25th Feb 2021

Character Lip-sync in After Effects

Game Design

Written By, Nimesh Vaniya

Overview

Hello Animators,

There are a lot of talking characters in cartoons, animated stories, and also explanatory videos. So Character Lip-syncing plays a major role to express the story to the audience. We all need animated characters in our cartoon stories OR Videos. We all frequently use Lip-sync in our modern style animation many times.

There are many tools for creating 2D Character animation and Lip-sync in it and some of them are automatic to create lip-sync from audio such as Adobe’s Character Animator, Adobe Animate, Toon Boom Harmony, etc…
But today, we are creating 2D character Lip-sync in Adobe After Effects manually without using any Plug-ins.

So let’s jump into it…

Basic Lips Design

When we speak or pronounce something, some movement or shape is made by our mouth. Same as that, we create some of the mouth shapes for our character.
In big cartoon stories, there are a bunch of character mouth designs for different expressions of the face like Regular talk, Happy, Angry, Sad, Curious, Excited, Scared, etc…

You can create as many mouth design as you need in your animated story, Here, I am taking 8 most used mouth Designs.

basic-lip-design

As you see in the above image I have designed 8 Lips/Mouth movements which are more likely to be used in the pronunciation of the words.

Now, we are going to create Rigging of this Lips Design in After effects.

Create Lips Rig

Here in the After Effects Project, we have created the Lips Rigging. So let’s do this…

  1. Make a new after-effect project and import Character Design files (Ex. psd, Ai…).
  2. Create new composition for Lips Rigging and import OR Paste Lips design layers in the composition timeline.
  3. Place all mouth shape designs in the center alignment of composition.
    create-composition
  4. Now select all layers and line them up for upto 1 frame ( Alt + ] ).
  5. Then stagger the layers and arrange them one by one.
  6. Trim Composition to end of our lips design last frame.
    arrange-layers
  7. add Mouth Rigg composition to character composition.
  8. then add time remapping value for Mouth Rigg composition ( Ctrl + Alt + T ).
  9. Now, apply Slider Control Effect from Effect and Presets panel on Mouth Rigg Composition.
    enable-remap
  10. Now, press time remap stop watch with Alt button and join its Pick whip to Slider Control.
  11. Then Write these Expressions to synchronize perfectly.
  12. Now, select slider control and right-click on the slider, go into Edit Value, and add slider range 0 to 7.

Let’s try to understand slider range with the help of a simple example, we have a total of 10 Lips Design in our Mouth Rigg Composition. So our slider range is 0 to 9 Value.

set-slider
When you complete these steps, then once adjust the slider value in between the slider range and check the Lips design change according to the value…if it does, then you are on the right path.

So our Slider completely synchronizes with our Lips Design…

How to Animate Lips

Rigg Mouth composition is set with our character and ready to animate.

So, add a slider keyframe for animate Lips.
– Then convert this keyframe into a Toggle hold keyframe by right-clicking on it.
so it accepts only the full value at the pick of frames.
– Then add an audio file in the main character composition timeline.

Now, you have to set a slider keyframe according to the pronunciation of audio.
Audio includes many words, sentences in it so set Lips accordingly.

Check animation sentence by sentence to avoid any rework on it.
add-audio

It’s done, friends. Let’s have a look at the final version.

Conclusion

Manually Lip-syncing is time-consuming because we create it frame by frame keyframes & then check it. But it’s quite easy and fully synchronized rather than other methods.
This method helps a lot when you have a long story OR a story that contains many characters.

I hope this will help you to understand the method and the working solution for 2D Character Lip-sync in After Effects.

Written By,

Game Designer at Yudiz Solutions Pvt. Ltd