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Filmmakers of all kinds are exploring new digital tools for creating animated content. After Effects CS3: Animating Characters follows the creation of a short animated film, from storyboard through final output, using After Effects CS3. George Maestri uses a one-minute monster movie to showcase the new Puppet tool, along with many other techniques for animating characters in After Effects. He covers lip syncing, creating segmented characters with movable joints, and employing special effects. George demonstrates in detail how to create individual scenes and shots, and offers insight into how to pull the pieces together to form a cohesive production. Familiarity with After Effects is recommended. Exercise files accompany the course.
So once we have all of the mouth positions in it's now time to actually animate the rest of the character. I'm going to go ahead and open a file called Shot01_00c and this is essentially the character with his mouth fully lip-synced. In fact let's go ahead and just do a quick RAM preview so we can see that. (Movie: Greetings.) (Movie: And welcome to Minute MonsterPieces.) (Movie: Today's MonsterPiece is Frankenstein.) OK and he doesn't talk on Frankenstein because the title card actually fades in as he says that word.
So let's go ahead and animate the rest of the character. Now one of the things you can see is that if you just animate the lips it's actually pretty dull. Most of the life of the character comes from the actual body, the head, the chest, all the parts of the character animating. Lip sync actually does start in the body, it starts in the diaphragm, in the lungs and there is a lot of head motion. You can also gesture. There is a lot of people who talk with their hands, for example. So there is a lot of other visual cues you give to the audience with dialogue.
Now this character is actually pretty easy because he is sitting in a very stable position so really all we have to do is work with the head. Go ahead and play with that. I'm actually go ahead and take this Monsterpiece01 layer, drag it down so that it's on top of this Face layer, layer #6, because that's the actual layer of his head that we want to start moving around and I want this wave file right next to that. So I'm going to set some keys so that way we can start animating it through Position and Rotation. Those are really all we need to work with and at this point I really just want to get to that first piece of dialogueue and start animating the head to the dialogueue.
If you think about it when the head actually animates you want to kind of get it to bob in time with the dialogue. Now typically how I do that is that I tend to move the head up when there is a big vowel because when there is a big vowel, which is actually an open mouth sound, the mouth does open and when the mouth opens usually the head tends to tilt back so that you can open the throat to give more volume to the sound. So let's go ahead and do something similar to that with this character.
I have already set a keyframe at 0 and let's just go ahead and scrub through. I'm going to hold down my Ctrl key. (Movie: Gree-greetings...) So right there where he says Greetings, I really want to tilt the head down so that way it gives me more room to tilt up. So I'm going to go ahead and copy some keyframes. I'm going to copy those keyframes at the beginning, Frame 0 to about Frame 25, and then I'm going to scrub. This way he says Greetings, I'm actually going to tilt that head down. So I'm going to go into the Rotation and I'm just going to rotate it down just a little bit.
I'm going to rotate it like that. (Movie: Greetings..) So when he says Greetings, you can see he has got this open mouth. At that point I'm going to tilt the head back and I'm going to lift it up. Now I can either grab the head here or I can just use the position keys here. So let's see what it does. (Movie: Greetings...) So it goes Greetings, so it kind of comes up when he says Greetings and then he is going to settle back down to kind of what I would call the neutral position. So I'm just going to copy and paste these keyframes again so that way he kind of just settles down.
And he may actually rotate forward just a hair, like that, so let's see how that plays. (Movie: Greetings...) OK, so that looks pretty good. His head is kind of bobbing to extenuate the sound, to give him a little bit more life. But let's go ahead and do one more of these. (Movie: And welcome...) And welcome. Welcome is going to be the big vowel. In fact if you look at a dialogue here you can just see where the sound is big because the waveform actually gets taller as the sound gets louder.
So again I'm going to just go ahead and set a keyframe here. (Movie: Greetings...) I'm going to copy and paste this Position key. And now let's go ahead and set this. (Movie: And wel...) And again I'm just going to- I tend to tilt the head forward as he starts to talk so that way it gives a little bit more contrast when his head tilts back up for the large vowel. And I can even move the head down just a hair to give it more room to pop-up.
(Movie: wel-welcome...) OK, so when he says welcome, I want to pop the head up and tilt it back. (Movie: And welcome...) And again then settle that back down to kind of a more neutral position. I kind of just mentally have what I will call the neutral place and then either I move up from there or down from there. The neutral position is kind of like a center balance position.
(Movie: And welcome to...) And welcome to. You can kind of see how this works. Now this is very rough and there are a lot of things that I would tweak about this. But you kind of get the hang of it. You basically just go through the sound track and get that head moving in sync. Now once you do that you can also add some other stuff into that for example he has got his hand on the champagne glass so he lifts that up. We also put a cat in the shot and we'll animate that in the next chapter.
But this just shows you the general overview of how to finalize lip sync, get the head and the character moving in sync. So let's go ahead and move on in the next chapter.
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