CrazyTalk 7 Review: Easy Facial Animation That's Great Fun
Ricky Grove [gToon] - Staff Columnist
"CrazyTalk has been the best tool for Facial animation on Jimmy Kimmel Live for years for the simple reason: the script can always change at the last minute. CrazyTalk keeps up!"
Tom Jantol, my crazy Croatian artist/friend, introduced me to CrazyTalk almost 7 years ago. He's an imaginative machinima director and is always on the lookout for creative animation software. His film "I Am" (made with the very first version of CrazyTalk) was an eye opener for me. I'd never seen anything like it. When I asked him how he did the lip-sync he said, "CrazyTalk! It's the greatest software program every made. I am kidding you not."
Putting Tom's usual hyperbole aside, I immediately got a copy from Reallusion, the creators of the program, and saw what Tom was talking about: CrazyTalk was a terrifically fun program that allowed you to create lip-sync and facial animation on just about any 2D image. A lot of programs promise you fun, but don't always deliver. But CrazyTalk is indeed a ton of fun. And the newest version, Crazy Talk 7, is Reallusion's best version to date.
Different Versions for Different Persons
CrazyTalk technology is pretty simple. The program creates a sort of 2.5D mesh around any 2D image you import or load from the program's large collection of template images. Usually the image is of the upper half of a human, animal, vegetable or just about anything you want to add facial animation to The program is simple to use and once you get started animating your imagination will go crazy. CrazyTalk is a very addictive program.
CrazyTalk 7 comes in two different versions, depending upon how much control you want over your animations. The CrazyTalk 7 Standard edition (which costs an amazing $29.95) gives you the basics: the ability to auto lip-sync, edit on a time-line, puppet control of your animation and more. The CrazyTalk 7 Pro version, however, is truly an application for professionals. You get advanced automotion capability, multiple audio tracks, facial key editing, tons of custom content and much more precise control over your animation projects. CrazyTalk 7 Pro costs $149.95. This is the version I'll be reviewing.
Reallusion provides a good comparison of the two versions of Crazy Talk 7 on their website.
What's New in CT7
Having reviewed Reallusion products for almost a decade now, one thing (among many) that impresses me is their development process for all of their applications. The company listens to its users and grows their software programs according to what their customers are asking for. CrazyTalk 7 is no exception. The program has steadily added new functionality without sacrificing ease of use. Let's see what's new in CT7:
The learning curve for CrazyTalk 7 is very low. You choose a template, fit the face to the CrazyTalk mesh, add audio or record your own live audio, adjust the animation using sliders and export the result. CrazyTalk Pro 7 allow you to add much more detail to your character/image like refining the head moves, adding subtle facial adjustments and even setting a particular "mood" to your overall character animation. The project can be as broad or as subtle as you like. And the great thing is, CrazyTalk 7 Pro works perfectly with either approach.
The addition of drag-n-drop capability and dockable frames makes the application much more flexible to an animation workflow. I was also impressed with the new "Smart Profiles" and "Animation Scenarios" because they add so much more naturalness (or style) to facial animation and lip-sync within Crazy Talk 7. The "Smart Profiles" come in the form of hundreds of auto animation templates that give your image/avatar emotion and movement styles to fit your animated scene. "Animation Scenarios" adds another layer of detail by matching the attitude of the voice recording to the character. It's the difference between a villain cackling or a blues singer singing his heart out.
Plus, you can create your own custom versions of these animation states by using live puppeteering and selective editing on the animation timeline. There are literally hundreds of possible animations that can be created to match the sounds/voice of the project you are working on.
My friend Tom was right when he so passionately recommended the original CrazyTalk to me. Now, ten years later, CrazyTalk 7 Pro is like the original program on steroids. CrazyTalk 7 Pro is an easier program to learn and use, plus the level of animation detail you create now is light-years from the original. CrazyTalk 7 Pro is a fully professional program that adjusts to the beginner, or the seasoned pro, easily.
Reallusion provides strong support for the program with an active forum and many learning resources, including video tutorials. The company, which is pro-active in customer support, has also gone the extra mile and made CrazyTalk 7 available for the PC and the Mac in both English and in German. If you use a Mac, you can pick up CrazyTalk Standard right in the Mac app store. CrazyTalk 7 is a big hit on the Mac, by the way, winning the "Best of Show" at the 2013 MacWorld convention.
Yes, there is some room for improvement: better handling of audio in the future by allowing the user to adjust quality of recorded sound and some slow downs with the program that come at unpredictable times. And eventually it would be a real achievement to be able to add two or three characters (or heads) and have them interact without having to blue screen in another program. But these are niggling issues that don't really impact on the very high quality of CrazyTalk 7 Pro.
Reallusion has designed a great application that just gets better and better. CrazyTalk 7 is my choice for application of the year. Seriously, it's fun, but at the same time very powerful. You'll only be limited by your imagination.
CrazyTalk 7 Standard and Pro versions come with my highest recommendation.
Full list of hardware requirements for CrazyTalk 7 are here. Reallusion also offers attractive upgrade deals if you own an older version of CrazyTalk. I highly recommend exploring the excellent Reallusion site for other animation programs. CrazyTalk Animator is a cousin to CrazyTalk 7 and, used in tandem, is a powerful kit for animation creation.
A smartphone version of CrazyTalk 7 is in the works, but no announcement has been as to when it will be released. CT7 would be a fantastic program for your iPhone or Android. Keep your eyes peeled for an announcement here at Renderosity.
My thanks to Bill at PrwithBrains.com for suggesting this review. Big thank you to Reallusion for providing a copy of CrazyTalk 7 Pro for review. I've been using their products for a decade now and have never been disappointed.Quick Links:
Ricky Grove [gToon], Staff Columnist with the Renderosity Front Page News. Ricky Grove is a bookstore clerk at the best bookstore in Los Angeles, the Iliad Bookshop. He's also an actor and machinima filmmaker. He lives with author, Lisa Morton, and three very individual cats. Ricky is into Hong Kong films, FPS shooters, experimental anything and reading, reading, reading. You can catch his blog here.
May 28, 2013
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