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Animate Your Artwork with CrazyTalk 8 (Pipeline)

Turning this 2003 artwork into an
animation with CrazyTalk 8.
A Cow's Tail, by TET.
If you're the kind of artist who likes to create characters, specifically focusing on faces, and you would like to see your creations come alive through animation, Reallusion's CrazyTalk 8 application provides an easy to learn solution.

What is CrazyTalk 8?


CrazyTalk 8 (not to be confused with Reallusion's CrazyTalk Animator 3) is designed specifically to create 'talking head' style animation.

Impressively it can be used to animate both 2D and 3D based characters. The 2D heads it creates are actually semi 3D 'relief map' style heads that have some ability to move up, down, and side to side. The full 3D heads it creates are properly formed heads but they still have a limited turning range (you can't turn them more than about 45 degrees in any direction).

For the purpose of this tutorial I'll be focussing on my 2D painting of a cow, that I created back in 2003, with no intention of ever animating it, or turning it into a 2D animated scene.

I'll be using CrazyTalk 8, Pipeline edition, which is the full featured version of the software. If you're reading this article and thinking you may like to purchase CrazyTalk 8, I strongly recommend the Pipeline version, but if your budget doesn't stretch that far, the Pro edition will do.

Below is my example animation, created with CrazyTalk 8, featuring my cow character.



If you would prefer to watch a detailed video of how I created my animation in CrazyTalk 8,  I've got you covered below. Otherwise skip to the next heading for a more general overview of the process.



Preparation


Separating the head from the background.
Save the head as a transparent PNG file.
Before starting in CrazyTalk 8, it pays to spend some time in Photoshop (or similar application) separating your character's head from the background, and then filling in the space with the background you would have painted if the character's head wasn't there.

Make sure to save the head as a transparent PNG file that is the same size as the background and positioned exactly where the head would be if you overlaid it onto the background image.

Note that you can skip this step and just work directly with the artwork but you'll have to contend with background distortion and double imagery of the head.

Setting Up the Head in CrazyTalk 8


Once you become adept at CrazyTalk 8 setting up a head can take as little as 5-10 minutes. Your first time may take between 30 minutes to an hour as you tweak all the settings.

Start a new project by clicking on the Create a New Actor icon and select 2D Actor. Import your transparent PNG file head. Do NOT crop your head in the first step. Click the next button to start the face fitting process. If you crop the head it will become out of alignment with your background and may even be rescaled to a different ratio.

The red arrow points to the Detail Face Fitting Icon.
Click to access this step before clicking Next.
Follow the face fitting steps through according to the guide images shown. It should be fairly straight forward, though don't forget to use the Detail Face Fitting step which is easily missed if you're new to CrazyTalk 8.

Continue the process until you're back in the main CrazyTalk 8 stage looking at your newly created head floating in white space.

Import Your Background


On the top toolbar is the Background Settings icon. Click on this and import your background image.


Eyes and Mouth


At this point if you hit the play button at the bottom of the stage window you'll see your character head moving with the default idle motion. It'll look pretty good until the eyes start moving and the mouth starts to open.

Here I've customised the Iris with graphics
from my original artwork.
You can improve how these look by adding custom eyes and teeth from the Actor Elements Tab of the Content Manager.

CrazyTalk 8 comes with an entire range of custom eyes in different folder categories (found under the Actor Elements Tab of the Content Manager). For my characters I often find the Comic eyes are a good starting point. Just double click on the eyes you want and they'll be swapped into your character's head.

From here the Eyes icon across the top toolbar will be activated allowing you to customise the look of your eye further.

The additional eye iris graphics I created
from my original artwork.
In the eye settings window you can change everything, and even customise each eye individually. For my cow character I replaced the iris' with those from my original artwork, adjusted their scale and position individually, and turned off other eye features like makeup, eye light, and eyelashes.

Adding custom teeth.
Similarly, there is a good range of included teeth options too (also found under the Actor Elements Tab). Adding teeth to your head will activate the Teeth settings icon on the top toolbar. Click on it and you'll be presented with a number of ways to customise your teeth and mouth interior.

As with the eyes you can replace all the graphics with your own artwork but, unless your original artwork has the teeth showing, you should be able to find something suitable from the existing options. The main adjustments you'll want to make are rotating and scaling the teeth to match the size and orientation of your character's head, and adjusting the whiteness, if the teeth seem too bright.

Now You're Ready To Animate


After customizing the eyes and teeth you're pretty much good to go. Click the play button and you'll see your character's head move with the default idle motion already on the timeline.

It's beyond the scope of this article to show you how to animate with CrazyTalk 8. However, the general workflow is to record your dialogue and add that to your character first. Next add any automotions to the timeline that emphasise what the character is saying. Finally tweak the motions by adding key frame adjustments on the timeline.


Taking it Next Level with Full Body Animation


CrazyTalk 8 is an ideal animation tool for creating 'Talking Head' style animations very quickly. However, if you want to take a step up to the next level and include full body animation too, then Reallusion's CrazyTalk Animator 3 (and Cartoon Animator 4) are the logical next step.

Both have the familiar head creation tools of CrazyTalk 8 but also have tools for animating your character's body and adding more depth (and animation) to your backgrounds. I'll be looking at this in a future article.

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