Friday, 30 September 2011

Pixilated Lip Syncing: "Have A Good Weekend!"

We're at the pre-production stage for the latest stop-motion short 'The Bone House' and have been busy investigating some techniques that I hope to use in production.

Following on from devices used in MiLK HaRE, I'm eager to develop pixilation in this short. An idea brewing is to bring Victorian 'memento mori' photography back to life, so that the characters can sing along with the music (yes, despite the morbid themes, it's going to be a jolly old number!) So, we ran a few recces to see how feasible this approach would be and what issues we'd need to resolve. Findings and recce below:

Shoot On Twos
We found that if we shot on ones, there was far too much movement in the mouth, which, when combined with the inevitable 'body flutter' (due to breathing) made the sequence illegible. Actors found it far easier to cope with the work if we shot on twos, and the reduced 'boiling' in the movement made it easier to read the sequences.

Note: I plan to shoot on ones to capture anticipatory mouth shapes (those formed at the beginning of words) so that a smoother motion is presented here. The remaining 'key' mouth shapes will be shot on twos.

Use Phonemes Reference Chart For Mouth Shapes
It was far easier to dope the sequence (to break down the words into phonetic sounds and place these accurately on a timeline/dope sheet) than it was to work out the mouth shapes that would give the best impression of the spoken words. To resolve this, we will use a phonemes reference chart for puppet lip-syncing and get each actor to practice the mouth shapes in a mirror beforehand. In this way, actors can concentrate more on controlling their breathing/movement during the shoot.

Use Clamps/Braces To Help Keep Actors Still
When shooting pixilated sequences for 'The Bone House', the actors need to think about: posture, breathing and the mouth shape to form for each frame. This is far more complex than it sounds, so anything that can be done to reduce this overhead will give better results in the long run. Strangely enough, one idea comes from techniques used in early Victorian photography. The long exposures required meant that subjects needed to remain perfectly still during the shoot, otherwise the photograph would blur (hence why no-one ever smiles!) To achieve this, photographers would attach clamps and braces to their subjects that would assist in keeping their posture rigid over the longer time period. By using similar methods, we can reduce unwanted movement and allow the actors to concentrate on breathing and mouth shapes.

Note: To reduce the 'body flutter' that can occur when pixilating, especially around the chest, actors should breathe out before each take.

Keep Moves Simple And Ensure Last Mouth Shape Is Clear
I found this advice from Susannah Shaw in her book 'Stop Motion: Craft Skills For Model Animation' really useful:

"The mouth often slides from one phrase to the next without punctuating every letter, sometimes moving very little. So unlike much of the advice you've had about exaggeration (of the body), keep these moves simple."

Also, for some reason, the first and last mouth shapes seem really key to the success of the overall sync. In the recce above, the sync is less successful as the 'END' in 'WEEKEND' isn't clear enough. In future, alongside drilling the mouth shapes beforehand, we'll hold that last shape for a little longer than doped (maybe only 2 or 3 frames) just to allow the sentence to resonate better with the viewer.

1 comment:

  1. Only just checked this out - some really useful and interesting pointers - thanks for sharing (c;