Sonntag, 1. Juli 2012

Tutorial - Facial Animation and Lip Syncing 01

Since my last post I was busy finishing my second custom built rig.
This time I wanted to add advanced facial controls including a setup for lip sync and I´d love to share some of the things I learned so far.
This by no means is meant as a complete tutorial, but merely to get you started.

There are several steps you need to be concerned about:

1. Rigging. 
There are three major approaches:

A) Bone based.
B) Blended morphs.
C) Absolute morphs.

The first two approaches are covered in Paul Neales excellent DVDs over at CG Academy.
As I´ve heard he is preparing some updated master classes, so definitely keep an eye out for these!
The bone based setup is pretty self explanatory - you use bones to drive the facial deformations.
If you´re using absolute morph targets, you basically create morph targets for each and every expression of the face - from emotions to visemes.
If you know exactly what you are going to create and if its not too long, this might be the easiest approach, since creating morph targets can be really fast if you´re using a software like Zbrush to do that.
The blended morph system is sort of a mix between the two ideas:
Instead of absolute morph targets you create partial shapes, that can be blended together:
Shapes for the corners of the mouths, the brows, the eyelids, the cheeks etc.

For my setup I went with the blended morph system.

2. Creating the GUI.

If you want to animate the character effectively you´ll need some sort of graphical user interface (GUI) to work with.
There are several methods you can use to create it and I´ll cover some of them in the second part.

3. Wiring and reaction manager.

The next step is to make the GUI controls actually do something. If you´re at least a little bit familiar with Max (which you should be if you want to start animating characters...;)), you´ve probably already encountered parameter wiring.
But for some effects, wiring just isn´t flexible enough.
To achieve things like one slider controlling two different values, you´ll need the reaction manager (fastest way to access it: In the animation quad menu - ALT+right click).
I´ll cover some of the aspects in part 03.

4. Animation.

The final step... I haven´t gotten around all the issues I´ve encountered so far, so this part will have to wait...

So...on to the first part of this tutorial!

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