At work, when I am not dreaming up new adventures and encounters for my D&D group, I am a technology teaching specialist. My job is to help teachers integrate all sorts of technology tools into their lessons. As teachers are very busy, I try to find tools that are quickly mastered and easy to use. When I had a need for a talking statue in my campaign, I decided to use one such tool: blabberize.com.
Blabberize.com is a website that allows you to make simple “talking head” animations. Below is the animation I created using Blabberize for our latest adventure. By way of background, the PCs are looking for a set of magical keys throughout a necromancer’s dungeon. The statue begins speaking when a player puts his fingers on five bloody marks on the statue’s chest.
The Statue’s Riddle from Marc Allie on Vimeo.
So how exactly do you put something like this together? It’s pretty easy.
- Record your speech
- Make it sound creepy
- Find a picture to animate
- Blabberize it
- Save Blabber as a video
Record Your Speech
This part is simple. I looked online for some riddles, found one I liked, and added a few lines, for flavor, at the beginning and end. Here’s the text of the riddle.
Answer this riddle to obtain the key
Or horrible indeed your fate will be
It is more beautiful than the face of your true love.
It is more terrifying than your deepest, darkest fear.
Those who are dead crave to eat it.
A living man can eat it, but soon will rot.
The poorest beggar has it.
The richest king wants it.
If the land of the dead you don’t want to visit
Then quickly solve the riddle: what is it?
I used Audacity, a powerful but free sound editing program, to record with. There are plenty of Audacity guides out there if you need help, but it’s pretty simple to use. Once you have a recording that you like, save it.
Alter Your Speech
I wanted something really creepy for this riddle, so I did some digging and found some nice tutorials online. I ended up using a “Poltergeist” style effect, detailed here, which was very effective and simple to implement. You might decide to just play around with all the different effects that Audacity provides in order to find something you like. I also used the pitch tool to deepen the sound of my voice, disguising it and making it more eerie. Once you are happy with your speech, save your project, and export it as an MP3.
Find A Picture to Animate
This step was very simple. I wanted a weathered, indistinct statue, and a quick Google Image search provided the perfect picture. You will want to pick an image with a distinct mouth so the Blabber is easy to make.
Next, navigate to blabberize.com. It’s a good idea to register an account to easily find your work later. The process is quite simple, so I won’t go into much detail. Begin by clicking on the MAKE button, and upload your picture. You can crop it if you wish. The next part, outlining the mouth, is the only difficult task. Move the big pink blob over the mouth, and then shape it using the small blue and green dots. The large green dot below controls how far the mouth will open. Upload your MP3 next, and then check out the animation. If it doesn’t look right, go back and edit. Experiment to find what works best for you. Name and save your creation when you are finished.
Save the Blabber as a Video
Click on MY STUFF to view your Blabber. Click the button that says “I want this on video!” and your Blabber will be converted to an MPG file. These can be viewed on most computers and portable devices. If you like, upload the video to YouTube, Vimeo, or your blog to share it more easily. That’s it!
Other Uses of Blabberize.com
Obviously, you won’t have talking statues a whole lot in your campaign. But D&D has a long history of enchanted objects that speak. The classic spell “Magic Mouth” can make a wall, painting, tree, or even a magic item like a sword or suit of armor speak. An example from media would be the talking letters called Howlers from the Harry Potter series. You might even be able to animate NPCs in such a manner. There are literally dozens of ways that a talking object could be used in your campaign.
Last night, my players encountered the statue. I showed them the video on my iPad, and they were quite impressed. Overall, the encounter went really well, but there were a few things I learned that might help others.
First, always have a backup plan. Technology can be unreliable; that’s an unavoidable fact. I printed a copy of the riddle, along with the picture of the statue, for my players. It’s probably a good idea to have a handout for those who are visual learners anyway. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Second, go easy on the effects. While the “Poltergeist” effects were suitably unsettling, the audio was a bit too indistinct. For a riddle, you want each word as clear as possible. I probably will play such videos on my laptop or even through larger speakers in the future, as the iPad was a bit hard to hear even at max volume. Even so, keep effects like background noise and echoes to a minimum.
I hope you enjoyed this quick guide to creating your own “Magic Mouth” style animated videos. My players enjoyed the immersion that it provided, and I had a really good time creating it, too. If I had access to technology like we have now during my glory days of D&D as a kid, I would have been giddy with glee. As modern DMs, we have so many tools at our disposal, it just boggles the mind. Try using Blabberize.com to make an interesting encounter in your own campaign!
Whats the answer to the riddle?