Lip Synch Cut-outs

Fred Wells tells us of his simple method of adding mouth movements to cut-out animation.

Mother rabbit from RABBITS IN A STEW showing how the arms are jointed.

My knowledgeable friend (we all have one) then suggested that I might find lip synch. a more difficult exercise for cut out animation. Unable to resist a challenge (the mark of an animator, I subsequently found) I picked up the gauntlet and gave it some thought. Hey Presto! or words to that effect (such as Eureka) I believe I have come up with an answer.
What, I thought, makes us believe that a ventriloquist’s dummy, when it opens its mouth, actually gives the impression of speech. As far as I can see it is because the mouth opens on the vowels.

So I set about making a film to prove my point. The film is about 2 rabbits and their trials in getting rid of a plague of slugs in their lettuce patch. The story was loosely based on one of my children’s records. I called my film “Rabbits in a Stew”. In the end baby rabbit resolves the situation by inviting his friend Thrush for dinner. But that is a digression, and to get back to our lip synch problem, all I did was to record the relevant speech on to perforated tape, and analyse it to pick out the length of time the vowels were on the tape, and the time between vowels of course, in frames.

A typical dialogue is illustrated.

By placing a dark or red coloured spot over the mouth for the number of frames that the vowel sound lasts, the result looks remarkably true to speech. I should add that there are certain words such as THERE and LETTUCE which can be treated as over-long vowels, also where E is at the end of a word, it is not pronounced.

By following the above exercise I find it is surprising what you can get away with. No doubt the same procedure can be followed by advocates of animation techniques other than the cut out type.

Try it and see.

Printed in Animator’s newsletter Issue 10 (Autumn 1984)