Join Dermot O' Connor for an in-depth discussion in this video Using the A-F system of six set mouth shapes, part of Flash Professional CS5: Character Animation.
- View Offline
First, I'll like to give a quick overview of the different styles of dialogue. This might give you some ideas for options that you have, depending on the style of your project. So, at the most basic end of the system there is the simple open and closed dialogue that you'll see in a ventriloquist's dummy or a puppet. So I've actually created a simple little file to show this called sample_puppet_mouth in Exercise Files Chapter 7. This is not the most spectacular design you'll ever see but you'll get the idea. This is what most puppeteers do. They are limited to their hand; they've got a hand in here that opens and then closes.
For years, people have watched little ventriloquist acts and puppet shows that cannot do by their nature anything more than this and they are perfectly happy with that. The trick is to keep your mouth closed on the consonant sounds or most of them and then open on the vowel sounds. Meow, that would have to do for that. And that's all down to the skill of the puppeteer. So it's very important to see the most simple possible dialogue that you can get away with and I think that would probably be pretty close.
So, let's take a look at something a little more advanced than that and I've created a little image, which is also in your reference folder. In the 1960s, they wanted to have something little more powerful than open and closed for their dialogue for their TV shows of the time. So they invented a system that used for the most part six basic mouth shapes. They were called A through F, A, B, C, D, E, and F, and these letters, I do stress, correspond to the phonetic sounds. So, for example the A mouth would really be used for B sounds, P sounds or M sounds and the closed-mouth mouth shape would be used with the A mouth.
Though it moves through a series of in-betweens to the D mouth. That's the wide open one and you can makes the D mouth even wider than this if you wanted to, as long as the B's and C's were correspondingly scaled. Then we go into the F mouth, which is the OO shape, and the E mouth could be use sometimes for L shapes and other little vowel sounds. So, that is the system that was used and these mouths would be on a separate layer and then they would interchange from the A mouth to the B mouth to the E mouth, back to the D. So, what we can do very easily in Flash is we can create six static mouth shapes just like this and I've done that.
It's a very usable system. The only problem with that is it is kind of limited. If you want something that's between two of these you really cannot do it. So, what I'm going to do is give you a quick overview of our equivalent in Flash. Again, in Chapter 3 I've showed you how to create this form. So, I'm going to open our dialog_01 file in your Chapter 7 Exercise Files folder and let's click into the symbol and go all the way into the mouth. So, what I've done is I've taken these six mouth shapes that I've already shown you, A, B, C, D, E and F. But I've gone further.
I've separated them on to layers and masked off others to create a mouth shape and each of these keyframes can blend into one another. So, this is more like blend shaping in Maya or 3D Studio Max or a 3-D program than it is working in the old 1960s TV format. The real beauty of this system is that we can play these frames in any sequence. So I'm just going to start rearranging them at random. I'm not going to worry about the order. I'm just pulling them around to give you an idea about how stable the system is.
So, without using shape hints we've created a series of six shapes that can blend into one another. We can make secondary keyframes from these and these can also be moved around and blended into one another. So, you of course have access to this rig in your Exercise Files folder. If you follow through Chapter 3, you will already have hopefully done this and made your own. I would say the upper end of the level of complexity that I would like to do for one of these mouth shapes.
So if you can do this, I think you're pretty much bulletproof for creating pretty nice naturalistic dialogue animation in Flash. So we've combined the ease-of-use of TV animation with the versatility of 3D. With that, let's go on and I'll show you how we begin to create a dialogue scene.
- Rendering in SWF or AVI
- Creating vectors for the the character body
- Coloring the body
- Rigging a mouth in Flash
- Posing the rig
- Animating head and body movement
- Creating hands
- Understanding facial expressions
- Making the contact poses
- Creating passing poses
- Animating in-betweens