Lip sync is an art in and of itself, and a difficult skill to gain proficiency at. I remember as a 2D animator how frustrating it was. We would erase and redraw mouths over and over until we wore holes into our paper. Good lip sync is not a matter of simply hitting all the phonemes on the exposure sheet. That produces a very unnatural feel. Good lip sync is like edgework in a painting. If all the edges in the painting are sharp the painting takes on a very flat and unnatural feel. Edges must be balances between hard, soft and then lost edges. In animation we need to know when to hit the shape hard, then soft, and where to put the slurs, and then when to let them disappear.
Now we must consider singing, since our show is mostly song. Singing is not the same as lip sync. There are similarities, but it rises to a whole new register. We will spend a number of posts to consider many of the key elements to what we will refer to as “song-sync.”
I would encourage you to begin watching video’s of singers singing. The best performances to watch are the more demanding songs, such as opera. The more demanding, the more of an extreme show the performer will make of their entire body. Some singers like Andrea Bocelli, who I love, is so gifted in singing that he is deadpan in his face and body. Not a good subject to study. Pavaratti is a much better subject because he is very articulate, and the mustache round his mouth makes his articulations visible as very strong shapes. Choral works are very helpful. Camera’s will pan across row of choral vocalists giving us a great opportunity to observe similarities and differences in enunciation and breathing between performers. Any professionally recorded Broadway stage performance will provide a great learning experience because of the wide variety of song types that will be in a language you understand.
One final note. Singing requires the whole body. One reason singer’s stand is because their posture affects their performance. Rappers take it to an extreme. Don’t just watch their lips. Watch their eyes, their shoulders, their weight shifts on their legs. When they move, take note how they move and when they move.
If we can rise to animating good song-sync on our characters, they will jump into a whole new world.