LIP SYNC & MOUTH CHART

22 October, 2008


LIP SYNC & MOUTH CHART

 

 

Lip-sync – 1

 

In full animation, it is
important for a character to mime. When he is speaking, therefore his miming
must be rarely synchronized to the soundtrack.
Dialogue is invariably recorded before production and the timing of it is passed
to the animator as a phonetic breakdown. It is also important that the animator
should have a copy of the track on tape, so that he can listen to it repeatedly
until the pattern of emphasis, the rise and all of the voice, etc, is clear in
his mind.  It is sometimes useful to indicate this alongside the phonetic
breakdown by means of a line which moves left and right as the voice falls and
rises and becomes thicker and thinner according to the degree of emphasis.
Usually the voice rises on important syllables or words and falls on less
important ones.

 

Lip-sync – 2

 

The first step is to make the
character’s actions fit his words. If he is aggressive he will tend to thrust
himself forward and reinforce certain points with gestures. If he is shy he may
shrink away and speak apologetically and if he is crafty he may pretend to
smile, whilst giving quick glances to see the reaction to his words and so on.

 

The second step consists of
moving the character’s lips and perhaps the lower part of the face, to fit the
frame by frame phonetic breakdown of the speech on the exposure chart. Here it
is important to listen repeatedly to the way the dialogue is spoken. There is a
board tendency for the mouth and lower jaw, to open on a vowel sound and close
on a consonant. In a normally spoken sentence there are usually a few
accentuated vowel sounds and the rest of the words are of lesser importance.
Play the soundtrack over and over again until the pattern of emphasis, the rise
and fall of the voice etc, is clear. Then plan the lip sync to conform to this
pattern in visual terms.

 

As already mentioned,
mass-produced TV series the dialogue carries the central interest of the film
and there is practically no animation apart from the mouth. This is not
acceptable in other types of production and it is therefore important to ensure
first of all that the mouth, eyes and other features of the face should express
the meaning of the dialogue. The hands should also be used for emphasis.
Thirdly, the body itself should be used to underline the content. The three
elements have of course to be closely coordinated.

 

Lip-sync – 3

 

Once the basic timing of the
mouth movement is worked out, the next stage is to consider how the facial
expression, head movement and body gestures can underline and add to the meaning
and interest of the dialogue.

 

In the first speech of Old
Major in Animal Farm, it was especially important to convey the message of this
character to the audience, since the whole film was motivated by it. The facial
expression had to express not only the figure’s sincere concern but as an ailing
character, physical pain as well. The entire body of the pig was animated while
it’s face, eyes, mouth, snout and the facial creases conveyed the emotions of
the character.

 

It is not essential to animate
all vowels and consonants in terms of single frames. Especially in TV
entertainment series, where speed of production is essential about eight
positions of mouth and tongue are adequate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lip sync is the most important
concept in character animation, since the total animation is based on animating
dialogues. Unlike live action, dialogue cannot be recorded post-production. In
animation a dialogue must be recorded first and animated. That means, animators
will have to plan the action and acing of the character according to the
dialogues. Using software like Magpie, a dialogue can be split into frames so a
track reader can get the length of the dialogue. Same dialogues will be written
on the exposure sheet along with the frames. This means the dialogue can be
measured with the frames.

 

Once the length of the dialogue
becomes evident, specific mouths will be added for each and every frame. Every
word from the dialogue will be split into the matching mouth shapes. A mouth
chart, of mouth shapes for every character will be prepared in the
pre-production stage itself. There are 11 basic mouth shape used in animation.

 

 

 

In pre-production stage, the
Story Board artist will plan the acting part according to the dialogue and scene
modulation. Director or key animator animating that particular scene will plan
positioning the essential key drawings on to the exposure sheet with key
positions mentioned with reference to frames and sound. Now action is set on the
exposure sheet. Then an animator plays the role of generating all drawings
required to fill the whole exposure sheet. On the keys he will mention which
mouth should appear on what drawing. The assistant animator will follow the same
instruction and generate the mouth shapes for in-betweens.

 

Synchronizing animation to
speech:

 

Unlike live action films, where
the dialogue is simultaneously recorded with the action, in animation it must be
recorded beforehand so that the movement can be fitted to it precisely. It is an
essential preproduction operation that cannot be left until after the completion
of animation.

 

Once the soundtrack is
available either on tape or optical films, the type and character of the voice
can be analyzed through the use a of synchronizer (16mm or 35mm) and frame by
frame timing guide for the animation can be made. This can be done either on the
exposure chart, where there is a special column for it, or on a separate chart.
In either case, it must be done in terms of frame analysis. No two-dialogue
performances are the same. Even single words like ‘you’, ‘yes’,’ its’; ’had’ can
vary substantially when analyzed in terms of separate frames. Such information
is the basis of fitting animation to sound.

 

Firstly, listen carefully to
the soundtrack and in particular to the feeling behind the way in which the
words are spoken. Then listen to the phrasing and rhythm of the speech and find
the positions of the main emphases and key words. Then plan the movements of the
character’s body, head, arms etc, to fit the words and the way in which they are
being said, to reinforce the dramatic effect. Try to emphasize the main points
of the speech with the whole body, if time and budget permit it. In animation,
the meaning of dialogue should be somewhat overemphasized, especially in an
entertainment film.


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