tutorial-3 : dialog

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The principles explained in this tutorial can be applied to 3D or Flash animation. For the purposes of this tutorial, I’ll deal with six basic static shapes. Using these shapes, you’ll be able to animate any line of dialog.

NOTE: The AF system of dialog animation was developed by companies like Hanna Barbera on the TV shows of the 1960s.

The shapes are labelled A, B, C, D, E and F.

NOTE: These letters do not correspond to the sounds of the spoken words; they are simply labels, nothing more. To show you an example of how they would be used, here is an average line of dialog, with the corresponding mouth shapes:

Follow the shapes across the page. You’ll notice that the action is very smooth – from closed to open to closed as in “B C D E F” to make “Hello”, to A C D B for “My”, to E C D C B to make “Friend”.

Here is what the completed sequence sounds like:

(voice courtesy of a AT&T Bell Labs).

Most of the work done while speaking is done by the tongue – the lips do quite litte…otherwise, we’d tire of speaking very quickly. Most animators over-think the process, whereas it’s really quite simple.

NOTE: It’s common to see dialog tutorials talk about “phonemes”, and to see illustrations of up to twenty different shapes – this is overkill. It’s not necessary to animate the character’s tongue or tonsils in order to create believable speech.

The basic approach to dialog is to correctly place closed mouths (the “A” mouth) whenever you hear a B, M, or P. Next in importance is any sound that would need an o-shaped mouth (the E or F mouth). Third, and lastly, is the placement of the chewing action – which can vary from BCDCB to CDB to as little as CB.

Here is a longer example:

In the above line, the A and F mouths are placed first, as their position is “non-negotiable”. If you look between the A and F mouths, you’ll see a consistent pattern: C D C and B shapes, opening and closing into one another, hopefully matching each syllable.

Note that in the example above, the words “in the” are described by CDCB – a single, fluid motion suffices for two words. you don’t always have to have a separate motion for every word or syllable…be watchful for occasions when you can simplify the sequence of shapes.

To see the effect of the technique, here is a dialog line where all the frames are shape-tweened into one another for a smoother frame-rate (24fps):

(voice courtesy of AT&T Bell Labs).

Think of the C mouth as a transitional shape that smooths out the motion from an A or B mouth to a D mouth.

You will soon become familiar with recurring patterns:







With practice, you’ll be able to assign mouth shapes very easily – for example:

“When” = FCDCB

“Hostpitalisation” = CDCACDCBCDBCDCB

“idleworm” = CDCFCDCA

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13 Responses to tutorial-3 : dialog

  1. fifi says:

    extra, thank you for those tuts

  2. David A. Creech says:

    I am very pleased to have found your helpful pages on Animation. I especially needed some knowledge on the walk cycle. Thank you very much for posting this help!

  3. ravi says:

    very good wed side and very good animation , nice very nice .

  4. vinay says:

    advance tutorial

  5. Annonymus says:

    Thank you so much it is sooooo helpful as I need to do an animation!!!
    Luv ya xxxxx

  6. Alex says:

    Love your tutorials! been reading through the ones on the site and watching some of your flash tutorials on lynda….. Have a real juicy question for ya!

    I’ve got a copy of both flash and toon boom studio – and can’t decide what to do my project in. I use to do animation in flash high school but haven’t done it in about 10 years. I’m really excited to be getting back into it but I can’t decide which program to use. They both seem to have different advantages although I can’t find a single good article comparing the two programs directly… do you have any thoughts on this?

  7. Rohini says:

    Thanks for the wonderful tutorials. I was finding the lip sync animation difficult but by using the technique of your dialog tuts I am able to do lip sync.
    Thankyou you so much…

  8. Amirul Shaikh says:

    It was Difficult for me to work on lip sync but after study this tut it will be mor easy for me

    really thanks and keep it up

  9. Fermax says:

    Thank you very much ….

    you are my hero !!!

  10. annuranjani says:

    its rlly hlp ful for us dr.. those who are nt watching plz watch..dis…

  11. nelo says:

    That was excellent!! Thank you very much!!! 😀

  12. Charles says:

    Yaasss, this is fantasic! YAAAAASSSSSSS

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