Building Emotion: The Basics of the Eyes, From Sybex | 5 | WebReference

Building Emotion: The Basics of the Eyes, From Sybex | 5

Building Emotion: The Basics of the Eyes, From Sybex

Example Animations

Well, since this is an eyes-and-brows chapter about acting, let's act. We'll start with a sound file and a scene from Chapter 4, "Visimes and Lip Sync Technique." To be lazy about it, if you saved the scene you worked on there, you can import that and copy the curves from the locator "MouthControl" to your new "Ctrl_Sync" slider. The animation should come over fine. To get in practice, as you should, you can also animate the scene again. Personally, that's what I recommend.

I'll do quite a bit of explaining throughout this section, especially in the first example, where I've split up some of the steps to a few sub-steps to give every little thing attention. After that, I start to move faster, only explaining the things that are less obvious given the instruction thus far. These scenes could be taken further, but a lot of that last step is frame-to-frame finicking, which is not a fun thing to talk through and often comes down to "I just like it this way better!"-you can tweak these on your own.

For the rest of the chapter, you'll need to refer to the animations on the CD. I'll drop in pictures of frames from the animation here and there, but to get a feel for what I'm saying you really need to see and hear the motions.

If your scene is not lining up with my numbers, double-check that your frame rate is at 24 fps (film) in Window > Settings/Preferences > Preferences > Settings. Also check that you're playing back in real time, under Window > Settings/Preferences > Preferences > Timeline.

"What Am I Sayin' in Here?"

To start, import the "What am I sayin' in here?" sound and/or scene you worked on before. For those of you starting fresh, you'll find the sound, WhatAmISayinInHere.wav and .aif, in the Chapter 4 folder. For this scene I blocked my frame range at 0 to 35.

Time check: This process and result took approximately 20 minutes' work.

A finished version of the scene file,, is in the Chapter 7 folder on the companion CD.

An AVI as each step is completed can also be found on the CD:

I won't have notes here about the Sync step in these sample animations, as that's covered in the mouth chapters.

Head Tilt

I've talked before of animating the head to the music of the dialogue; now I'll describe actually doing that. In this delivery of "what am I sayin in here," the what am I sounds pretty even to me, in both tonal quality and volume. Listening to sayin, you can hear a pretty distinct jump in both volume and tone. For me, when the music goes up, so does the head. The sound of sayin is approximately from frames 12through 18, so on frame 12, I'll set a key on the Ctrl_Face to tilt Box Head up. We don't want to have this movement look like an exact relationship between the music and the head, so instead of dropping it again right away, I'll look to the next sound or two and see if they have a reason for me to keep the head up.

The next word, in, sounds about the same to me in tonal quality as sayin, so I'll hold the head up for that sound, too. Moving along, the next word is here. Here is a definite drop in tone, so on frame 25, I'm going to push the head back down, I think, even further down than level. Since in lasts until about frame 20, I'll set another head-up key on 20, leaving the motion between in and here to be 5 frames long. That's a pretty big motion in a pretty small space, so to keep it from looking odd, I'm going to turn that downward motion into a nod. To do that, I'll just bounce back up a little higher on frame 30, and hold that until 35, the approximate end of the scene.


When I say "nodding," it means not only dropping the head down, it means overshooting the pose, and then correcting. It gives a nice biting motion, and it's something we people do a lot of in speech-we almost throw our head forward and then catch it, like a nod cut short.

Listening to and watching that, most of it looks okay, but the head creeps up slowly from frame 0 (I set a default key on all sliders on frames 0, and 35 before I started, "capping the ends"). That slow creeping motion bugs me. What I decided to do was to hold the head lower until right before the first higher key. I set a low key (not super low, just a little bit lower than default) on frame 7. After that, just because I though it would look more like a pose and less like a drift, I put another similar low key on frame 2.

When you're animating the head to sync after the rest of the body has been animated, all these motions I'm describing can be applied on top of your existing posing. Just use the existing poses as the zero, or baseline, for the motions. Moving the head as part of sync can help you hold an overall body pose longer.


The order in which you animate the parts of the eyes and brows is less significant than with the actual lip-sync, but do try to animate some head tilts and the eyes first. With the eyes, there are a million ways to go. I'm going to pretend, for this scene, that the character is trapped in a box and is addressing no one, or a crowd-there's no specific person he's talking to. To show that, I'm going to have him look around some.

Eyes' and lids' animations should, in almost every case, have linear function curves, during both the motions and the holds.

I'm going to pick a few locations, basically at random, for the eye darts. Most eye darting, or looking around, happens perceptibly in the left to right more than the up and down, so I tend to favor picking locations closer to level. Eyes, as I mentioned earlier, go to places quickly and stick, so I tend to key into a pose, middle-mouse drag the time slider (to advance the time, but not the state), and set the same key again. I don't want to have the eyes move in timing with the tilts of the head; that would make the motions look like a dance. I moved the eyes (character) left on frame 3 and held them there only until frame 5; then on frame 7 moved them over to the right, holding that until frame 10, and finally brought them back to center on 13 and left them there for the duration of the scene. By having the character do most of the motion early and then centering for the last half, it creates the feeling that the character himself is wondering something, and asking that question of whoever he's looking at at the end, the only sustained position.

Created: March 27 2003
Revised: November 7, 2003