Reallusion's CrazyTalk is a very appropriately named 2D animation program, that is simply the best for animating photographs and still renders. Reallusion is a Nashville company not far from Renderosity headquarters! Reallusion has a wonderful website with a more in-depth explanation of what CrazyTalk does, and some of its practical applications.
What it does
1) You don’t have to be a guru with 3D Lip-synch Animation.
2) You can use any photograph that can be scanned or digitized.
For those of you who love animation, lip-synch, and morph targets, perhaps the Softimage XSI Face Robot for an advanced animation is your calling. Or, perhaps your walk in the park is Maya, Max, or Cinema 4D. Certainly Poser from e-Frontier can get you going with Mimic Pro. Perchance you have the ability to make complex models, facial morphs, and Mocap captures in your own software such as Dali. If that’s the real you, then CrazyTalk is still a great product to save time, money, and manpower for your messages, and should absolutely be in your inventory of tools to use.
If you are new to animation and find that the building of humanoid faces, morphing of ready built models, and merging of lip-synch voice files is not cost effective, or simply not something you have mastered yet, then Crazy Talk is definitely for you.
Do you have a bitmap on E-bay that you would like to have talk to the customers? Do you have a friendly face on your website that has a message to share? Perhaps a special e-mail celebration or greeting card? Whatever your message, and however you want to electronically deliver it, CrazyTalk is there for you.
If you have a picture of your baby, your cat, your pit bull, your pound puppy, or your mustached mother-in-law who looks like a cross between your cat and a pound puppy pit bull, then CrazyTalk will deliver any voice message you want with that image.
CrazyTalk loads with an automatic updater that checks the website for any patches, changes, or content additions. In the last, almost year, of playing with this application, I have seen only the initial update and some content addition after install. This means it is stable and well developed. CrazyTalk is stable on my Win2k system and nothing else that I’ve run in the background or foreground has ever caused even a burp.
How it works
The opening screen is, of course, the main interface with a simple selection of text and icons, and a beautiful lady already blinking and moving her head around. Just watching the movements is mesmerizing.
To the left of the image are a group of icons. From top to bottom, these allow you to: navigate to your own photo on the hard drive, directly scan in a photo from your Twain or other installed scanner, allow you to crop and adjust your image, set up your animation points for movement coordination, and set your background masking requirements. Each screen has a walk through prompt, so there’s no need to fumble with a 1000 page manual written in polygonese.
You have the option of going from simple point adjustments to where the eyes and lips and head are set up for a cartoon image, or something light. You also have the option of going to a complex point adjustment for those subtle changes in expression or angle of the face.
Just a note of interest. Most, if not all, of the images that are used in CrazyTalk are facing directly into the camera. CrazyTalk is not that demanding. The software is capable of a partial turn of the face. A side shot, however, is pushing it too far. One caveat is to avoid using the preset teeth/eyes/mouth, because those settings are designed for head-on perspective. Just use the natural features of your image and adjust the points to match the angle.
Immediately above the image are some very small icons that allow you to adjust your points, or re-center the image on the fly. After watching the face move with the preset sound file, you may wish to tweak it a bit without going back to the setup screens.
On the right side of the image, there is a library of preset images already rigged with the appropriate point settings and a sample voice file. You can even add your own categories, or store your own completed files or project files.
Below the image, are simple VCR-style run/stop/pause tools to let you watch your animation complete with the voice file attached. There are two advanced buttons. The Motion Settings button brings up a simple screen with sliders that exaggerates, or quiets down the head movement and eye blinking.
The Advanced Facial Settings button offers a substantially wider variety of control to your animation. You can change the eyes if you don’t like what is in your photo. That’s right, there is a preset selection of eyes and eye colors that will insert itself inside the eye control points that you set up when you started your animation. CrazyTalk comes with a series of teeth, from the pretty and white, to the vampire, to the coffee/tobacco “eeewwww” style teeth. There is even a series of inner mouth textures complete with tonsils. Of course, you can make adjustments to the lips as well.
So, now that the photo is set up and rigged to our liking, it's time to start doing stuff with it. The very top of the interface has a row of buttons. So far, we have been in Model mode.
Next in line is Script mode. This brings up a series of preset emotives and timeline controls at the bottom of the image. Here, you can attach the voice file that you want to use. Leave the voice file as it is and let CrazyTalk analyze it, or adjust the timeline yourself. The emotives come in both movement/expression presets and a few visual effects, like adding eyeglasses, or giving the image a funny nose. Wanna have some fun? Record your cat and overlay that on the photo of your kitty. Or record the barking neighbor dog and overlay that on the mustached mother-in-law (then run like the wind when she sees it).
The power of the animation, is in the timeline. You can spend as much or little effort as you like setting up a truly delightful talking image.
So, now that we have a fully functional talking Conehead, or grandpa with whiskers, its time to decide on what way we want to deliver the final animation.
Along the top right of the interface are a series of output buttons.
The Messenger output will load your animation in a nice frame of your choosing, from a series of presets, and export rather rapidly in CAB or EXE format. Anyone that can use exe’s or cab’s, can click on the file and will be able to watch your voice animation.
The Greeting tab is similar to the Messenger tab, except that the output is a single greeting card with your text message, with the animation inserted into the card of your choice. Output formats are EXE and MHT.
The Web tab creates a square web animation, and exports to any web format such as ASP, HTM, HTML, STM, and SHTML. Or, you can export the model in the proprietary CTM, and the script in the proprietary CTS formats for use later with CrazyTalk.
Next is the Media output tab. You can export your talking Gila monster in AVI, RM, WMV, sequence BMP, sequence TGA, and WAV. Resolutions range from 180x240, up through 720x480, and include NTSC, PAL, and a host of other codecs, including DVD, as well as your own "other" codec. You can custom size the output and adjust the frame rate in frames per second settings. Default is 30 fps.
But that’s not all! Maybe you would like to send your animation to someone who doesn’t use a computer. Yes, there’s a Mobile output tab that will export for 3GPP compliant devices, Sony Ericsson, Sharp GX series, Nokia, NEC, and the ever famous “other” output.
There’s no getting around this handy little program. Forget caustics, subsurface scattering, and fancy lighting! Forget those awful nights rigging, and morphing, and blinking (the model not you), and spilling your coffee on the keyboard! Forget those render farms, and month long animation renders that tie up your system forever! Just get that digital camera, have the cat face the right way, snap a picture, and attach your voice file. Render time is incredibly fast!
The uses of this software are as infinite as the imagination. Check out CrazyTalk in the Renderosity Marketplace today! This is one delicious program and you’re going to get in a lot of trouble with it after you start matching lip-synch to all those photos you have laying around. So what’s on your list of things to do?
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Eric Post [EricofSD]
is a Renderosity Front Page News Staff Columnist.
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