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Animate photos with software tool ; Make pictures come alive

I didn't know I could recite Shakespeare. But I was doing it quite well. My mouth was moving to the words, my eyebrows moved up and down, my eyes blinked. In fact all of my facial expressions were fully operational as I recited one of his sonnets. Just one thing though. It wasn't really me. It wasn't even a video of me. But it was still me. Actually, it was a picture of me. Somehow, one of my publicity photographs had been brought to life. There I was, watching my still photographic image reciting Shakespeare and it was one of the most bizarre things I have ever seen done on a computer.

The product is called CrazyTalk Animator ($49.95), and if you want to get someone's attention, this is going to do it especially if you have their photograph handy or can get one. CrazyTalk Animator is an easy-to-use software tool that lets you created animated images from any picture. Using any photograph in your computer, CrazyTalk first presents the image on the screen and bonds it to a morphing facial wireframe overlay. You simply define where the eyes, nose and mouth are located by matching the facial contours to the wireframe. CrazyTalk can apply expressions and gestures to the image. For example, surprise widens the eyes, raises the eyebrows and forms the mouth into an oh-shaped opening; whistling purses the lips; crying saddens the eyes and lowers the corners of the mouth.

Once you choose the expressions you want the picture to convey, you add a voice using any audio recording, or if that's not available, you can use a phonetically spoken text message with CrazyTalk's included text-to-speech ability. Or record your own voice if you like and use that for an extra-special personal touch. The audio editor lets you synchronize the spoken words to the image's mouth and other facial expressions automatically. You can further fine-tune the results if you are so inclined.

After you have created your talking head, you can use the real-time puppeteering ability to add and animate a body to the head. When your speaking masterpiece is finished, you can further embellish it by placing the animated image within one of the included greeting card designs and add other special effects. CrazyTalk provides what you need to send the work as an attachment to an e-mail as a self-running application. The receiver need only extract the file and run it. It does not require them to have the CrazyTalk application to experience your animation. It can also be saved as an HTML document to be viewed within a Web browser, and as an .AVI movie.

With CrazyTalk, you are not limited to just human heads. CrazyTalk can animate just about anything. Examples I saw on its website included talking animals, paintings and even a talking automobile. Power Tools ($99.95) is an add-on pack that lets you mix and match nearly 200 new content profiles including comic and real-life characters for even more variety. Just check out the Reallusion website for the entire CrazyTalk family of 2-D animation products that go from beginner to professional versions.

The folks at Reallusion have really come up with something that's easy and fun to create, while delivering a result that will not be soon forgotten. Requires Windows.

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