If you’ve spent time online, you’ve no doubt heard of Skillshare, a fast-growing online community for learning and teaching creative skills. The e-learning site connects expert practitioners with students around the world who wish to enhance their skillsets across various creative fields, including among them, animation production.
Skillshare recently got in touch with Cartoon Brew and asked us to review one of their animation classes. We agreed, and immediately upon doing so, realized the enormity of the task. That’s because Skillshare offers literally hundreds of animation courses, ranging anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours – each of them designed to teach a skill that can be applied in animation production, from developing stories and character designs to crafting animation and vfx in After Effects, Maya, Cinema 4D, and other popular software packages.
We ultimately settled on a lip sync course — “Simple Character Lip Sync” — taught by Fraser Davidson. We wanted to put the course to the ultimate test, so we invited a New York animator with fifteen years’ worth of experience in television animation and commercials to offer her thoughts on the program.
First, let’s take a look at the trailer below for Fraser’s course. If you want to try the entire course for free (along with the hundreds of other animation courses), you can receive 2 months of Skillshare Premium for FREE through this Cartoon Brew promo code.
Now, let’s see if the lesson impresses a seasoned pro in New York’s demanding animation scene. Here are her thoughts:
Fraser’s lip sync tutorial is a crash course in rigging a 2D character in After Effects, yet it also provides a solid intro for animators looking to explore the character animation possibilities of After Effects.
The course’s introduction offers an insight into the style, humor, and personality of the artist. Fraser’s smooth, stylized approach to character animation looked like fun, and it made me want to continue watching the next video in the series.
Fraser’s approach is to create pre-made assets in Illustrator (though an artist could also choose to create those assets in another application of their choice). He then sets it up in After Effects to allow as easy and efficient workflow as possible for dialogue.
It’s important to stress that this is a very stylized approach to character animation. Most of us working within the schedule/budget constraints of fast-paced commercial animation don’t have the time for beautiful frame-by-frame animation. We love Richard Williams, but we can’t all be him. So Fraser’s approach will certainly prove useful to animators who want to earn a paycheck in the commercial world. And his skills as an animator and compositor prove that this stylized approach can be done well.
One of the hardest areas of lip sync is preparing the right mouth positions. Fraser draws out all the mouth positions and their proper phoneme in the course, which I found both helpful and informative. He also explains how to break down the mouth positions to the audio in After Effects, which can go quickly after the rigging process.
Artists who are new to 2D rigging in After Effects will find this course useful. It effectively applies some of the most important tools for After Effects animation, including parenting, time-remapping, sequencing layers, and toggle hold key frames. Fraser also explains how to animate with strokes generated in After Effects, which is nice because it doesn’t require having to create animation assets in another software.
Fraser is organized, and incorporates naming layers and mouth positions in his demonstration. While professional work habits are not a focal point of the lesson, his tips will be helpful for anyone looking to work in a studio environment.
Bonus time: Fraser is British, which makes his narration a pleasure to listen to. I should mention though that he says a couple of toilet words, so it might be wise to watch this class with the children out of earshot. But more importantly, his style of instruction is clear, easy to understand, and paired with the right dose of humor. Animators looking for a time/cost-efficient approach to animating dialogue will absolutely want to watch this course.
So there you have it. If this lesson sounds interesting, you can try out Skillshare through a special deal exclusively for Cartoon Brew readers who can receive 2 months of Skillshare Premium for free. The trial offers access to both Fraser’s course as well as the hundreds of other Skillshare animation lessons.
To see Skillshare’s full line-up of animation courses, head on over to their website.