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Review: LipSync MX

Review: LipSync MX

FlashMagazine readers recently helped beta test LipSync MX - a software package that automates the time consuming process of lip syncing imported audio files to graphical mouth shapes. John Dalziel checks out the finished product.

Manufacturer: Di-O-Matic Inc
Website: http://www.lipsync-mx.com
Price: LipSync MX $99 (30 day free trial)

The theory
Animation is a labour intensive business. One of the most time consuming parts of the whole process is lip-syncing the graphics with the voice track. The theory goes that all speech is made up of a small number of discrete sounds called phonemes. Each phoneme has a corrosponding mouth position graphic called a viseme.

LipSyc MX recognises 40 different phonemes, but to keep the animation frames to a manageable amount several phonemes can be mapped to the same viseme. The default number of visemes in LipSync MX is 8 but this can be expanded to suit your character.

The LipSync MX process is a relatively simple four step affair.

Step 1: Import audio
To begin you import your audio track in Windows WAV format. Once imported the waveform for the audio is displayed along the bottom of the screen.

Step 2
In step two you import the graphics for your visemes. These can be full head shots or just the mouth positions. If you haven't created these in advance you'll find two sets in the tutorials folder. Unfortunately you cannot upload SWF files for these graphics, but most common bitmap formats are supported: BMP, EMF, WMF, GIF, PNG, JPEG and TIFF.

Should you require any special audio mappings then you can also re-jig the phoneme mappings at this stage.

Step 3
By this point you'll be able to scrub the waveform and watch the lipsync in real-time. This is very cool and makes all the preparation worthwhile. There are two parameters you can adjust here to tweak the quality of your animation. 'Tweening' changes how many key frames are created. This can be adjusted to optimise filesize. 'Anticipation' sets the offset (in frames) between a mouth position and the resulting sound.

Step 4
Finally you output a Flash SWF file. It's important to note that the audio is not output in this file. In fact it's probably best to think of this SWF file as a reference document rather than the finished piece.

To actually make use of this file you'll need to import it into Flash onto a layer of it's own. It contains the bitmap visemes in their correct order. These bitmaps can then be swapped out for vectorised artwork that can be properly layered. Whilst this part of the process is a bit rough and ready, it's worth keeping in mind that it is considerably less painful than lip syncing by hand.

Although there is room for improvement in the final stage of the process LipSync MX will be a huge time saver for anyone producing a high volume of character animation. It's also available as a free 30 day trial so why not download it and judge for youself.
Download LipSync MX

 

About John Dalziel

John Dalziel is a founding member of FlashMagazine and regularly reports from community events in the UK. He has also written for Macromedia, New Riders, Actionscript.com and Ultrashock.com.

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