View Full Version : Lip Syncing - How important for an Animator?

09 September 2004, 05:20 PM
Hey guys,

I've been wondering lately... I've been looking at a number of demo reels from animators who I know to now be in the film or games industry. A few (not all) I've noticed have either no lip-syncing in their reels, or have poor lip-syncing in them.

I'm curious if being good at lip-syncing is a big plus, or simply an afterthought for becoming an animator. I understand its how a character moves that people are mainly interested in, I'm just curious how the industry treat people who are good at lip-sync.


09 September 2004, 05:32 PM
I have been working as an animator in the commercial world, and there isnt so much acting or performance on my reel. (or in commercials). I have done it, but I don't show it. It's never been a problem for me not to have it.

as for your reel, If youre going to try to work on animated features, it's probably a good idea.

09 September 2004, 06:05 PM
imho lip synching was one of the biggest faults in Final Fantasy: TSW. So yea, I think it's important.

09 September 2004, 06:12 PM
not as important as body acting , eyes , hands , etc. You can pretty much have the characters mouth flap with the dialogue and still have a great performance.

its not a expressive part of the body in my opinion , the audience looks mostly at the eyes and hands.

I personally leave lip synch to last.

09 September 2004, 07:47 PM
I didn't get a job once b/c I didn't have a lip sync animation on my reel. So there you go


09 September 2004, 08:41 PM
imho lip synching was one of the biggest faults in Final Fantasy: TSW. So yea, I think it's important.I agree with you there. Their faces were just like stone, mouths barely moving.

Thanks guys - so it seems that its a good idea to have at least one example on a reel then. Do you think people should include the actual voice on a demo reel, or would simply showing the lip movement to the reel's music be enough? I've seen examples of both, and often dialogue cutting in can be discracting if it's poor quality.

(cheers for the move sheep - wasnt sure where to put it)

09 September 2004, 09:28 PM
I would say that it is a key factor, but its not the top thing on the list.
Its definitely not as important as body language or eye/eyebrow movement.

If you wanna know more on lip sync you may wanna check out Jason Osipa's Book - Stop Staring

I'm still in the middle of the book. But definitely a really good read. :applause:

One reason why you might not see too many reels with facial animation on them is cause, for those of us that use the free rigs out there like IKJoe and Lowman, they dont have facial riggs on them. Those are usually in house things.

Pinoy McGee
09 September 2004, 11:10 PM
If your focus is getting into game animation....don't spend too many sleepless nights perfecting your phonemes or mouth shapes...whatever (unless you've already got experience in this area to begin with).

A lot of games at the moment have their lipsyncing automated via engine (hence, a lot sucks to watch....for the time being.). If your target industry is t.v. animation shows or feature, it would be a big plus.

But don't put anything on your reel that's average. It could hurt your chances (obviously) if it's just an uninspired technique demo. Your mouth and face rig must be effective too. Seen those ingame talking avatars in Warcraft 3 game? Horrible.

09 September 2004, 11:11 PM
I personally think that lip sync is no less important than any other part of the body. If a character is speaking, I'd rather have it look like the character is actually saying the spoken words instead of just moving the mouth sort-of in time to the words. For me, poor lip sync can pull me out of the moment. It no longer looks like I'm watching a character actually speaking, but a character moving his/her mouth while someone offscreen says the lines.

I don't think that we focus exclusively on the eyes when we're watching stuff, but on the face as a whole. And if some part of that whole received less care and attention than another, it's going to show, and it's going to affect the impact of the moment upon the audience.

Some refer to lip sync as icing on the cake, and that's a pretty accurate more than one respect. True, it's important to get the cake made properly first and foremost. Once that's done, some well-made icing should only serve to punch it up a notch. But if the icing is poor, it can taint the impression of an otherwise wonderful cake in a negative way. I'd rather have a great cake and great icing over great cake and so-so (or flat-out bad) icing. Naturally there isn't always time in a production schedule for both, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't try. With the right understanding of lip sync, an animator should be able to crank out something very good in a short period of time.

Sheep: perhaps the reason you don't feel the mouth is an expressive part of the body is because so few animators really use it to its full extent. The mouth can contribute very effectively to the emotional read of a character, but only if it's rigged and animated properly.

In short, I very strongly believe that the much-sought-after illusion of life shouldn't take a back seat when it comes to the mouth.

09 September 2004, 09:34 AM
I think lip-syncing is one of the most important skills for an animator to have. Now, I'm not talking about literally syncing the lips, but just the whole movement of a character talking. A great method to learn this, is to take a piece of audio(with vocals ofcourse) and try to lip-sync a character to it, that doesn't have a mouth. It's all about convincing your audience that the character they see on screen is actually saying what they're hearing. The mouth shapes them selves are normally the last thing you animate, when lip-syncing a character. They can ben expressive, but don't overdo it. It depends on what kind of animation you're making, but unless they're extremely cartoony, I would take a look at how a normal human being pronounces it.
I personally do hate to see animations where the lip-sync isn't actually sync. I think it's more important to get it sync, than to get the exact realistic mouth shapes.

09 September 2004, 01:56 PM
You've got some good points, Voodoofactory. Regarding accurate shapes, though, I feel they're very important.

If a character is saying an "oo" sound, but the lips are not appropriately constricted, it doesn't read properly. If a character is speaking in a soft or moderate tone of voice, then the shapes made by the mouth should reflect that, and yet I frequently see lip sync for soft/moderate voices where the jaw is opening too wide, or the shapes are too extreme. There's also the simple matter of transitioning from shape to shape. I've seen many clips where the animator has let the mouth return to a nearly default shape in-between syllables, making what amounts to an "m" shape in-between every sound. Because there aren't that many "m" sounds in the speech, the sync isn't believeable.

Here's an example of another frequently-overlooked principle for lip sync. Say that I'm talking to someone about something that happened a long time ago, and I'm putting extra emphasis on the word "long." There are two ways I could do this, and each should be synced differently. I could say "looooooonnnnnngggggg time," or I could say "looooooooooooong time." By listening carefully to the audio to determine where the transition occurs from the "o" into the "n," I can get lip sync that looks accurate. However, something this basic -- the simple matter of paying attention to how long each sound is held -- is often ignored. While this may seem to only connect to timing, it also affects shape. A long held "o" sound is going to be shaped differently than an "o" that is very smoothly transitioning into an "n".

When it comes down to it, it's nearly impossible to completely disconnect the sound of the voice from the shape of the mouth, because the mouth of the voice actor is in a very specific shape when he/she makes each sound. Their mouth is shaped differently when they're speaking quietly vs. yelling, when they're talking normally vs. speaking through gritted teeth with almost no jaw movement, etc. If you know what to listen for, you can pick up on all sorts of audible cues that will tell you how the mouth was shaped for each sound. With both accurate timing and accurate shapes, a character's speech will look much more believeable than if the timing alone is accurate.

09 September 2004, 04:35 PM
- True, the mouthshapes should look like they're saying the right thing, but when a character is talking is talking in an average conversation tone, volume and rythm, the shapes should not be overdone. For example, if you take a look at "Finding Nemo", the lip-sync is pretty good. But that's mainly because of the rythm. When you look at the actual mouthshapes, the character could easily say something different than the lines you're hearing, IF the rythm of that different line is the same.

- I know all you 3D animators just import your soundfile in to maya or max or something, but I always find it's a very good idea to make an exposure sheet before you begin with your animation. And exposure sheet is a list of frames of your animation, with the sound of the voice next to them and possibly other movements, emphasises and notes next to those.
It really helps to just take a good look at your audio instead of just diving in.

09 September 2004, 09:19 PM
Lipsynching has been one of my strengths for awhile now, I find it compliments ones work as a whole. I used the standard phoneme set etc until I bought Jason Osipa's book Stop staring, it gives the simplest methodology for sync I've seen, If you just want sync to compliment your work I highly recommend this books workflow. It's not the tightest I've used but it's unparallelled in simplicity.

09 September 2004, 01:34 AM
well since you asked how companies evaluate it, job thing etc.. Look at this this way: If you have problems with lipsync its easy to find a guy who will be doing a "lipsync pass" instead of you - YOU STILL HAVE JOB, but if you can't animate well - YOU DON'T HAVE A JOB. All Justin said is right on spot, but it must be said that "equal importance" could be only talked in context of animators disscusion, good one.. but if somebody wants to learn animation, get a job and do not have a time to practise everything it it would be by far better to spend majority of his time working on movement acting etc.. also, lipsync is considered relatively "easy" do do - at least easy comparing to full shots with acting and body movement.. with lypsinc you're exempted of many tasks, there is no so much acting going on with lipsync, no weight, balance and so on.. so lypsinc IS easier to do. Companies likes to see HARD things goin on your demoreel. The greatest lypsinc wont save it but great animation without lypsinc will do it anytime. Thats why you are seeing many reels without lypsinc.

09 September 2004, 01:39 PM
I think it's important, if you have audio, never do it without the voices, I saw someone mentioning it here. It would be useless to do it if you're not gonna include the sound file.

I think it adds a lot to you animators skill. If you lip sync for some time (and not even some time, but 2 days can be enough to show signs) you'll start to listen more to the audio file. Everything will improve and the character will fit more naturally in the sound file. When a character speaks louder or says words on a certain tone, you might animate it better because you're used to analysing the sounds file more thoroughly. Of course it's really cool too and you show off with it. You make them aware you didn't use some crappy auto-sync program, but actually put a lot of work in it and youre able of doing it.

It looks nice and smooth when you have decent lip sync, it just look really sloppy if you did bad lip-sync, either do it good or don't.

09 September 2004, 03:33 PM
also, lipsync is considered relatively "easy" do do - at least easy comparing to full shots with acting and body movement.. with lypsinc you're exempted of many tasks, there is no so much acting going on with lipsync, no weight, balance and so on.. so lypsinc IS easier to do.The challenges in lip sync are just different challenges than those involved in creating body animation. They may seem easier at first, but when you really dig into the work, it can be tricky to get things right to match the tone and emotion of the vocal track, on top of getting accurate shapes and timing for the technical side.

Companies likes to see HARD things goin on your demoreel.You might want to clarify that statement, because "hard" can mean different things. Personally, I have found some lip sync tasks to be hard, partly because I really push myself to nail both accuracy and emotion. And if you have an extreme close-up on a character's face while they're speaking, then the face is nearly all you've got to sell the emotion of the moment, so the lip sync has a lot more influence on that emotional read. That can be hard as well, especially if it's a pivotal moment in the story.

I'm not saying that we should create uber-polished lip sync for everything, because naturally all this is affected by the time and budget allowed for a project. However, I feel that it's very beneficial to study lip sync in greater detail than we're naturally inclined to do, so that we may use it more effectively during whatever time we do have.

09 September 2004, 07:07 PM
You might want to clarify that statement I was responding to practical questions guy asked, of how companies evaluate it. I'm doing a pretty bad thing of "easy-hard" generalisation but I dont know how to call it when I see on daily basis that animators much more often have problems with body acting etc. animation then with lipsync.. ofcourse it all depends.. I very well know how many times I lost hours to get that lipsync right and how I want it to be, yes it can get very tricky and sometimes you gotta be pulling your hair ouu .. but in response to practical queastion I'm just being practical instead of theoretical. Even perfect lipsync wont be much appriciated by employers.. ever heard employer watch reel and saying "this lipsync is fantastic, so hard to do, this guy is very talented".. I assume no. I dont disagree with you, I'm just firm beliver that lipsync, from the point "it works" to the point "its perfect" is not enough appriciated in the field. As long its at the point "it works" you'll be ok with almost anybody, and people would be looking how you move your characters around.. actually people, next time when you watch "Monsters inc" ask yourself on every shot "could I do that, could I match this quality".. well I'm pretty much sure that for lipsync the answer would be positive, while you wont be so confident for other animation.. its that thing, even with very good lipsync (I think "mouth acting" would be more correct, it just looks too funny:-) ppl dont appreciate it much and think they are easily up to task..

09 September 2004, 11:58 PM
The mouth, when rigged and animated properly, should change the overall shape and effect of the entire face. There for it's hard to have great expressive eyes when the mouth isn't matching the way the eyes move. If an eye squints the cheek pulls up and that side of the mouth should be pushing it up. It's not the most important thing, (I think body language is) but it is still necessary for a good performance.

09 September 2004, 07:23 PM
ever heard employer watch reel and saying "this lipsync is fantastic, so hard to do, this guy is very talented".. I assume no.Funny you should mention that. I got one job interview specifically because of how I dealt with a particular lip sync challenge, and because the project the company was working on needed someone who could deal with similar challenges. I didn't get hired, but that's another story. In the right situation, though, lip sync can make an impression, but those situations are definitely very rare.

I agree that it's more important to get lip sync that works than get sync that's perfect. And I apologize for moving the thread down a different tangent. In that vein, here are my answers to Obraxis' original questions...

I'm curious if being good at lip-syncing is a big plus, or simply an afterthought for becoming an animator.
I believe that good lip sync is a plus. Anything you can do to make the character's performance more believable, and to get the emotion and meaning of the moment to carry through to the audience, is a plus.

I'm just curious how the industry treat people who are good at lip-sync.
In those rare situations where a character's design makes lip sync a challenge, then I believe that talented sync-ers become important. The vast majority of the time, though, animators with solid lip sync skills aren't treated any differently.

In one sense, that equal treatment is as it should be. In another sense, it's sad, because the mouth is just as much a part of what makes a character alive as any other part of the body, and it can be used just as effectively as the rest of the body to show emotion, attitude, personality, etc.

It's similar to body animation. Any animator can get a character to look like it's foot in front of the other, body moving up and down, arms swinging, etc. At that basic level, you get the general idea that the character is walking. The walk "works." The huge challenge is to give it that spark of life. The same goes for lip sync. Lots of animators can make sync that "works." The real challenge is to create sync that has life.

But again, deadlines and budgets come into play, so often "works" is all that there's time to achieve. And that's totally fine for those moments. But does that mean that in our personal striving to improve ourselves as animators, we should be satisfied in only achieving what "works?" Just as we strive to improve body animation in our spare time and really create stuff that's polished, I believe it's equally useful to strive for higher quality lip sync. By striving for something higher, we'll be able to create better animation across the board, even in those times when the budget/schedule only allows for what "works."

While the ability to create life in lip sync is undervalued on a list of an animator's skills, and there generally won't be any literal rewards for those who can create lip sync with that spark of life, there's no denying that strong lip sync will make the end result better. In that light, it's still a worthwhile goal, IMO.

09 September 2004, 12:53 PM
Great replys guys :) VERY much appreciated.

I'm going to be finalising my latest DEMO reel in December (working on a small animated short right now) and needed to make sure that including a few lip-sync examples was a good idea.

I think the general consensus from everyone who's replied is that it's probably a good idea to have 1 or 2 examples of GREAT syncing in there.
You've all given me more motivation for getting out of my dead-end Customer Service/PC technician job :thumbsup: Cheers!

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