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Watch as author George Maestri employs the basic principles of animation to bring to life simple 3D characters in Maya. Starting with an overview of the character rig, this course provides guidelines for arranging stock characters into strong poses and explains how to generate locomotion between poses in a modular fashion. The course includes step-by-step instructions on animating realistic gestures, walks, runs, facial expressions, and dialogue, and culminates with an animated scene built entirely from scratch.
Prerequisite courses: Maya 2011 Essential Training.
So now let's go ahead and use the knowledge we've gained to actually animate a full line of dialog. Now, I have a file here called Pancakes, so let me go ahead and play this dialog, and you'll see why. (Character: I've sworn off pancakes. I'm having French toast instead.) Okay, so that's a very simple line of dialog. So let's go ahead and start working our way through this and actually assigning phonemes to the sound. So the first thing we want to do is we want to work on this a bit at a time. I notice there is a big space here around 45, and so let's go ahead and zoom in so that we can actually see this timeline a little bit more clearly.
So let's go ahead and focus on the first word. So of course, it starts at silence, which means we can select our starting face, or starting expression. In this case, I'm just going to do a neutral expression, but we can certainly change that if we want to make him look more surprised or whatever. So let's go ahead and select all of the lower face sliders, and hit S to set a keyframe. So now let's go ahead and scrub through this. Okay, so you notice the first bit of sound starts at 3, and this first word is 'I've'.
(Character: I've.) Okay, so let's take a look at this. The I starts at 3, and the V, it comes in right towards the end, right around 6. So let's go ahead and dial in the 'I'. We can do that simply by selecting this Jaw slider and opening up the jaw. Now, remember the 'I' is kind of more like an 'IE'. But in this case, it's going to be an 'IV', as in Victor, so we're just going to go from a wide-open mouth to a V.
So we're going to go-- (Character: I've) So here we need to go to the 'V' shape, which is pretty much the same as that 'F' shape. So first thing I'm going to do is 0 my jaw and go ahead and set a keyframe at frame 6, close it down, and then I'm going to dial up the F slider, so that we get a nice strong 'F' shape. One of the things you're going to notice here is that because I set a key at 6, I also have a key at 1 for this F slider.
There's nothing in between this. So it's already starting to in-between that F. You can see here, it's starting to move even at frame 2. So what we want to do is make sure that that goes back to 0. We want to make sure that the I is pure, or basically we have that open mouth is without any hint of that F, because it will be stronger. (Character: I've.) And then as it comes down, it morphs into the F. So now we have-- (Character: I've.) Now the next vowel is S, so it's I've sworn off pancakes, so it's going to be "I've 'S'." So the next vowel comes in right around 8.
So what we need to do is take out the F. I'm going to slide this down to 0. In fact, I can just type in the number; I'm going to slide this down to 0. And then I'm going to start bringing in the S sound, and I'm going to do that using this Dial slider. But notice we have the same problem we had with the 'V' sound and this F slider, which is there's nothing keeping this at 0 until we get to frame 8.
So if I were to put this into kind of at the start of an S, we'd already have it here at 6, and you can see that, again, we've got these teeth showing, so we really don't want that. So I want to make sure that that's at 0 here at 6. So now what we want to do is accentuate that S a little bit, so I'm just going to move this over a little bit more. And now the next vowel is going to be a W, or an 'oo' sound, so sworn.
So as we go into -- you can hear the-- S, S, S, right there at 11 it starts to change, and it's full on by frame 12. So what I need to do here is bring this Dial slider all the way down here. Now the one thing that you're going to notice here is that there is going to be an in-betweening problem because this is just going to be sliding straight across. So you can notice how it kind of closes, and so it doesn't really give a proper in-between, so we may have to do this one a frame at a time.
So I'm going to go from this to this, and at frame 9, I'm going to open this up a little bit, and then we should have that. Now remember this is a W, so it starts with a closed 'oo' and it opens up. Okay, so we're going to open this up right around frame 14, and of course with this, we can also open up the jaw. So again, we have the same problem here with the jaw, which is, we don't have any keyframes for it.
I need to make sure that it's at 0 at frame 12, and then when I go to frame 14, is when I open this up. So it's only going to in-between over these two frames, not from frame 6. (Character: I've sworn.) So now the next vowel is N. So an N is kind of an open consonant sound, so we can actually bring this all the way here, all the way up. So I'm going to grab the Dial slider and just bring it up to the top right corner and then close down the jaw.
In fact, if I want to, I can 0 that out. That encloses it a little too much, so let's go ahead and open it up a little bit. So now we've got-- (Character: I've sworn.) Sworn, and then again, we have 'off', which is basically back to where we were at 14. So I need to again bring this into an 'oo'. (Character: Sworn off.) And then we go into an F. So again, what we need to do here is get rid of this, so bring that Dialogue slider to 0.
So I'm going to go ahead and just type those numbers in here, just zero that out, and then I'm going to bring up the F again. But remember, we need to start at 0. If I start this in here, it's going to be in-betweening from 8, so I'm going to go back about two frames, make sure I set a keyframe for it, then go to 23, and again make that off sound. But again, I've got the jaw. Notice how the jaw is still open. So let's go ahead and close the jaw as well.
(Character: Sworn off.) So I'm going to close that, and it needs to be closed by frame 23. (Character: Sworn off.) So here at frame 20, 21, I think at 21 we still need to have it a little bit more of an O shape, so here we go. (Character: I've sworn off.) That looks good.
I've sworn off. Now we need to go to P for pancakes. Again, what we need to do is have a closed-mouth sound, so I'm going to bring my F slider to 0 at frame 25. I want to close this off before I start the P sound. And then at frame 26, I want to get that tight lip. So I'm going to bring my Dial in a little bit like this, so somewhere around here.
I just want to make sure that those lips look like they are kind of tightened up. But again, I'm getting a little bit of an in-between here, so I want to make sure that I still keep that at 0 for a couple of frames before. And now we've got P. In fact, if I want, I can take this Jaw slider and kind of smash it down a little bit, so I can close those jaws a little bit. And then we're going from the letter P into the letter A, pancakes. So you can see how the dialog is growing here. Pan. This is mostly A and then N, cakes.
Okay, so you can see the A is kind of coming up here right around frame 28. So again, all we need to do for that is to drop the jaw and zero out that Dialogue slider. So now we've got -- Okay, so N. N is kind of almost like that, so-- (Character: Pancake.) And then A again, K-- And then if want a S, we can actually bring that in on the Dial slider.
But again, we need to make sure that we zero it out before we bring it in, so at frame 37, I'm going to zero the Dial slider, and then bring it into more of an 'S' shape, and then make sure that my jaw is at 0. (Character: cakes.) Okay, and then once we have that, we can close everything out. So I'm going to zero out my Jaw and zero out my Dialogue slider.
So let's go ahead and play this. (Character: I've sworn off pancakes. I've sworn off pancakes. I've sworn off pancakes.) So that looks pretty good. As you can see, it's just a very simple process. I'm going to leave the last half of this for you to animate, and then we're going to come back and I'll show you what I've done, and you can compare that to what you've done. The process is really very simple. Just read the track, understand where the phonemes are lying, and make sure you get your dialog to match.
Some rules of thumb are make sure that each shape is at least two frames long. If it's shorter than that, the mouth is going to appear to stutter. So try and keep every shape on for around two frames at least. Of course, if there is a longer vowel, you can go longer with that. And also, there may be times where the dialog is faster than one phoneme per frame. In that case, you just need to approximate. So go ahead and work through the rest of this track.
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