Saturday, May 16, 2009


"This week, I co-starred with an international celebrity. He was red and furry. And he kept stepping on my lines.

That celebrity was Elmo from "Sesame Street," and I was able to step into a scene with him using a new software system called Yoostar, which gives users the ability to insert themselves into famous moments from TV and movies.

It's like karaoke, but instead of singing, you're acting. Load Yoostar onto your computer and you can select short clips from "The Godfather," "Dirty Dancing," and a library of other classics. You decide which actor you'd like to erase and replace - perhaps you'd like to do your best Don Corleone?

Then simply hit record, step in front of a green screen (included with the product) and your performance is captured by Yoostar's digital video camera. You see yourself in the clip in real time, and, as with karaoke, your lines flash across the screen.

Yoostar has deals to include content from film studios such as Paramount, MGM, Warner Bros, Lionsgate and Universal - plus TV partnerships with Sesame Workshop and the NBA. The system comes loaded with 14 scenes, and others can be downloaded from, which is set up much like the iTunes store. Clips cost 99 cents to $3.99, and new material is added every week.

I'll admit that at first I was skeptical about Yoostar's appeal. Sure, it's cool to see myself on "Sesame Street" - and the effect is strikingly realistic - but what's the long-term use?

Then I thought about what will happen as Yoostar's content grows. The company is looking at partnerships with music studios - which could soon mean stepping into your favorite Janet Jackson or Britney Spears video. It will be like karaoke, but with dancing.

Plus, you can upload your recordings to, and embed the video clips on your Facebook, Twitter or personal blog. That means you can make a video e-mail birthday card for Mom by stepping into "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and writing your own lines.

But really, as with karaoke, Dance Dance Revolution or Guitar Hero, the fulfillment comes from timing your delivery just right. As Elmo raced from A to Z with me taking Grover's spot in the clip, it was all I could do to keep pace, chattering Grover's encouraging lines.

In some more complicated clips, you have to exchange glances with the other character on screen - which means darting your eyes at a corner of your living room at the right moment. Or you can erase both of the original actors and act the scene out with a friend - or with two versions of yourself using multiple takes. Even when the initial thrill of seeing yourself alongside Elmo is gone, the fun lies in perfecting your performance.

Yoostar will be available through July 1 for $169.95 and goes on sale at select stores Aug. 24."