when I tried to make a second video, I was told that my "free credits" were used up.
Wait, what? Was I doing it wrong?
Nope. Monpjc the Engineer had the same problem:
After making this video I found that while trying to make a second I could not add any more text-to-speech. I was told I could purchase more but that was a coming soon feature. So I guessed the tool is limited by how many effects you can add or that this new feature on YouTube is limited somehow. I've not been able to find out what these limits are however, as there is no details on YouTube or GoAnimate about limits / usage which is poor!
So I joined the GoAnimate site and made a second video over there. Again features appear to be limited. As you use special features these use up credits. You can get more credits form completing tasks and getting views - I think. Again I have found the details of what you can do limited and hidden from my searches. There is lots of info on going pro and paying to get 'GoBucks' that pay for this stuff but I can't tell you how much a single text-to-speech credit will use up so could not work out how much credit I would need for a video. Oh and you are limited to 2 minutes which means your making shorts, not videos.
I was pretty disgusted, and decided to delete my account. But, again, there was no information on how to do that. (FYI - this is a red flag. Sites that make it easy to sign up, but hard or impossible to leave, are, simply, untrustworthy.)
All in all, it was pretty disappointing. Plus, the boys at GoAnimate seemed to think I was some over-tanned bimbo.
Not so. In fact, if Monpjc and I were mere mortals, we would have given up at that point. But with computers, there's always one more thing you can try.
I went back to the Social Times post where I'd first seen the story, and re-accessed GoAnimate via YouTube. Here, there was no mention of free credits (though they still tried to sell me things)... in fact there was little mention of anything. Like Monpjc, I assumed there had to be some kind of limitations. So, I created a video that was just under a minute long. I uploaded it to YouTube, and downloaded it from there, and then deleted it from my account. Then, I did it all again - rinse and repeat. After a while, I had a small collection of short clips on my desktop that I could cut and paste into a longer video. (Actually, I was thinking 90 sec. would be the right length.)
Of course, nothing is straightforward, and I had to perform several mystical ceremonies to get either of the Windows movie-maker programs to read Window's own .wmv files. (I also had to download WMM 6 on to my Windows 7 machine. For more on that, see Blaine's Movie Maker Blog.)
Still, I got it done and I'm pretty pleased with my second effort. The camera-pan features of WMM 6 and WLMM helped what was a pretty static "stand and talk" video, although my characters also jumped around too much inside the frame. The text-to-speech program is a little wonky. (I learned that the quality could be improved if I broke words like "a-bout" and "book-wagon" into syllables, but I need to try out many more combinations.)
For that matter, the content is a little wonky, too. I had a rough idea what I wanted to say, but no clear script. When I viewed my first video (draft #1), I saw that I had managed to dis people's worries and mock future customers. Hmm.... For the second one, I went with the tried and true "smart wife, dopey husband" (think Homer and Marge, Fred and Wilma, or, if you're old enough, Rob and Laura). That seemed a little less insulting.
Anyway, it is a comedy that made at least one person laugh. It does tell people that - no matter what - we aren't going to make them pay for the books they borrow. And, victory of victories, it was free.
Er... except for the 10 hours it took.
But, hey. Ginny spent 13 hours on her project, and all she got was a PowerPoint!