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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.
Once we have the mouths setup, it's time to actually animate the dialogue. Let's go ahead and open the file. It's called Shot01_00B and this has the mouths with the Time Remap. Go ahead and import the audio track. Go Import, File and it's in Exercise Files/ Monsterpiece/Audio and it's called Monsterpiece01.wav. Now once I have the audio into the project, I can just click and drag it onto the composition and I typically drag it right over the mouth layer, so that way I can just see that audio track against the mouths, so I actually have my visual reference right here as I animate the mouths.
Now one thing I want you to check before we actually start animating this dialogue is check to make sure that you're set up to display your timeline as frames. Now let me show you how to do that. We are going to go ahead into File. On Project Settings, we are going to go ahead and make sure that this is set to Frames. Now typically it's set to Timecode, it maybe set to Feet and Frames but we want to set that to Frames. And the reason we want to do that is because that way your Time Remap isn't reading out in time code it's actually reading out in whole numbers, in frames and that's important for animating lip sync.
When we animate dialogue, we want to be able to scrub through the soundtrack. Now there is a couple of ways to actually hear your soundtrack. One way is just to hit the decimal point key on the bottom right of your keypad on your keyboard. (Movie: Greetings. And welcome to...) You can always hit Escape to stop and in fact in Composition, you can actually go under Preview, Audio Preview, you can even go from here forward, which is that decimal point, or you can then actually just preview the entire work area.
Now if you want to scrub through the timeline, all you have to do is hold down the Ctrl key and scrub. (Movie: Greetings...) This is what I use the most, so that way I can actually hear the soundtrack. Now that we have all that out of the way let's go ahead and start animating the mouths. Now first thing, I want to do is set the very first mouth position, the position that the character will have when you first see them on the screen when they're not speaking. Right now we have that set to this open mouth and we really don't want that, we want a different type of mouth.
So what I can do is just place my mouth over this Time Remap on this Layer 6 and if I just click and scrub, you can see I can just step through all the mouths. So I just want to give him kind of a neutral closed mouth and that's mouth number 4. You can also just type in these numbers. And what some people do is they actually make a little cheat sheet. They actually write down the mouth and put the numbers next to their screen and just type in the numbers rather than having to scroll through them. Personally, I like scrolling because it's a lot more interactive for me, but you can also just type in the numbers if you want.
So let's go ahead and set up our first mouth position. First of all we need to find out where exactly this dialogue starts. You can actually see the waveform here and it's starting right at around 26-27. (Movie: Greetings.) So I want to get that G sound. So the G is kind of like a closed mouth. It's a consonant type of sound, so you want to get a mouth shape that kind of approximates that. So I'm going to start off with number 7, which is kind of a closed mouth, kind of showing the teeth and I'm just going to go ahead and dial that in.
(Movie: Greetings.) Gr-greetings. So I'm going to go forward about 2 frames and I'm going to get an R sound. Now what is an R? A R is almost like an ooh sound. It's kind of a pursed lip sound, so I'm going to go to number 6 and dial that one in. (Movie: Greetings.) E. Gree-tings. So the E is basically an open mouth. An E is not as open as for example an A, but you can certainly- so I'm going to do Greetings, I'm going to actually use that one, number 0.
Greet-tings. So what's the T? The T is going to be showing the teeth. Now if you have never animated a lip sync before, it may take you while to get the hang of it but after a while it becomes kind of a habit. You know which mouth to put against which sound and one of the rules of thumb that I like to use is that mouths tend to open very quickly and they tend to close slowly. So when you have a vowel, you tend to open the mouth very quickly, like usually over 2 frames, and then the mouth closes down more slowly.
So for example here, it pops open at E and then it takes a while to get to that T. (Movie: Greetings.) Greet-tings. Another open mouth and then one more closed mouth. So now we have... (Movie: Greetings.) And then you have to find out where exactly that mouth is going to, it actually just kind of close down to a neutral position. So I'm having that close down at around 57 and then you can go through it and just keep doing this for each mouth position.
Let's go ahead and play that through. (Movie: Greetings.) Greetings. Now the next one is going to be "and." (Movie: aaaand.) You can hear that "and" so that's going to be an open mouth like that and we just keep going through and we just basically are matching this up to the soundtrack and if we ever want to see how it plays again we can just do the preview. (Movie: Greetings.) And if we want to we can actually do a RAM preview. (Movie: Greetings. And wel-) And that's basically how it works.
So now you have got the basic workflow of this. Now I'm not going to go through the entire soundtrack. I will let you go ahead and do that on your own, but once we get through the mouths then we can go ahead and do the acting and make the character actually move and we'll do that in the next lesson.
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