The Little Dreamer who could

I think I can, I think I can, I thought I could, I thought I could.

I recently withdrew from a group project due to creative differences, one of which was over stop frame animation – specifically speech. I believed it could be done really simply in Dreams using the animation tools provided, while other members of the team said it would take months and require thousands of sculpts, and if you didnt take the time my technique would look “shitty”.  I suggested doing a test animation with a really good sculpture artist to see if it could be made to look good within a short timescale. I was basically told no. No one wanted to do this with me.

That’s a challenge, right?

So I spent 2 hours manipulating one of Mac-Seventeen’s pirate busts. I had to take it apart. It was not designed to be animated, and I had some issues with odd shapes appearing as I tried to get the head from the neck, but otherwise it was okay. Unfortunately I could not remove the mouth from the sculpt without destroying the face, so I was faced with an immediate limitation. I initially wanted to use various mouth sculpts, but the mouth that was there kept bleeding through, and also, I am not a very good mouth sculptor. So after a few failed attempts, I decided to use paint instead.

The techniques I used included keyframes of opacity, action recorder movements and using the envelope output on the voice to activate a keyframe of position. I animated the moustache, the eyebrows, the mouth, the eyes, and the head. The voice was recorded through my headset, and it is me with a pitch change. I was really pleased at how not like me it sounded.

Happy with that, the following day I took an hour to prettify it up. I added a barrel, some hands, the sea, an island, palm trees and a seagull, and some music. Now I have a really good looking scene. All of this stuff was taken from the Dreamiverse to speed the process up, but I think everything looked splendid together.

If I am honest, I did not really spend enough time getiing a nicely painted mouth, and it could be done a lot better. I actually only used two mouth shapes – which is a really small set, but it still worked. I think with 8 to 10 mouths you could successfully animate any speech. The great thing about it is once you have created the keyframes and the sculpts, you can put them on any model and attach them to any speech.All you need do is put the correct keyframes for the mouth shapes you want to match the words being said in a timeline.

So did I succeed in proving a point? I think so, but maybe it is shitty and I am delusional.


Update: As you can see from the Twitter post, this went a little bit viral. (For my tweets anyway). I am beginning to think that maybe I should make some more speech animations – all I need is a willing artist to do the sculpting (I am not very good at faces). Any takers?


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