Animation: Reallusion CrazyTalk 5 - Photo Puppet Moviemaker

User Rating:  / 0
PoorBest 

reallusion_crazytalk_5In the past I have been put off the idea of computer based animation software due to the relative complexity and the long hours of tutorials needed to get to grips with the software.  However, we were recently given the chance to have a look at the new release of CrazyTalk by Reallusion.  Reallusion CrazyTalk 5 is the latest release of the software and it has severely changed my preconceptions of computer animation software.

CrazyTalk 5 allows users to create 3D talking characters from photos, drawings, illustrations.  Any face can be animated with a voice or soundtrack (either from the included library, in built text-to-speech software, or from your own recordings) which is automatically lip-synced in time with the sounds.  In addition further emotive gestures can be given to your creation using a simple real-time puppertry interface (i.e. dragging the mouse around the screen to give various expressions around a certain theme e.g. angry, happy, sad etc).  The final "product" can be used for anything including your own movie or cartoon production, making amusing caricatures of friends and family or even web videos (youtube etc).

The thing that really amazed me about CrazyTalk was the simplicity of use.  Included with the software is a set of templates that allow for easy adaptation or creation of new characters and all that is required for creating your own character is a  reasonable photo or scanned ilustration of a face.  The software them gives a simple interface for fitting a virtual wireframe around the facial contours (eyes, nose, head shape and mouth) and the face them comes to life!  In order to give slightly more "realism" an advanced facial settings menu allows modifications and additions to the eyes, teeth and mouth so that when the model is speaking is it appears more natural.

reallusion_crazytalk_5_screenshot_2

Once you are happy with the model of your character it is time to move on to the script. If you are starting with a new script you can import your own sound recording or use the text-to speech option and the software will autofit the lip-sync to the sound profile which it does rather well. This script can then either be directly edited or an "emotive" applied to the model (emotions and in some cases emotions and props!).  The timeline option however allows for more customisation of the character, where you can again either use an existing script, such as an Elvis impersonation or Austin Powers style script (if you don't need anything different) or you can create a completely new script.

To give the puppet expressions whilst talking, the real-time puppetry interface comes into its own, allowing the user to take control over the each individual aspect of the puppet (such as the eyes, mouth or shoulders) and edit these alongside the soundtrack in real time.  Alternatively predetermined motion clips can be dropped into the script timeline to portray your chosen emotion, such as grumpy, nervous etc. See our modest attempt below!

Once the animation if optimised to the your taste, CrazyTalk give the option to export the video in a number of formats either video (optimised for Youtube, Mobile or TV), sequential image files (.bmp or .tga) or web optimised (flash, RM or WMV) allowing for publication almost anywhere!

Each aspect of the program is incredibly well documented either in the included helpfile or through a series of over 100 clips online that show how to get the best of each feature (excuse the pun!) and simplify the whole process.

We reviewed the standard package of CrazyTalk 5 which certainly provides enough options for the beginner or intermediate animator.  For those wanting more tools for facial animation, the professional version really expands on the options described in this review for the real-time puppeteering - allowing for finer control over facial muscles etc.

Despite all of the options,  the character that is created will always appear to be somewhat alien, so don't expect to be making real life scenes where the characters look incredibly life-like.  However this is a really good piece of software and we had great fun playing with and modifying peoples faces for our own mini production pieces!  This software would appeal to any level of expertise, from young kids wanting to make their own animations of storybook characters to more professional film makers or web editors wanting to put a bit more interest into their animations or create site guides etc.

We reviewed the standard package of CrazyTalk 5 which certainly provides enough options for the beginner or intermediate animator.  For those wanting more tools for facial animation, the professional version really expands on the options described in this review for the real-time puppeteering - allowing for finer control over facial muscles etc.

Available from:

Amazon: Crazy Talk 5 (PC)