Topic: Mouth Movements

Since my first brickfilm, I have animated the mouths of my minifgures to match with the vocals. I know that most of you don't, but I like doing it, and seeing as I've always animated the mouths, it has sort of become a signature feature in my films. But the popularity of my mouth movements are about 50/50. Although many people say it looks great, some, especially in my D&L entry The Transfiguration, have criticized it. In my earlier work, such as The Haunted House Series, I felt quite happy with the results, but as I gradually upped my frame rate, like in Lego Frozen - For The First Time In Forever, the mouth movements started to get a little questionable, so starting from Character Clash I changed the style of my mouth movements, but since then, they look a bit pixelated. What is your opinion? What do you think about my mouth movements? Should I stop, or should I keep working on it?

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Re: Mouth Movements

Back in the year 2010, I discovered Keshen8, and two years before that, I saw my first stop-motion brickfilm which was a Batman video by Forrestfire101.
Although 101's animations weren't as good as q8's at that time, I preferred watching 101 because it had mouth movements. That was what drew me towards his videos. Without them he would have 10 or 20% less subscribers than he would today.
People who don't know physics or animation very well can't see much difference between 12 and 24 FPS. That way, even when the lip sync was off, it can still attract a good amount of young audiences.
Mouth movements like 101's don't bother me at all but something like OutbackPrime is a bit weird for me.
Looking at your Darkness and Light entry, the lip sync isn't fantastic but it doesn't turn me away from your films either.
The choice is up to you. I would like all the films I make to have mouth and eye movements but I, myself am just too lazy for that stuff unless I have stickers for figures.

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Re: Mouth Movements

In my opinion, smooth, expressive animation will always trump mouth animation in terms of expressing what a character is saying, along with giving off a sense of personality.

While I don't inherently have anything against mouth animation - I've seen it done very well in films like Zombie: Genesis - I do think many people use it as an excuse to not animate their characters as much, often having them be in relatively static poses while their mouths run off. This, really, just gets visually boring quite quickly.

While you're at least not falling into the trap that I mentioned above, I do think you need to put more focus on improving your character animation rather than refining your mouth animation. You can find lots of tutorials on this across the internet (both related specifically to LEGO and to general animation), but I think, at the moment, your animation isn't refined enough to significantly gain from mouth animation.

Don't take this as discouragement for doing what you're doing. When animation is good enough, well done mouth animation can add a bit of a professional touch to the work. I just think you need to focus more on the basics of animation before extending your reach too far.

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Re: Mouth Movements

I agree with Sonjira

I do not brickfilm anymore, but you can see my live action stuff here.

Re: Mouth Movements

Thanks for understanding. I am thinking about downloading Adobe After Affects, I hear it's good for animating mouths. If any of you work or have worked with that, please tell me what you think of it. I do think as well that if my mouth movements have been so bad, I don't think I would have the number of subscribers and followers in general, that I do have. And if I suddenly stopped doing it, they might be quite surprised, and not in a good way, for they all expect me to animate the mouths. I have seen plenty of excellent work without any mouth movements and most of the best brickfilmers don't do it, but for those who are familiar with my films, they will be expecting to see it.

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Re: Mouth Movements

[I've moved this to post-production as digital effects are a post production topic]

I've played around with lip sync and this is the quality of animation I want out of my films, it was made with After Effects, the time it took to add that quality of lip sync to the video was about 20 hours of post-production per minuet of animation per face.

I had all the technology I used to create this lip sync when I started filming Beyond the Eleventh Dimension, but opted to not use lip sync as I knew it would add a lot of time to post production which took me months even without the added work of lip sync.

It is very important to me that the lip sync does not cause me to shoot a bunch of static shots of minifigs so I don't have to deal with tracking, and the tracking is what really takes the most time. In After Effects you can line up the faces on a 3D cylinder and track the movement of the minifig head, largely by hand, so the animated lips appear to be a part of the original face.

I even created a topic, I took photos of a ton of minifig heads and created sets of transparent facial expressions that can be mixed and matched in a program like After Effects. The faces can be freely used by anyone who want's real photos of LEGO expressions for animated faces. Some forum members don't like them as there can be a bit of 'pop' between different expressions but I feel like that fits tone of a LEGO stop motion, I want it to look less like a CG animation and more like a limited replacement animation.

Re: Mouth Movements

On the subject of replacement animation, there are a lot of places online now offering a professional minifig printing service. Has anyone tried having a set of five or six heads made with the basic phoneme shapes and animating lip synch the old school way?

Re: Mouth Movements

0ldScratch wrote:

On the subject of replacement animation, there are a lot of places online now offering a professional minifig printing service. Has anyone tried having a set of five or six heads made with the basic phoneme shapes and animating lip synch the old school way?

Why yes, in fact, Minilife TV just uploaded an animation using that method two days ago:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mk0Ldp4ROj4

Theirs is a bit rough, I think they probably printed at home, but it's pretty good. I image it's a lot harder to do that doing it digitally though.

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Re: Mouth Movements

Donald Faison's Black Stormtrooper also uses this technique.

Re: Mouth Movements

It works quite well in that film, only I found that the heads seemed to be a bit up and down a lot, sort of shakey looking. I feel, as well that it would be very difficult and time consuming. Also, for a film that has 20 minifigures and let's say you need 5 expressions for each head, well you'll need 100 heads, and I can't imagine that would be too cheap.

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Re: Mouth Movements

Anything done in post will be longer and harder, the cost of printing heads has stopped me from really looking into that route, not to mention the more limited options when it comes to choosing faces.

William Osborne, if you want to make a film with 20 minifigs, good luck, most characters in most films don't even need to talk, I would be more worried about the logistics of 20 speaking characters then anything else, 4 characters with 10 expressions each would be more realistic, although only 10 expressions would be pretty limiting, the nice thing about digital faces, at least mine, is there are hundreds of 'heads' each, just the fact that you can blink during any mouth movement is huge.

Re: Mouth Movements

In The magic portal Lindsay fleay drew different mouths different heads with a sharpie and did replacement animation

Last edited by Smocktopus (September 7, 2015 (06:19pm))

I do not brickfilm anymore, but you can see my live action stuff here.

Re: Mouth Movements

^I feel like that would be the most effective way of animating mouths. It's easy to erase a minifig's expression with nail polish remover (as demonstrated in the LEGO Movie) and then you could draw different mouths for each syllable or way of pronunciation.

Also, when watching Frozen, I did feel that the mouths were becoming a bit pixelated.

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Re: Mouth Movements

I'm considering washing off some of my figures mouths and trying it

I do not brickfilm anymore, but you can see my live action stuff here.

Re: Mouth Movements

Don't use nail polish or any other chemicals! It will ruin your plastic. Trust me, I know. Use a rubber eraser instead. Just give it a little elbow grease and it will come off extremely cleanly. I have done this to a lot of LEGO printings, faces, LEGO Friends, etc...

I did it with this LEGO Friends mouth (and torso) so I could experiment with custom decals, and it seemed to work quite well:

http://bricksafe.com/files/rioforce/Minifigures/DSC_0388.JPG

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Re: Mouth Movements

Well, I was going to use alcohol which I have used before and works fine with me but I will try an eraser

Last edited by Smocktopus (September 7, 2015 (06:58pm))

I do not brickfilm anymore, but you can see my live action stuff here.

Re: Mouth Movements

I'm not sure if I like the look of the mouths in the Magic Portal. Of course it works brilliantly for a film from 1989, before after affects or anything of the like, but I don't think I fancy doing it myself.

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Re: Mouth Movements

back when I was doing ones with talking:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGquIFC8Ixw

you have a lot more control, im working at making a set of female mouths too. I think it is the way to go. it dont take to long to do, if you animate with a mind to it too.

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Re: Mouth Movements

0ldScratch wrote:

On the subject of replacement animation, there are a lot of places online now offering a professional minifig printing service. Has anyone tried having a set of five or six heads made with the basic phoneme shapes and animating lip synch the old school way?

It looks like there is a site offering this service specifically geared towards animation:
http://minifigs.me/shop/phonetic-heads-for-animation/

Re: Mouth Movements

I always associate eyebrows like that with BurtL. If I made a movie with those I would feel like every character was BurtL. Although I'd like to get a set and wish a female version of the phonic shapes