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.
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.
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:
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Add the “W” shape where necessary.
Your Friend, The Cell Properties Panel
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.