This is why I love animation...
I got a scene. Simple scene. 64 frames of a character saying one line. A no brainer 3 beat shoe leather performance. If I was working on high footage rate stuff (ie: low budget direct to video or commercials, not a feature film) I'd be expected to rip this out in half a day. And I'd probably be able to and it'd still look pretty decent. So this should be a slam dunk, right?
Heheh. Uhhh... no.
There's this little vibrato of excitement under his breath at the end of one word. The director wants us to "feel that tension". Well, I didn't know how to do that. Still not sure if I do. In the past I've had scenes that had that little vibrato, but I never could figure it out- nor did I have the time due to the kind of project/deadlines involved. But this project the director wants it and I have the time to try and solve the puzzle. So it has been a fun 4 days trying to figure out how we can "feel" a vibrato. Can't move the head too much or it feels spastic. Can't just hunch him over in little bursts or it's too big. Can't just jiggle the shoulders up and down cuz it looks like he's laughing. Can't just translate the chest up and down to squash and stretch him or it jacks with the head/eyes on screen. Can't just push the chest breath blend shape in and out cuz it feels pasted on. And you can't just mix and match any/all of the above in varying degrees of intensity, either. That looks... heh. I watched film footage, video reference- it seems all usual the external markers of the body are doing nothing different during a voice vibrato. Then I noticed the relationship of the chest wall to the abdomen. It's in the breathing.
Maybe some of you old dogs are going "Yeah, well, duh!", but hey, this is my puzzle. :o)
And breathing is one of those things in animation (particularly in CG) where I don't see much attention or effort. Why? Cuz it's not easy, probably. I mean sighs and heavy exhales, sure. We do those because they're in the sound track. But I'm talking about the unconscious normal every minute activity of a person breathing to live, to talk, to be. Maybe capturing that will add to the believability?
Anyhow after a few days of trying different things (and realizing they don't work) I think I may have gotten close to it last evening. We'll see in dailies today if I'm right. Either way, I had fun! Here was this thing that I didn't know how to do and I had to work like crazy to figure it out. It took a simple scene that had the potential to be rather dull and made it a puzzle, a challenge.
Yeah, I dig this stuff.
** Update: while I'm still not 100% happy with how I ultimately handled the vibrato problem, I got the approval today. Other folks tell me the scene works for them, so I'll have to take their word for it. I can't see it anymore. Heh.