Voice over Synchonization

  • I have been watching cartoons and anime since I was a teenager and always wonder how do the people that make the cartoons make the lips of the characters move and speak as if I am talking to my wife or someone else?

  • It's all in the timing.

  • Well, when it comes to animating mouth movements, there are actually two different methods that animators use:

    1. For Western animated cartoons and films, the voices are usually recorded long before any actual animating begins. It's then the animator's job to listen closely to the actor's performance and to match the character's exact mouth movements and expressions. This method is called "pre-lay", and is usually the more expensive, but more accurate and detailed, method of animating voices.

    2. For anime, all the animation is done first, with the animators drawing generic up-and-down mouth motions called "flaps" based on a rough draft script of the dialog. The voice actors then "dub" the voices over the animation. This method is much less accurate and often results in the voice not matching up with the flaps, but this method is much more cost effective than pre-lay.

    Generally, the Japanese don't bother too much with matching the lip flaps exactly. Because anime in general is such a rushed, low-budget affair, they try to do as good a job as they can to get it out to the TV stations and get it on the air at the last minute. For the DVD release, many times they do go back and either record pick-up lines or digitally alter the footage to make it match up better, but for the most part the Japanese don't really give it much priority. For English voice actors, though, studios are usually much more dedicated to making the lines match the individual voice flaps as close as possible. Dub writers and directors get so meticulous about it that they actually resort to counting the individual flaps in a particular scene, often re-writing large portions of their script just to get the exact syllable count right. It's a much more complicated and difficult process than many people give it credit for. That's why early Sentai dubs basically just threw caution to the wind and did line readings in one take, although they are getting better about it recently.

  • Well thanks for the info.

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