Lip Syncing in After Effects CS4

While doing my masters degree I have two important things with me all the time.  One is a quick-notes way of how to lip sync in After Effects CS4 and the other is a picture of all the mouth movements with the corresponding numbers. When doing lip syncing they are invaluable because there is no way I’d be able to remember how to set up the lip sync or how the numbers correlate to the mouth shapes. So first of all, here is the poster.  It’s a variation of one I found somewhere on the net.  There are many many versions of the mouth shapes online, but this is one I have made up for myself in Illustrator CS4 and have saved as a JPG.  You are more than welcome to use this for your own websites, teaching tools and I take it if you are reading this, you’ll probably be knowledgeable enough in Photoshop to cut out each of the mouth shapes and use them in your own animations. Once you have the hang of this I would advise you to create a few versions of the mouth closed for different emotions.  If you do this I would add them below the mouth shapes in the following illustration in order to be able to use the image sheet below.

Lip Syncing Mouth Shapes

This isn’t an in depth tutorial of lip syncing in After Effects CS4, but if you have a rough knowledge of After Effects CS4 you should be able to create the lip syncing with the following instructions.  If you can lip sync already it will be an invaluable tool to have at your fingertips. I am going to assume you have already set up your character and have all the mouth shapes imported in After Effects CS4 and have dragged them into the timeline.  I would also suggest that when you originally name the separate mouth layers, that you name them as they are on the diagram.  “0=A”  “1=E” etc.

  1. Select all the mouth layers.
  2. Layer> Pre compose (it’s right down the bottom)
  3. A box will pop up and will ask you to name the mouth.  If you have more than one character, name it “Batman’s Mouth” for example.  Make sure you click “open up new composition”.
  4. You will see all the mouth layers are in their composition.  Make sure the slider is right at the start of the timeline.  Select all the layers.
  5. Hold “alt” then “]”.  This will trim all the frames to a single frame.
  6. Now you need to put the frames in chronological order.  For example “A” is at the top, “E” next “I” third etc… You do this by clicking on each one and dragging it up or down.
  7. Now we are going to sequence them.  You can do this by hand but it’s easier to let After Effects do it for you.   Animation> Key Frame Assistant> Sequence Layers (make sure overlap isn’t selected)> OK.
  8. Now what you need to do is move to the last frame on the timeline by dragging it over.  Don’t drag right to the end.  Make sure the slider is between the last and send to last mouth shapes.  So it will be between the “L” and “S” mouth shapes.
  9. This is where we tidy it up a bit.  Press “N”.  Then Composition> Trim Comp to work area.
  10. Go back to your normal view.  This will be the file you started with.  It should be on a tab next to your mouth tab on the bottom left hand pane or you can find it in the project window on the upper right hand side.
  11. You will see all your mouth layers have disappeared.  Have no fear they are all in the single file named “mouth” and it now looks like a movie cell.
  12. Click on the “mouth” movie cell.  Layer>  Time>  Enable Time Remapping.
  13. Enlarge your timeline by dragging the zoom slider across, which is at the bottom just under the start of the time line.  Enlarge it till you can see two key frames in the “mouth” timeline.
  14. In the “mouth” timeline, delete the keyframe that is about 10 frames in.  Not the one at the first frame.
  15. “Right” click on the remaining key frame and click “Toggle hold key frame”.
  16. You’re basically finished and you’re now ready to lip sync.  You do this by moving your slider to where you want to change a mouth shape and then make sure the time mapping is open under your “mouth” movie cell by click the triangle next to it and there you will see 0:00:00:00.  Click on that and you will highlight it.  Type the number of the mouth shape you want to use and hey presto it appears.

The version of these instruction I have with me whenever I’m at uni is a just the commands and is a lot simpler, but this still fits on a sheet of A4 quite happily.  Along with your numbered picture you’ll never be stuck with lip syncing in After Effects CS4.  Here is an example of how I used the Lip Syncing Effects CS4.

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About Mike Belgrave

I am Mike Belgrave, stand up comedian. animator, outsider music musicologist, shambolic ukulele player and music video director extraordinaire.
This entry was posted in Animation, Batman. Bookmark the permalink.

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