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Techlife » Online Application

Online Application

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Remember way back to February when the Colts lost to the Saints in a great Superbowl (except for you Colts fans)? Like you, I watched the Superbowl commercials too.  You might not remember Google’s simple Superbowl campaign was a search box with a person researching various aspects of life around a central theme, meeting a French girl. It was pretty forgetful, even today it only has 5 million plus views. Interestingly Google didn’t forget. (We included the ad if you are reading the digital version, and this is a Techlife where you want too, trust me.)

YouTube Preview Image

Google had bigger plans for their campaign known as Search Stories. Using they gave users a way to Create Your Own Search Story.  Putting the power of the story in the hands of their users. They made it easy and painless. Here’s how in 7 easy steps.

1. Pick a topic. We chose something close to home, getting more readers for Techlife.

2. Create up to seven different searches that will be illustrated

3. For each search choose one of 7 different search types. Such as maps, books, images and more.

4. Keep in mind your last search is going to be the end of your Superbowl Ad

5. Next pick your music, Google provides 24 tracks in various categories.

6. Finally edit your masterpiece, which might require going back a few times. Mine did.

7. Add a title, genre, description and upload. You’re done!

YouTube Preview Image

Google advises things such as:

…using the different kinds of search to add visual variety to the story…

…tell a story that ends with a surprise…

So this sounds perfect what could possibly be wrong? A lot. First off let’s start with the biggest. You aren’t getting your own Superbowl ad. You aren’t even getting your own late night ad. This is pure and simple a promotion for Google.

Secondly their ads are better than yours will ever be. (Mine too!)  Why? Because they break their own rules and don’t use the Search Stories creator to make their ads. Most ads I viewed by them had two parts that will always beat the regular story teller.

Part 1 they use a real audio expert to mix audio sounds that are more than just the simple 24 songs they offer the regular director like you and me. It’s good sound too, the kind that enhances the ad and really was carefully created.

Part 2 they create many more visual tricks such than their own story editor allows. Tricks such as quick cuts, live YouTube videos, maps that animate or use street level views, and even mobile views of Google products.

It’s the equivalent of us having a stick to play with and them having all the fun toys for the cool kids.Well for those of you who are digital readers that last joke makes perfect sense when you view the video. For those in print, the last video has a pretty famous award winning team make a cameo. Peek in and take a look. And maybe my ad just worked.

YouTube Preview Image

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Do you want to know a secret? Online cartography is evolving.  Why do you have to be so fancy? Can’t you just say maps have gotten better? Big changes deserve big words. While Techlife has shared hidden map gameshow to make your own maps and why street level details are so valuable; we now want to share the value of immersive photographic cartography.

Cartography is the study and practice of making maps (also can be called mapping). Combining science, aesthetics, and technique, cartography builds on the premise that reality can be modeled in ways that communicate spatial information effectively.  -Wikipedia

Using Google Maps and Bing Maps advanced features I focused on exploring a single famous monument; The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.  Both offer top down satellite views of this famous location.

Google has clearer images than Bing for satellite maps, which comes from a combination of time of day, season and hardware used to take these shots.  Google also has continuous street views for many places around the world, including the Lincoln Memorial. Finally Google has a nice ability to integrate their own street view with user generated photos from all angles of the Lincoln Memorial, with the photo set locations mapped as shown.

Bing’s satellite maps are good enough to get you to move past them quickly to what I think is the best feature of these new digital maps, a bird’s eye multi-rotational view. As you can see the ability to rotate around a building at multiple angles gives a much clearer understanding of the structure than satellite only.  Bird’s eye view, like Street View isn’t available everywhere yet but try out your home or favorite museum and see how amazing it feels to be immersed.

Bing Maps adds one more feature that Techlife drooled over in 2007, PhotoSynth. A Photosynth is a group of photos of a specific object or place that get stitched together to create highly detailed and visually stunning photographic experiences in 3D space. By geotagging user’s Photosynth’s into the Bing maps,  you don’t just see some random snapshots of the outside and inside of the Lincoln Memorial but can take a journey from the outside into the inside and look up and down with amazing detail and spatial understanding.

While I have used Google Maps to get me places and build collaborative maps (something I love). I have used Bing Maps to investigate rental property, research vacations collaboratively, and see quite a few friend’s new home purchases. Knowing how each tool can be used is the key to your own immersive photographic cartography. Share your story with me.

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Tulip Montage

Life Posters.  For Techlife readers who have been around these parts since the tadpole days, you may recall articles such as, “Life Poster: A Picasa How-To”  or “How to Make an Animated LifePoster: The Sequel.”

The Life Poster series of articles were fun and reader’s loved them.  A Life Poster is a photo collage of related images arranged in a grid format.  Often times the effect is immersive giving the viewer a sense of the event, location or people.

Golden Gate Bridge Montage

We also like photography games.  Go figure. Recently a reader, Bonnie,  posted a new high score for the “Where in the World?” game.  Click over and see if you can beat Bonnie’s score.  Another great game was by Grant Robinson, called “Guess the Google.”   Grant’s Guess the Google Engine also powers Montage-a-google.

How to make a Global Life Poster

1.  Visit Montage-a-google

2.  Select a keyword Examples include: yellow, yellow flower, mullets

3.  Click the “Make” button

4.  Examine your Global Life Poster, not perfect, tweak your search terms and run it again.

5.  When happy, click the “download image” button and save to your desktop

Montage-a-google goes out and gets 20 images from a Google Image search and assembles interesting square pattern montages or Life Posters with various cropped points to each image.  The results often need to be tweaked.  I found when creating my own and trying numerous search terms sometimes residual search term images would not leave the montage even when the terms were very different and while that produced odd results, it was not intended.  Let us know if you see the same issues.

Overall Call?

I like this app.   I would like to see it run a bit faster and have a few more options including clearing the image cache or field of images before performing the next montage.  The interface is easy and simple to use.  Go ahead make something profound and upload it to the Flickr with the tag montageagoogle and it will appear in the slide show.  Dazzle us.

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Motivational Poster - Travel - Leaving your worry behind, and your email to pile up.

Black border. Large eye-catching photo. Large white text. Smaller white sub-text.

If you are like most readers, you will have already read all four posters before you looped back to the top of this article. That’s ok, because I designed it to happen just like that. As I designed the layout, I realized this column’s regular text would have far less impact than usual. As a writer that’s a tad depressing. As a designer I loved it!

Motivational Poster - Mashup - The platypus of web development.

This column is not the history of motivational posters. Nor is it the effect of motivational posters on lazy folks. Apparently the motivational poster’s impact on taking the stairs versus an escalator was so compelling it was funded numerous times over multiple continents. We get it. Enough already!

I created these unique Techlife posters in just a few minutes, using Big Huge Labs: Motivator, to create my own motivational poster. It was easy. Here’s how to build your own motivational poster or de-motivational poster in 3 easy steps.

Motivational Poster - Read Techlife - Where the crossroads of Technology and Life intersect.

1. Select a masterpiece – The photo should be eye catching and keep your attention long enough to draw you in.  After you have your photo you click Browse and attach the photo.  You also should review the photo’s focus area, as most likely it will get cropped.  Motivator allows you to designate one of three areas which might be best to keep visible.  You also get to choose a landscape or portait orientation for your photo.

2. Channel your inner Shakespeare – Penning the perfect word and sub-text is no easy task.  Are you trying to be funny or serious?  Will your words live forever or be forgotten quickly?  You may even find yourself selecting a new photo for the ultimate fit with your perfect prose. Perfection is personal.

3. Click and Share – Hit the big blue “Create” button.  A few seconds later your motivation masterpiece is rendered.  After reviewing how you will change the world you can edit, save, upload, email, share and even get a high-resolution version of your image by clicking the associated button.

Motivational Poster - Creative - Where genius goes to relax.

Techlife Challenge – Motivation is powerful.  Parody is funny.  De-motivation is a form of expression too.  For this challenge share with us your favorite self-created poster.  We’ll see about getting some prizes, but until then we’ll award the famous Techlife Points!  213 for each entry with the best in each category getting 4002.  Judging purely subjective and nonsense.

Note:  The posters shown here are meant to motivate you to read past Techlife articles.  MASHUP for the “Flash Earth – Ultimate Maps Mashup.”  TRAVEL for “, YouTube with a Purpose.”  CREATIVE for the “Alan Becker’s Animator vs. Animation.”

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Where in the world? Location determined screen - Nice guess of Rome!

From where in the world is Matt Lauer to Carmen Sandiego to Waldo this is an age old theme (at least to the mid 1980s.)  And now Google has their own twist on the classic called, “Where in the World?“.

Techlife readers come to learn, engage and discuss at our little corner of the world.  Be it a reader who stops me on the street, emails in a suggestion, or comments on an article in the online site we welcome the interaction.  We have heard from thousands of readers, and while not everyone gets featured in a column, sometimes they get a mention.

Today’s column harkens back to our early days, as our newest find we stumbled upon all on our own.  This little secret game is almost hidden, I would call it an easter egg, yet it is sitting there in the open.  We have always covered neat visual tools here at Techlife. From our review of Picasa in “Picture Perfect” to “Life Poster: A Picasa How-To” to our most recent “How to Create Online Tilt Shift Miniature Photos” we have covered various fun things to do with your photos.  Now we will explore other people’s photos.

Picasa Web's Explore Tab

Our adventure started one day when a reader sent us trip photos.  Are you a little surprised?  Don’t be.  We get lots of fun things from the great readers of Techlife. After viewing the photos, I noticed the tab, “Explore”  near the Picasa logo, next to “My Photos” and “Favorites.”

Hey I love to explore!

So I clicked, you are taken to a pseudo homepage with a few interesting sections, each of which could take hours of time to Explore.  There are 12 “Featured Photos” which sort of change if you hit refresh, though same stay.  Then there is “Recent Photos” which you can watch in a slideshow format.  There are also 40 of the most “Popular Tags”, which is a method for indicating what a picture contains is about.  Popular tags include, wedding, vacation, lake, house, birthday, beach, flowers, you get the idea.  Then in a small corner is our hidden gem.

Picasa Web's Explore Screen

Titled, “Where in the world?” and a button stating “Start Game” with this simple explanation, “Check out photos from around the world and guess where they were taken!”  As Sherlock Holmes said, “The game is afoot.”

In a great mashup of their own tools, Google has used Google Maps and Picasa along with Geotagging to create their game.  (Geotagging is a method for tagging a photo with location data, indicating where on the blue marble we inhabit a photo was shot.)  Play is simple, you guess where the photo they show you was taken by clicking on the map of the world.  Sometimes the photos contain clues, subtle or obvious.  Your score for that photo is determined by how close your guess was to the actual location of the photo.  The closer the better.  You get five different photos per round.

Where in the world? - game screen

The game is strangely addicting.  Five clicks and you get a score.  Then you want to beat that score, then you convince yourself you will beat it the next round.  Then you do!  To celebrate let’s see if we can beat it one more time.  Okay an hour later, this is definitely my last game.  Hey look at that I got a high score!

My high score is 2,597 can you beat it?  Let me know.

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Freecycle - helps give stuff away for free

A good idea before a bad economy has turned into an even better idea during a horrendous economy. Freecycling. While many people use Ebay to sell items for money to anyone and other people use Craig’s List to sell (and sometimes trade or give) items somewhat locally, there is another option, Started in 2003, the non-profit organization is basically a simple way to offer items you no longer want to people who might want them, the only catch: everything is free.

Initially Freecycle was conceived as a way for people to offer items to non-profits, and non-profits to respond if they wanted them. It quickly expanded to include anyone, anywhere and now there are 85 countries and near 5000 local group made up of 7,000,000 people all following the same set of principles. Let’s fill up fewer landfills with items that other people might care to rescue.

It is recycling with a few well thought out rules. One of the biggest is letting people join any group, but keeping in mind each group is based on a small geographic area such as a town, or county.  As such groups vary in size.  The other important rule is what you can’t offer including no listing illegal items, tobacco items, alcohol, firearms, people, pornography, or medicine of any kind. Each local freecycle group is run by volunteer moderators who enforce the rules and the very specific way to offer, inquire and list items.

Most groups use a simple email list tool called Yahoo Groups to share their items and indicate items they are looking for or items that have been taken.  Techlife has been a user of YahooGroups since 1998, as a long time user who was introduced to this great service by Alan Braverman, employee #1 at YahooGroups (formerly eGroups) we asked him what he thought of Freecycle.

“Freecycle has a great mission.  It is gratifying to know something we all worked so hard on more than 10 years ago at eGroups is not just being used but growing, growing a great organization and supporting such a beneficial cause as saving the environment and helping people recycle.  Grassroots movements have always been great at adapting new technology, but with close to 5000 groups and 7,000,000 members it is clear that is successfully spreading a positive message worldwide.”

How to Freecycle?

Easy! First make sure you have a Yahoo ID with an email associated to it, this lets you access any of the nearly 4800 local freecycle groups which use the Yahoo Groups email list system.  Once you have a Yahoo ID, visit, and sign up for an account with the other 7,000,000+ members all over the globe, of course sticking to your little area of it.  (Krakow, Poland has 231 members for example!)

To join a local group, search for your hometown and you will likely get at least one town nearby if not a few hundred.  Sign up on and make sure you use the same email as associated with your Yahoo ID (little known fact, you don’t need to use your Yahoo email as your main email).  Then select one or more groups, each which might have a slightly different set of rules but all following the same overarching principal.

Click “Join this Group” and away you go.  I joined quite a few groups in my area, each with a different feel.  One let me join right away, another had a lot of “we are looking for quality and people who give not just take” and yet a third let me browse the current listings before even joining.

Start listing your items and you will soon have a few people who want them.  Arrange a pickup and you are done.

Palm Tungsten T for free from Freecycle - and saved it from a landfill

Is this for real?

While your experience may vary, I was looking over items here at Techlife HQ and considering what we should recycle with the locals when emails started coming in for various items; some candles, a dsl modem and a working Palm Tungsten T.  I have a friend who still (tries) using their Palm but was complaining how it was getting pretty old and not always working.

I replied to the original poster indicating when I could get the device, drove over, picked it up and in just a few hours I had completed my first freecycle.  I plan on giving my friend this one for a backup device.  Plus it was saved from a landfill. (Thanks Marija!)  Your mileage may vary, but if all you want is a clean basement, here’s a great easy way to make that happen and keep the Earth a bit cleaner. is a Techlife must try.  It is easy.

Thanks to loyal reader Brad for sharing his experience and introducing us to Freecycle.  Please email or comment ideas for sites you find amazing.  It’s our own little way to recycle.

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Trolley in Memphis - Tilt Shift Image

When we sit down with clients, they often want a new perspective on their company.  All to often the insulated internal views they hold are guarded and warped with years of rose colored glasses.  Often we are asked, “What really is the 10,000 foot view that so many consulting firms speak of?”  Our answer, “Up high on a mountain, you don’t get a great view of someone’s business or their industry, you just get light headed with a lack of oxygen.”

A true perspective shift, is seeing the same image with the ability to blur some parts while finely sharpening other parts of an image.  In consulting, we perform a perspective shift exercise for clients who are looking to improve their business, design and brand,  or their process.  Techlife can help you start to think about why the same image can be seen differently thanks to a lesson in tilt shift photography.

True tilt shift photography refers to the special type of lens that helps take images with a different focal plane or shallow depth of field, the result in some cases is what looks like a miniature scene from a model.  Techlife has covered a London artist who creates miniature art and uses tilt shift perspective to blend the art to the real world.  Thanks to two websites you can take your own photos and quickly create miniature scenes of your favorite shots.

Trolley in Memphis - Tilt Shift Image by Tilt Shift Generator

Trolley in Memphis - Tilt Shift Image by Tilt Shift Generator

How to Create a Tilt Shift Miniature Photograph using a Website

1. Shoot a good photo.  The best photos are scenes with most items all at  about the same distance.  Also shot of a landscape or cityscape works better than your family portrait.

2. Upload your photo.  Techlife used two different websites to showcase tilt shift photography, each is a bit different.  Try Tilt Shift Maker and Tilt Shift Generator.

3. Tweak your photo. Each site has various settings that allow you to do different things with your photo.

4. Download your new photo. After correcting the sample to your heart’s content, download the final image for your collection.

Trolley in Memphis - Tilt Shift Image by Tilt Shift Maker

Trolley in Memphis - Tilt Shift Image by Tilt Shift Maker

Final Review: Tilt Shift Maker is the easier of the two.  It has less options to tweak and a single “band” of focus good for landscape shots.  It does not have a live preview.  Tilt Shift Generator is more advanced and has a nice real time updating preview option.  It offers many more options to tweak your Tilt Shift photo.  They were both good but the true most important thing, start with a  good photo.  We used 4 photos on each site before deciding on this photo for our article.

If you are interested in seeing how a photographic technique could be applied to help you see your company or organization in new ways, send an email to techlife [at]   Sometimes having another set of eyes look through the lens can help focus your message and increase productivity.

Trolley in Memphis Original

Trolley in Memphis Original

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The Dojo's Cubed Addict - Multiplayer Real Time game for Android, Mac, PC and Linux.

The Dojo's Cubed Addict - Multiplayer Real Time game for Android, Mac, PC and Linux.

As we meet with client’s the hardest thing for them to wrap their arms around is that on the web, your business is instantly global.  “Awesome, bring it on.”  “Yeah, so, no big deal.”  These are some of the common answers we hear from client’s.  It is then we sit them down and using their enthusiasm or lack thereof, we coach them on doing business in a global economy.  It’s not always easy with i18n (shorthand for internationalization) and l10n (shorthand for localization) and social networking and web 2.0 and e-commerce.

Now imagine adding mobile customers to the mix.  That is exactly the challenge David Kainer of The Dojo experienced.  Provide his customers a gaming platform globally that easily works for all mobile devices and Linux, Mac and Windows computers (<=computer download link, start playing today) based customers.  He also added in multi-player real-time , and to top it all off…it is all FREE.

Techlife sat down with David, who from his Sydney office, works with the London office to learn about The Dojo.  How?  Why? How hard?  It’s all in there, and we even cover why he chose Google’s Android first over Apple’s iPhone. 

Techlife: What is The Dojo?

David Kainer: The Dojo is a global platform for uniting game players in interactive gaming, irrespective of platform. It’s aim is to provide great multi-player experiences on mobile and online and really begin to blur the boundaries between the two. Best of all – it’s free.

T: How did you come with the idea for The Dojo?  Was it based on something?


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Casual gaming is enjoyed by readers of Techlife, we have discussed many free flash games in the past, today we present a face-off.

XGen Studio’s new release of Stick Arena Ballistick has been long awaited by the readers of Techlife.  How long?  We measure the wait in years and comments.  We have had nearly 2500 comments regarding the love for this new title.

The Casual Collective also re-launched their top hit Desktop Tower Defense 1.9 as well as a slew of new games including: Buggle Stars, Farragomate and Minons.  While not nearly as popular comment wise, there have been nearly 200 comments about the various games they offer.

Here’s the Techlife Take


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The Nintendo Wii is a big hit in our offices.  It works for the video game fan and the casual fan to sit down together and enjoy playing.  The most popular game in our office is the Lego Star Wars series.  Which means the Lego Batman series would certainly go over well.  Another option is always the man in the Fedora with Lego Indiana Jones.  If the person you are buying for has a Playstation or Xbox these great games are available for all systems.  BAM! POW! KER-SPLAT!

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Techlife readers are the best. Our large arctic readership’s excitement with Yeti Baseball prompted a bit more searching and we found way to appease all our Yeti readers, you know who you are.

While first arriving on scene in 2004, Chris Hilgert’s funny flash games based on Yeti’s and penguins have grown over the years to include a whole collection, called Yeti Sports. They include the following:

  • Pingu Throw (Yeti Baseball)
  • Orca Slap
  • Seal Bounce
  • Albatross Overload
  • Flamingo Drive
  • Big Wave
  • Snowboard Free Ride
  • Jungle Swing
  • Final Spit
  • Icicle Climbing
  • Tournament
  • Stage Diving

Yeti Sports Commentary on YouTube
These games are similar to the mini-games people see on the Wii, and one day could show up as part of a WiiWare collection. Each one has a single point, and simple controls. We lost *cough* a day or so playing testing these games for our loyal readers. So get that furry yeti to toss, hit, surf, spit and more on the penguins. It is just plain fun.

Note: The final item on their site, Yeti Puzzle Kick is apparently a broken or old link. But they did make a few extra games for Fox’s Ice Age 2: The Meltdown which are pretty fun too.

Make sure to post your high scores in the various games in the comments.

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Reading by Christine RondeauTechlife brings a special feature to our readers, Techlife Illustrated. We have put together a visual tutorial for installing Google Gears. I deem Google Gears, the company’s trojan horse, because it is the gift to us the users, that strikes at the underbelly of Microsoft. It provides Google a platform for working with a user who is offline, say on an airplane. They re-sync when they are back in range. This gives them a real foothold on the desktop market.

I can easily see Picasa, Google Desktop and a few other products being folded under Google Gears as time goes on and Google’s strategy become more focused. For now learn how to get Google Gears working for you and your work.

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TagCow LogoTechlife had the chance to try out TagCow, an automated photo tagging service, while it was still in beta. TagCow has now emerged from beta and is open to anyone. Automated photo tagging is equivalent to Google Search for your personal digital photos. From professionals to amateurs having quick and easy ways to sift through millions of images that are accurately tagged makes this service truly amazing.

What makes TagCow a bit more unique is the method of tagging, it is automated. Other services such as Picasa or Flickr rely on your efforts to tag photos, while Google is using a pseudo-game to help improve its tagging search results. This is what sets TagCow apart.

Tagcow’s “how” tagging is accomplished is a bit hidden on the website, but in speaking with Michael Droz, CEO and co-founder, he revealed it is part automated and part human-based. I would even venture to suggest different humans were assigned to my photos, as the results were slightly different for each image I uploaded. There was even a typo! Due to this tagging says it will take 24-48 hours, mine took about 55 hours.

TagCow's automated tags


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Google Docs Goes Offline - a Techlife Illustrated How ToGoogle’s inviting all their users to become trapeze artist’s and work without a net, an Inter-net connection. The innovation machine that is Google just keeps on rolling, and their newest trick is using a tool called Google Gears to let users work untethered.

One of the bigger drawbacks of Google Docs is now a thing of the past. Techlife Illustrated has put together this easy to follow guide to getting Google Docs offline. (This is our first Illustrated How To, leave a comment with your thoughts.)

Step 1

Step 1 - Techlife Illustrated - Installing Google Gears

While in Google Docs, in the upper right hand corner is a link to “Offline.” Which gets Google Gears on your computer.


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Animator vs. Animation II

Techlife readers are really amazing. You send in some of the best things on the web. Once again loyal reader Dan found a gem, with Alan Becker‘s Animator vs. Animation movie. It follows the story of a small Flash animated stick figure as he wreaks havoc on the flash desktop of his maker.

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Watch Animator vs. Animation on Techlife TV

Being the inquisitive bunch we did a bit more research and found that this gem is really part of of a larger collection of work by the talented Mr. Becker. After the success of Animator vs. Animation, Alan built Animator vs Animation II. In this story, the animator does the unthinkable and risks his entire computer to a stick figure’s wrath.

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Watch Animator vs. Animation II on Techlife TV

Alan’s wild success was recognized by the world,  and he teamed with Charles Yeh and Atom Films to create Animator vs. Animation: The Game, which is a blast. (pun intended). And then the duo modded it a bit and created Animator vs. Animation: The Game SE (Special Edition).

Animator vs. Animation Animator vs. AnimationThere are a lot of small touches Alan added to these animations, be sure to keep your eyes on areas like the backgrounds and text labels to catch all the attention to detail. I enjoyed Animator vs. Animation, as you can see the care and effort Alan put into his first masterpiece in the genre. Animator vs. Animation II is great second effort with some out of the box thinking and a real ending. I hope Alan is plotting Animator vs. Animation III, I’ll be watching.

Animator vs. Animation IIAlan’s inspiration likely comes from the original Stick Art films. Stick art animations have been around for a long time, and are often violent and a bit comedic. What’s your favorite? Post the link below.

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