Plotagon is the closest you can come to typing a movie.

The software merges screenwriting software with animation software.

So as you choose settings and characters, you can make them do and say pretty much whatever you type.

What's remarkable is not just the idea, but how well the v1.0 product has been implemented. If you can type, you really can use this software.

But obviously, with voices that are still a bit stilted, and animations that are a bit stiff, the end product feels more like a video game than a movie.

But the creators understand that. They're working on a new engine that can convey realistic, ongoing emotion.

And they promise that within five years, the software will be photorealistic.

You can try Plotagon now for free.

Co.Design

Type Your Own Animated Movie With This Crazy Software

Inside this playful screenwriting software may hide the future of filmmaking: You simply write what you want to see, and that vision plays on screen.

Here’s how Hollywood works today: Somebody writes a script. And especially if it’s an animated feature--a piece that will take hundreds of Pixar artists years to produce--there’s almost no chance it will be made. So filmmakers turn to low budget YouTubing, or even playing out their stories inside video game engines (machinima) in lieu of professional production and distribution.

Plotagon (free) is an ingenious alternative. It’s screenwriting software that’s been merged with 3-D animation software. So as you type actions, lines, and settings for your characters, those characters will actually play out your vision on screen, complete with auto-directed cuts.

“Now that computers have become so strong that they can be used to produce movies...everything else will be handled by the artists themselves,” foretells Plotagon Founder and Director Christopher Kingdon. “There’s no need for a middle man, no reason to ask for anyone’s permission to make a movie (like a producer). People will express themselves and share directly.”

We can’t pretend that Plotagon films look vastly better than a game of The Sims, but the core experience of actually using this software is incredibly impressive. It helps that screenplays, by nature, are a sort of code. They establish a scene (you know, INT. Bar - Night). They say who is around, doing what (John, a typical middle aged man, and Sara, a dragon princess, stand at the bar). Then those people talk and interact, one line and action at a time.

In Plotagon, each line of script is essentially a line of code in a directed program. But rather than needing to learn C++ or something, natural language drives the writer’s experience. When “John hugs Sara,” John is recognized as a 3-D model, Sara is recognized as a 3-D model, and they’re simply connected through a pre-scripted, verb-based motion in Plotagon’s library. (It definitely helps that every minimal bit of UI flourish makes finding these preset characters, verbs, and locations as seamless as using Google autocomplete.)

But even still, are we looking at Plotagon through rose-tinted glasses? Can auto-machinima really take off to create high-end media that people could become emotionally invested in? According to Kingdon, it can. The Swedish startup has 24 people behind the product, including painters, sculptors, animators, programmers, designers and one classically trained composer. Plotagon is also working closely with KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Scotland, to develop algorithms for “multimodal communications”--basically combining the logic behind a character’s facial expressions, gestures, and body position in a more believable way than animations work today.

“Within five years we will be completely photorealistic,” Kingdon promises. “You will be able to make a 3-D avatar of yourself and make a movie when you interact with Elvis and Marilyn Monroe.”

But until that day comes, and even if it doesn’t? At least the team is working on a $10 Pride & Prejudice plugin pack of new characters and settings, you know, for that Jane Austen fanfic you--ahem--your friend’s cousin has been working on for decades.

Try it here (free).

[Hat tip: technabob]

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8 Comments

  • Glenn Saunders

    If anyone is already getting frustrated with Plotagon's limitations, Xtranormal technology can still be used via State Plus.

    http://stateplus.net

    More than 2 characters, be able to walk to any arbitrary point, retexturing, etc... Lots of features that Plotagon should have had but didn't.

  • Robert

    I tried this and it has tremendous potential, but you can only have two characters interacting at a time. Not very useful for an actual script. Also, there are limitations in what they can do. They walk, run and stand there. It's got a long way to go.
    One thing the developers need to do if they are making this for screenwriters is not focus on developing comic book characters or Wizard of Oz/Alice in Wonderland characters, but on creating regular people. They need to make cops, fireman, military, businessmen, etc.

  • Mark Shinimer

    I agree with Chris. The 'type a script and get a film' using text-to-speech is great if you are happy with talking heads and very basic cameras. If you really want to previs your script and get a feel for the pace and how it should be transferred to the screen, you need to swap out the TTS with placeholder voice recording to get the intonation, direct your actors on set, and film them creatively, and there are other solutions for that. It is a great replacement for the Xtranormal tool, but as yet does not as yet offer the simple to use creative control of products like Moviestorm www.moviestorm.net

  • Chris Reich

    This product is a long way from even being useful. I hope the developers succeed, but this really has a long way to go. I tried...

  • Chris Reich

    This looks like too much fun! I tried Sims and liked it for a while. Then it crashed and I could never install it again---never worked. That was a disappointment because I never got to have any fun with it.

    This looks cool and I hope they get adequate support to continue development. So many applications can benefit from this type of modeling---for example, how dorky [sic] is that sales pitch?

    Stay with it!

  • Chris Reich

    I didn't have any hitches either. It just isn't useful at this stage. It's very, very robotic. The text to speech is not adequate to "tell a story".