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If you ever want your characters to talk or speak, you are going to have to learn to animate dialogue and lip sync. Animating dialogue means you are syncing the entire character to the sound. Now, this of course means syncing the mouth so that the mouths line up with the soundtrack. But more importantly, it means syncing the body or the character to the sound. Let me show you an example. Here we have a simple character. Now, if all we did was animate just the mouth, you would only be animating this much of the character.
All of this would be dead and really what the audience sees is the entire character. So you need to make sure to animate the other part of the character as well. So when you do that, you animate the entire character. So make sure you animate the character, not just the mouth. Now, with that in mind, let's talk a little bit about the mouth. Now, when you animate the mouth to the soundtrack, you are animating what are called phonemes. Now, phonemes really are just the shapes of the mouths that make the fundamental sounds of dialogue, and we will get to those in just a minute.
But phonemes really fall into two categories. There are vowels, which are open mouth sounds, and so of course these are A, E, I, O and U. They are made by opening the mouth. That's what makes the sound. In between the vowels, we have what are called consonants, and those are closed mouth sounds. So anything that interrupts a vowel is a consonant. Now, when you animate phonemes, be sure to open your mouth quickly and close it slowly.
You really want to get a good contrast when you open your mouth. When you go to something like an A or an I, one of those ones that has a very large mouth, make sure you just open that very quickly. You want to make sure that you have 2 frames minimum. So in other words, keep every mouth or every phoneme on the screen for at least 2 frames. If you animate a phoneme only over one frame, it's going to get lost and it's going to look like noise. The eye really only can catch it if it's on for 2 frames.
Now, there is going to be times when your dialogue is actually faster than 2 frames. So in that case, don't try to hit every phoneme. If the phonemes are going faster than 2 frames per phoneme, then just try and get a good general guide or just kind of interpolate it so it looks good. But if you try and hit every phoneme, you are going to get mouths that look very chattery and we don't want that to happen. So with that in mind, let's go ahead and take a look at the phonemes themselves. The first one we have is A and I, which is kind of an open mouth.
And this is really probably the largest of the phonemes that has the mouth opened the widest. After that we have the one for EH and UH which are kind of more of the softer vowel sounds and that has the mouth a little bit more closed. Then we have the Eeee sound, which is a broader mouth. After that, we have OH and Oooh, and these are both just circular mouths and one is closed a little bit smaller to make the Oooh sound and when it's a little bit wider, it's OH and these are all vowels.
Now, for the consonants, we have the first one is the closed mouth, which is for sounds like M, B or P. And then we have the hard consonant sounds which are ones such as C, D, G, J, K, S, T, X and Z. These are all kind of the hard types of consonants that really only happen over 2 frames. Typically, these sorts of consonants will be animated at about 2 frames. They are very, very short. Then we have the longer consonant sounds, such as this shape for F and V, which has the lip tucked up under the teeth.
Then we have one for T, H and L, which has the tongue tucked up under the teeth. Now, all of these together can be used to make very convincing dialogue. Now of course these are just one style of drawing. Your characters may be very different but if you get the same general mouth shapes, you should be able to animate dialogue. So remember, when you are animating dialogue to animate the entire character, not just the mouth, and when you animate mouths make sure that you get your phonemes right.
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