Thursday, 18 October 2018

Why Animators Leave Lipsync Until Last

Marvin the Martian
One of the most common mistakes made by junior animators approaching their first dialogue shot is  to start with the lipsync, focusing on the mouth shapes first of all, and leaving the acting and body poses until later.

At Animation Apprentice our first dialogue shot uses a character rig with no mouth (think Warner Bros' Marvin the Martian), a deliberate approach that forces the animator to think about the acting and the body poses, and to make sure they hit the accents in the dialogue.

Almost without exception, experienced animators tend to leave the lipsync until last.  Lipsync isn't exactly an afterthought, but it is a lot less important than getting the acting and body gestures right.

The secret of lipsync 
The secret of good lipsync really lies in great acting, not in the mouth shapes. After all, if you get the acting right, the lipsync will fall into place naturally. The acting and the body performance are what will sell your shot.

Face Camera
When you do get to the lipsync, we recommend creating a Face Camera when you animate characters in Maya. The reason for this is that you don't want to keep having to zoom in on your character in the viewport to find the facial controls. Constant zooming in and out will slow down your workflow. Good facial expressions are crucial to making good animation, because it's how we know what the character is thinking and feeling. And without an emotional underpinning, your audience won't connect to your animation.

How to create a face camera
To create a face camera in Maya, follow these simple steps. First, create a camera, and name it faceCam. Then select the Camera, shift-select the character's head control, and parent the camera (Press P on your keyboard) to parent the camera to head control.

Then, tear off the face camera (Panels/tear off) so you can return to the faceCam whenever you need it. This will save you a lot of time when animating facial expressions. To see this process in more detail, watch the video below.

Lipsync key points

  • Simplify. Start with the jaw - then in subsequent passes add prominent mouth shapes then secondary mouth shapes.
  • Keep in mind the impact of a mouth-shape on the expression - will it impact the cheeks/eyes etc.
  • It's easier to add more lipsync definition than it is to remove a "too busy" mouth - so be selective to begin with.

To find out more about Animation Apprentice, click here for a link to Frequently Asked Questions. To sign up for our next classroom at Animation Apprentice, follow this link

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