Manual Lip Synch Toon Boom Tutorial

The automated lip syncing capabilities of Toon Boom Studio are both useful and impressive. However, no matter how well it translates your sound files there’s always some part of the lip sync that will need to be adjusted manually. The automated lip sync is simply not sophisticated enough to capture every nuance of speech. This lip sync tutorial will lay the foundation for you to do manage this process manually.

Understanding Phonemes

A phoneme (pronounced fo-neem) is a segment of sound that is used to form speech. Animators use phonemes to break apart words so that they can more easily draw each mouth shape. There are eight basic mouth shapes, most producing a variety of sounds.

Lip Sync

Strong Shapes for Strong Sounds

Notice how these shapes are outlining the strong sounds of the English language. Most words have at least one strong sound in them. We are accustomed to seeing specific mouth shapes with certain sounds. Once you nail these important shapes in any given sentence you will find your lip syncing skills will become considerably stronger.

Lip Syncing Made Easy

Applying all eight lip-syncing positions can seem like a daunting task. Fortunately animation on the internet allows for some shortcuts. It’s not necessary to use all eight mouth positions. You can get by with these five shapes:

Lip Sync Abridged

Establish Closed Positions

When speaking in real life it is common to speak full sentences without entirely closing your mouth. In limited animation this approach looks odd. Use the closed mouth position to better anchor your character’s lip sync in reality.

Think Like Jim Henson

As your lip syncing skills continue to develop you’ll likely notice several patterns emerge. Remember how convincing Kermit was while on stage during the Muppet Show? Even though Kermit used an entirely binary system (open-closed-open-closed), you had no issues understanding him. Our approach will be to mimic that style, but adding the “W” mouth position when it’s called for for added believability.

If you do not want to re-draw each of these mouth shapes, feel free to download this Toon Boom template that includes the recommended five mouth shapes.

Lip syncing is one of those skills that you’ll just have to sit down and play with in order to get the hang of it. Soon you’ll see patterns emerging as your characters speak. To get started, try doing the following:

  1. Make sure Play > Turn Sound Playback On is selected. With this on, as you select a frame Toon Boom will let you hear the sound just for that frame. You can even drag the mouse with the left button pressed and hear the audio for the selected range.
  2. Go through the sound sample and establish open and closed positions. If you’re using the sample template file I recommend cells 1 and 2 only. Do this with the Cell panel in Toon Boom, using the provided slider to choose the correct cell for any particular keyframe.
  3. Once you’ve found the basic open positions, go back and clarify those positions where needed. If there’s a particularly strong syllable you should consider using one of the two stronger open shapes.
  4. Add the “W” shape where necessary.

Your Friend, The Cell Properties Panel

Cell Properties

Those are the only steps you need to make an accurate lip sync with Toon Boom. This is the exact process I use for my own cartoons, and I’m happy with those results. Does any step need clarification? Let me know below and I’ll answer your questions.

15 Responses to “Manual Lip Synch Toon Boom Tutorial”

  1. JK Says:

    Will,
    Very nicely done. Clear and easy to follow. I have always been a fan of your lip sync work on Calico Monkey but never thought of teaching the technique by using as an example the way the Muppets performed but that is a great way to teach it.

  2. Will Says:

    Thank you JK. Most people can understand how the Muppets talk, so it seemed like an easy step to connect the two concepts. Hopefully that connection can help people realize that lip syncing is not as difficult as they feared!

  3. Jazyl Says:

    That was very informative. Thank you, Sir.

  4. huh Says:

    this doesnt really help someone whos just starting out… It doesnt go thru basics…

  5. brad Says:

    u say go thru the sound sample and establish open and closed positions??? what does that even mean? could u break it WAY down.

  6. mickeyh Says:

    Closed is the position of the mouth when you use sounds that usually are MBP as in P in pear. Open positions are like the O in open. Try saying them and note the positioning of your mouth for those sounds. It has a physiological reasoning between why this occurs. Try saying Bear without your mouth closed to start and it is not really possible.

  7. jonathan Says:

    can i make a music video out of this software

  8. Will Says:

    @Jonathan, you absolutely can make a music video with Toon Boom.

  9. paris Says:

    why I cant find any tutorial for storyboard? all i see here are not helpfull….please help,i really wanna do something,make a story cartoon…

    De l’aide me fera du bien! merci!

  10. whoziswit!!!! Says:

    Great job! Especially including the illustrations of the phonemes — thanks! ;)

  11. antoine Says:

    The problem I have is : I created a sound of a 5 sec duration. However when I imported it, it takes only 61 frames ( at 24 fps). I tried to extend the duration of the sound to 125 frames but the remaining frames remained sound less.
    So unless I play the movie at 12 fps, the lip sync does not match the sound…

  12. Anthony Says:

    My computer doesn’t recognize the Toon Boom template from my desktop or winzip. Any suggestions?

  13. kumar Says:

    I did not understand this”You can even drag the mouse with the left button pressed and hear the audio for the selected range”. could you tell me clearly.

  14. naomi Says:

    i don’t really get the w one

  15. reza torkzaban Says:

    mrci bckoo