Basic Lip Sync


Well, maybe it should be called – basic lipsync looking good and done fast. All very juicy stuff, concerning, I think, the most important (and basic) aspects of lipsync.

First of all, the bulk of lipsync is in opening the mouth on the main beats. Just use your own mouth to discover what those are – for example, in the word a-ni-ma-tion we don’t normally open the mouth on every syllable, we open it only twice: 1 on aniand 2 on mation. I’m talking about the main mouth movements – if you open and close the mouth on every syllable, you get a machine gun lipsync that looks horrible, like that resulting from automated lipsync.

Second important thing would be to close the mouth fully only on Ms, Ps, and Bs. And you have to close it, and keep it closed for at least 2-3 frames, or your lipsync will look off and floaty. So in our example: ani-mation we open &close, keep it tight on M and open & close again.

Step 1 and 2 would be enough to get you basic lipsync that looks OK and very readable on a simple character. It’s really important that you get the mouth opening and closing right, and time this really really correctly. These are the main pillars of lipsync, everything else… you simply build around them. If the pillars are timed incorrectly, if they don’t hit the main syllables properly, you can polish your lipsync forever, it will be off.

Third important thing is: OOs and EEs. After you get the main pillars right, add in some OO or EE wherever necessary, but keep these relative!! By relative I mean – their values should be relative to their surroundings. An OO doesn’t have to go all the way down to a full OO to feel an OO. If it follows an O shape, yes, it should go more extreme than that O. But if it follows an EE shape, simply reducing some of that EE can be enough to make it feel like an OO. Take our example – animation – the first mouth movement is ani, we slide from a default position (for the sake of simplicity we’ll start from the default mouth) into a little bit of EE, and we go back. We fully close the mouth, we might even go a little bit more towards OO during the close, and then, as we open again on mation, we do the same slide into a little bit of EE ad back again as we close the mouth. Now this little bit could be just a little bit, or maybe a bit more, it’s up to you to decide what looks good, and oh yeah, it all comes down to the soundtrack – whether the voice is calm or agitated, etc, that will influence the look of that mouth significantly. You could speak on a side, barely moving the mouth, you could move the mouth left to right during speech, you could exaggerate or reduce intensity, shapes, etc. All lipsync comes on top of facial expressions anyway!! This means it’s a good idea (see what Shawn Kelly says in an older post you can read here) to animate lipsync last.

Less important, but easy to do and very very cool is to keep the jaws loose: move the jaws left and right along with the main mouth openings – if you track the tip of your character’s beard you should normally get nice round curves and figure 8s. In our example, on aniand mationwe could have 2 ovals, one for each mouth opening, or maybe one figure 8 starting at aniand ending at the end of mation. Keep this jaw movement more or less subtle, and maybe only have larger jaw movement on the main shot accents for example. Like: “WOW, this is pretty cool looking animation…” could have one big mouth accent on “WOW”, of course… and then all the rest is kept subtle, maybe with some intensity on the word “animation”, especially on the second beat – “mation” (while keeping “mation” though… say… half the intensity of “WOW”).

There are other things involved in lipsync, obviously, but I consider them to be details – as you get in detail… you start being concerned with more exact mouth shapes, with Fs and Vs and Ts and Ls, and whether you want to show any tongue movement or not… (normally you should, at least on Ls, Ts and THs).

Finally, as a conclusion – if you only have one controller (!) to animate lipsync, that controller should be able to open & close the mouth on the vertical, and pose the mouth from OO to EE on the horizontal. With only one controller you can get decent simple lipsync that’s done fast and looks natural.

~ by animationslider on June 3, 2014.

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