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How to make lip-syncing easy

In this weeks video tutorial I explain an amazing method to speed up your lip-syncing animation.

I show you how I produced the above animation from start to finish in only 36 minutes.

So Lets get started!

First, watch this video as I explain the technique in detail:

A lot of planning and preparation went into this, and I genuinely hope you enjoy it! But make sure you watch it all the way to the end. I’d hate for you to miss any secrets.

Now let me step you through this technique.

I have made some example videos using that I animated in with this work flow and noted the time each step took.

  • Foundation: We have already done this by listening to our soundtrack and “getting into character”.
  • Structure: From the video, we learned this is Open/Closed – Wide/Narrow. We feel this by placing our chin on our fist and saying the dialogue at full speed.
    • This first video is only the open/closed positions. It took me 2 minutes to produce:
    • This second video is the wide/narrow positions. It took me 1 minute to produce:


    • Now our Structure is done! Not bad for ~5 minutes work. Let’s move on to the details!
  • Details: Now its time to put the details onto our structure.

    • This video took a bit longer (8 mins), and I am starting to add in motion to the eyebrows. Nothing too detailed yet, just some broad strokes of emotion.

    • Now we’re really rolling! I’ve pulled back to add in some details to the entire face. I’ve also animated the mustache and shifted my keyframes to help it match the audio a bit better.

    • Now our Details are done! This file took me about 13 minutes to animate, meaning all up we’ve spent 26 minutes to bring our facial animation to this level!. Let’s move on to the Polish.
  • Polish: We’ve done all of the building work, now its time to have fun and get really creative!


  • What I’ve done here is animate in some head accents for the dialogue. Then I went in and added in some micro-smirks to make him feel as if he is pleased with whomever he’s talking to! Another 10 minutes, making 36 minutes total to produce this animation!

    At places like Disney and Pixar, the polish stage is where you’d spend most of your time animating (besides maybe planning), however on lower budget productions with tight schedules, polish is the stage that usually gets cut.

    If you’re preparing a showreel, be sure that you are spending MOST of your time in the polish stage. Many animators out there are competent, meaning they can get an animation this far, but its the top few who can really push it in the polishing stage.

Well, I hope you found this tutorial informative and inspirational! Thanks for visiting my Animation Tips Blog. While you’re here, sign up to be notified when I post more videos like this one.


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Then leave me a comment on this video. Tell me what you thought of it, and feel free to suggest topics that you’d like covered in future video’s.

Reading: How to make lip-syncing easy

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62 Responses to “How to make lip-syncing easy”

  1. Potter Says:

    Hey DJ –

    Great Tut – nice and speedy way to get things rolling. I look forward to giving it a go in our next project.

    Hay wanna show us some of your animation

    cheers
    Potts

  2. Pete Says:

    That was great!

    I’ve never had to do anything overly complex when its come to facial animation, but if the time comes when Im asked to lip-sync a couple of minutes worth of script, these tips sound like theyre going to really help (especially the ‘chin-on-your-fist’ technique).

    Looking forward to more! :)

  3. DJ Nicke Says:

    Thanks for the comments guys. I’m going to do some sample animations today. Using my own tips, it shouldn’t take long!

    Also, I’ve added a “download” button just below the video. I hope that helps.

    I’m sorry about the long load times, but its the only way if you want to view quicktime files. Flash streams, but you can’t go frame-by-frame.

  4. DJ Nicke Says:

    Ok, I’ve uploaded some example files showing my technique in action. I’ve gotta do some actual work now, but I’ll polish this a bit more later today.

    I’ve also changed the video so that it shows a Vimeo file, which loads instantly and plays back fast.

    If anyone would still like to download the quicktime file, please let me know.

    -DJ

  5. Scott Says:

    Hey DJ brilliant work. I always learn stuff from other peoples perspective.
    I used a very similar technique when doing all the lip sync on Taz the Tasmanian tiger at
    Animal many years ago. I have one fundamental difference though. I still used the
    “open/shut” but instead of
    wide and narrow I prefer to use backwards and forwards. So for an “e” or the start
    of a “bee” its backwards. For say a “w” or a “oo” its
    forwards. Look at a face talking from the side its opening and closing and going backwards
    and forwards. An “ee” goes backwards more than it goes wide for example. When
    making the morph targets I still make the “W” narrow “and” forwards. So
    your narrow and wide still applies. Just add the forwards and backwards to it.
    BTW that’s quite an effort. Really appreciate your efforts here.

  6. Gavin Says:

    Thanks for taking the effort to do this DJ, although I have been animating for years and know of the open/close/ wide/narrow way of blocking out animation, it has never been detailed so simply.

    Good on you.

  7. alonso Says:

    Thanks DJ. I clicked on the link in CGTalk and opened without really paying attention, thinking there wouldn’t be anything new, and it is a review of the style Osipa uses, but I unexpectedly found it really useful to have a walk thru of this approach so thanks a lot :)

  8. Greg Says:

    DJ, I am also familiar with Osipa’s method but still found a lot of value in how simply you approach it. Thanks for sharing. I am interested in your newsletter but couldn’t find where to sign up.

  9. justin rasch Says:

    Great video man!

    jriggity

  10. DJ Nicke Says:

    Hey everyone, thanks for the comments!

    Greg: I’ve fixed this error, so now you can sign up even from the comments page! Thanks for pointing that out man.

    As promised in the Newsletter I am working hard to upload a lot of animal reference footage with frame numbers on it. I’ll send out links in the newsletter as soon as I get those up.

    I hope you enjoy the new video’s showing my actual work in progress! I made those all today while working on my website in between. The method allowed me to just churn out the basics and then get creative in the polish stage!

    More to come…
    -DJ

  11. Matthew Says:

    When I was in school, I was told to get out a mirror, there are no tricks for lipsynch.
    This tutorial was absolutely amazing. Thanks a lot DJ!
    Would love to be able to get this in quicktime!
    Just some thoughts on your next tutorial, would love to see how you guys at disney approach animating animals. After seeing some of the gold in bolt, im sure you have a wealth of information on this subject to impart to the animation community.

  12. Marshall Says:

    Hey everyone,
    Marshall here, i’m a senior at JMU studying computer animation. Currently, i’m working on my senior animation in which i am going to do a fairly extensive dance scene using probably a 30-45 second audio clip. I’ve been in contact with DJ recently and he has agreed to do his next segment on dancing and “how the pelvis works in weight shift/dancing”! So DJ, i’m definately looking forward to the next set of tips you have to offer us…and guys, DJ wants you to post your questions, so lets keep the discussion going!!!

    Thanks DJ!

  13. Nathan Fulton Says:

    Hey thanks for posting this! I’d love to see more obscure / useful tips like this first one. Definitely learned something new today! :D

  14. Adam Says:

    Hi Nicke, great tutorial, very useful, and its good to see how somone approaches lip sync, looking forward to seeing more tutorials, do you think you could do one on how to use f curves i come from a character studio backgorund, and havent used them really, and would be interested to see how you use them thanks

  15. DJ Nicke Says:

    Ok, Marshal wins this week!
    That means that next weeks tutorial will be on animating some hip-hop style dance moves.

    Thanks for posting everyone! I’ve got some excellent ideas for future posts now too.

    -DJ

  16. sumit tiwari Says:

    hey DJ,
    this is an awesome tip!!
    thanks man.
    hey please do make a tutorial on your workflow and how you approach a shot.
    tutorials on animating hip hop style dance moves sounds exciting

    looking forward for more

  17. Madis Epler Says:

    Hi Nicke.

    Awesome video, easy to catch the point. Osipas book describes similar thing but your approach is very in-depth and quick at the same time. Thanks a lot! Waiting for more

  18. Gary DeVore Says:

    Great and incredibly clear explaination!!! Thanks for sharing your expertise:)

    Gary

  19. Nick Gooch Says:

    Nicke,

    Nice little tutorial.I do the same thing with the hand and jaw! Here I was thinking i was so witty for coming up with it haha. I’m always glad to see animators sharing their workflow and little tricks. I subscribed and I will be excited to see what you do next.

    cheers!

  20. Ali Seiffouri Says:

    that’s the most informative and useful tutorial I have ever seen about facial animation
    thanks for your generosity.

  21. Tim Says:

    Really great tutorial, DJ! It’s not too different from my own method, but you’ve summarized it in such an organized and concise way that I think I can work faster now – not having to sort of re-discover this system every time I start a new shot. I tend to get caught up sometimes when I animate and end up doing things out of order or just “winging it” when the fastest way is usually to stay disciplined and finish step 1 before moving on. Thanks for this reminder. The chin-on-fist thing is a good tip. I usually use either a mirror or just place my fingers lightly under my chin. I think the fist idea makes it very hard to ignore the mouth openings, but it also makes talking a bit less natural and I might tend to subconsciously reduce the amount of jaw opening because of the way it bounces my skull. Still, I’ll add it to my toolbox.

  22. Jonah Says:

    Hey, thanks for the tutorial. I went over it all very carefully and tried to take my first attempt at a real lip-sync.

    Here it is:
    http://vimeo.com/3389488

    I’m not completely satisfied with it, but I have to call it quits sometime. Besides, it’s just my first go around.

    Any advice?

  23. Rae Says:

    I must say these tips are really really helpful. I’m still an amateur in animation. Initially, the thought of lip syncing is enough to scare me off. But after I saw what you taught, I am not so afraid. I’ve got a noob question though, would you recommend lip-syncing and animate body gestures later, or the other way round? Pardon me for my noob questions. And again, thanks alot for giving so much tips

  24. Dhar Jaouri Says:

    I found your tips to be very helpful and fresh. You presentation is clear and engaging, the content is direct and to the point. Awesome work, I look forward to your future tutes.

    All the best.

    Dhar

  25. Frank Says:

    Hi DJ

    That was a helpful presentation, thanks.

    How about a short tutorial on avoiding popping knee joints in a walk cycle?

  26. Frank Says:

    I found your link from the 11 Second Club.

  27. DJ Nicke Says:

    Hey everyone, thanks for all the comments!

    This weekend I’ll be hard at work on next weeks tutorial. It’s going to be on Hip-Hop style dancing as requested by Marshal.

    If you really want your request heard, send me an email as well and also join my list. That way you won’t miss any updates, plus you’ll have free access to my ever-growing reference library.

    I apologize if I can’t answer any questions directly, but I try to get through every email from subscribers!

    -DJ

  28. DJ Nicke Says:

    In response about when to animate the body gestures:
    It’s best practice to “block out” the body animation first, and doing the lip-sync and facial animation is one of the later steps.

    However, for the finer details, like a head wobble that is in sync with the speaking, I do these last. As I say in the tutorial, sometimes you need to adjust the body animation and add in more details to really accentuate the dialogue. This is something you can only really see after you’ve animated the dialogue.

    Does that make sense? I know in my example video’s I’ve animated the head and body last, but that is only because I wasn’t originally going to animate them. It was just too much fun and I had too! ;)

  29. toyBunny Says:

    Hey DJ,
    LOVE the tutorial. VERY, very helpful. Thank you for the time you put in and for sharing it with us. BTW, I would love to do a profile on you, if you don’t mind. I know you’re busy, but it’s in the spirit of of “community” that you talked about. See what you think: http://animatorlounge.blogspot.com/2009/02/questions.html . If you decide to answer the question, just leave ‘em in the “comments” section. Otherwise, thanks and I can’t wait for the new tut!!

  30. Vídeo Tutorial sobre ANIMACÃO FACIAL » Marcelo R. Ortiz Says:

    [...] o link e resultado final do vídeo [...]

  31. MTracer Says:

    This was absolutely awesome, but the actual lip sync demo videos need to be re uploaded.

  32. senthil Says:

    Hey Dj,

    Really great tutorial……….
    I found your tips to be very helpful ,Thank you for the time you put in and for sharing it with us,
    Thanks again!!

  33. aditya puranik Says:

    Hey DJ,
    This was a nice tutorial you have created. I found it really helpful, especially the idea of resting the jaw on your fist to get the right movement of the jaw. I tried it and it works.
    Thank you very much. Looking forward for more tutorials.

    Aditya.

  34. Sam Hudgins Says:

    DJ,

    I have done many lip synchs before but I still did learn something from the way you put it so simply and I actually do have a question. Is there an easy way to use tracking points for mixing a real live animal with the CG syncing? Just wondering if there is an easy solution to this. being able to overlay your animation and yet get it to move realistically with the head of the actual real character?

    And I love how you want to start a community! that is how it really should be done and if there is more we can all do to help in that just ask.

  35. Olivier L. Says:

    As an Animation Mentor student there wasn’t anything new for me but still I have to thank you for that video DJ. This is the most concise lip sync tutorial I ever watched and your technique is probably the best for beginners but also for more seasoned animators.

    I was really surprised that unlike other animators you didn’t spend time talking about Phonems and Visims but those are probably a waste of time. Because of the principle of coarticulation, “Morph target/Blend shape” or Phoneme based animation can lead beginners into the wrong direction so using your technique makes much more sense, unless one wants to create UPA kind of animation.

    Thanks again I will keep an eye on your website.

  36. Amisha Says:

    Hey DJ!

    Very useful tutorial. As a fresher, I was always scared of doing facial animation thinking that its very difficult & had never tried it. But now that i watched this tutorial i think i can do it & will surely try doing 1. The open/close & wide/narrow technique is too good.

    Thanks a lot. Looking forward for more tutorials.

  37. Tushar Srivastava Says:

    Thanks a Ton DJ, this is the easiest and the fastest way i’ve ever found. Also like to thanks your efforts for distrubuting your knowledge to us.

  38. Lloyd Says:

    Thanks a lot DJ .. that was really useful and explained very clearly.

  39. chimericidol Says:

    Hey DJ Nicke, I just wanted to thank you for your tutorial. Its very informative and first of all very well done. You are a great teacher!!!! Thanks again!!

  40. Asif Says:

    Awesome tutorial Nicke godbless the person from whom i got the link to your page and God bless you too for awesome effort you put in for all of us. Thanks a millions.

  41. Sumit Arora Says:

    hi DJ !

    thanx a lot! it was really helpful. Especially that technique to put our chin on our hand to get the correct synch. thanx a lot.

    But it would have been really great, if u could have told how to bring emotions in our eyes the same way as u told the lips! otherwise it was really great ! & I praise ur efforts. plz keep encouraging us like that.

    Best of luck !

    Happy Animating:)

  42. hasani Says:

    it was mindblowing!! I would love to have the quicktime file!!

  43. sukanta Says:

    nice tut.enjoyed & learned a lot

  44. Aleksey Says:

    Great tutorial! Just like your other one, you go at a nice quick speed, so i don’t loose concentration. Absolutely wonderful!

    Signed up to your newsletter, looking forward to more stuff.

  45. MICKEY Says:

    THAKS A LOT ,
    THAT WAS REALLY HELPFUL…….. :)

  46. Ivanovix Says:

    Hey DJ very nice explanation, so clear, so logic, it helps mate.

    Un saludo,
    Ivan.

  47. cisco Says:

    Thanks, very helpul indeed…now what if I’m animating the person walking as he talks, should I concentrate on body language first, then work on the lip sych? or vice versa?

  48. lee Says:

    your tutor were great, and i want to get full tutor on lip synchronization with facial expression.

  49. Mauroof Ibrahim Says:

    Hey DJ,

    That was a very informative tutorial. If u have ideas on making facial rigging or morphing easily that would be great. Would like to know the techniques.

    Currently doing a research for my final year of Animation. I have some technical questions to be answered by someone like you, So, if you can contribute to it, please let me know. I would put citations and credit to you in the research.

    Thanks

  50. Keishia Says:

    Oh my, your tutorial is great, recently I simulate real person facial animation, like Obama, John F. Kennedy, and through watch their video, I found they all have their talking style, and some habbits, I use the lipsync tool, it still took me 1.2~1.5 day to simulate an about 1 minute facial animation including head movment; I really want to thank you for your tips sharing, and before I was confused if head movment first or facial expression first, in recently case, head movment really help to catch the body emotion right away.
    It’s glad to know you.

  51. Felipe Says:

    this is awesome, thx a lot for this, u help me a lot!
    the only recomendation for u is change this page color, because when u read dark blue on a black BG u get tired, a bit of contrast is always good :D

  52. Kiran Says:

    HI DJ
    THANKS FOR THIS TUTORIAL…I HAVE DONE LITTLE LIP SYNC ANIMATIONS BEFORE BUT IT TOOK WEEKS TO COMPLETE IT…AFTER WATCHING THIS I REALIZED THAT ITS SO SIMPLE TO DO IT…I SAY THIS IS WHAT A TUTORIAL SHOULD LOOK LIKE…..AM ALSO ATTACHING ONE OF MY LIP SYNC ANIMATION WITH THIS COMMENT….THANKS!!!!!

  53. Kristofolio.com Says:

    God bless you!

  54. Emma Says:

    What program do u use to create this animation? And how do you get that face and get its mouth to move? Sry i don’t know about this really at all… but I came across this and it looks very interesting so I hope to find out how to begin this process (with what program and how to start the project off). Thanks!

  55. Geet Says:

    Excellent article, thanks a lot for this one, it helped me a lot to understand Facial Animation, n keep em coming.

  56. Elakkiya Says:

    hey Dj, the tutorial was amazing.. just what I needed to get started on the lip sync shot for my reel. It’s a really nice thing that you’re doing here. Kudos to you. Thanks!

  57. Geet Says:

    Hey, DJ is there anyway we can send you our W.I.P. directly for guidance & improvements, if so plz lets us know it’ll be a great help, Thanks, Again!

  58. sweta Says:

    thanks a lot for this tutorial and it’s a great tutorial.

  59. Xanath Says:

    you know im going to be honest here , this was absolutely INCREDIBLE, really, i am in my last year of high school just one year to go to college , i want to study animation , and i am really getting into everything that involves becoming an animator, i usually am searching tutorials and such to learn more, and this is just gold for me , THANK YOU!!

  60. Aloke Says:

    thnx for making the tutorial….i m actually working on my first dialouge shot so this was very helpful.. i have 1 request can u make tutorial on head gestures..!!!

  61. alok Says:

    hi dj,
    I just want to thank you for this awesome post.I really appreciate the work guys like you do to help share so much knowledge on animation because frankly , there are a million things that we guys as beginners need to keep in mind and tips like these from seasoned pros like go a long way. I am an animation student from India, and here its really hard to find solid courses on animation studies as the industry is still in its infancy here. Internet is salvation and your site is top on my hit list already :) . Heartfelt gratitude.

    Alok
    Pune,India

  62. Mat W Says:

    This quick lecture was single most important and useful thing I found many years ago. I actually took the plunge and used this method you described in your intro and examples…. and never looked back. I can churn out high quality stuff very quickly.

    Thank you.

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