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Tutorial: Lip Syncing Hands with Cartoon Animator 4

Even Princesses talk with their hands.
Most people accentuate almost everything they say with their hands, if they aren't consciously making an effort to keep their hands still, such as TV presenters often do.

Generally the more excited we are the more expressive our hands become. If we're really excited we might wave our hands in the air for example.

At other times our hands may reinforce a mood with actions that support our feelings, maybe if you're really sad you might rest your head in your hands, or wipe away tears.

In animation your characters can really seem more alive if you pay attention to what their hands are doing as they speak, creating gestures that support their dialogue. In other words, lip syncing your character's hands with what they are saying.

Unfortunately there's no auto hand syncing function in Cartoon Animator 4 but getting your characters hands talking doesn't have to be painstakingly laborious. You don't need to key frame every action if you take advantage of predefined motions.

Below is a sample animation I quickly threw together in about ten-fifteen minutes. All of the character animation is done with predefined talking motions that I've kind of lined up to match what the character is saying.



It looks perfectly fine, lots of hand gestures that seem to be in line with the dialogue. Note that I didn't add any facial expressions/animation but, if you added in a few eye blinks the scene would probably work fine as a finished piece.


Now watch the animation again, only this time I've gone through and 'lip synced' the character's hands to her speech, and added facial expressions and hair movement as well. Everything I did with the characters arm movements is simply modifying the original motions you saw in the first animation to better suit the dialogue. I think you'll agree, overall, it's quite an improvement on what I started with.



Even in much of today's commercial animation, animators cut corners by only having their characters mouths move much of the time. Learning how to get your characters hands talking, with just a little bit more effort could really make your work stand out.

Modifying predefined character actions, and even animating facial expressions is not that hard to do using Cartoon Animator 4. I use a technique called 'bracketing' where I mark the start and end points of an adjustment I want to make to an existing motion with key frames before I do anything else.

This allows me to make any kind of adjustment within the bracketed area without affecting any animation outside of the brackets.

If all that sounds complicated then you can watch me demonstrate it in the video below. It's a little longer than I intended but I also show you how to use the same bracketing technique for animating your characters facial expressions.

What you'll notice is I don't spend a lot of time looking at the timeline once I've defined my brackets. I mainly scrub back and forth to see how the changes I've made on the stage look.

Anyway I won't go on. Finish off watching the video. Towards the end there is a side by side comparison of the two animations above so you can easily see how they're basically the same broad motions but the final version has had quite a few flourishes added to give the character a more natural feel.

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