Saturday, December 17, 2011

Phonemes, Morph Targets, and the Study of Expression

A few years back, I was writing dialog for a cat with a Scottish accent. He was from the Richard Longtails series. His name was Finlay McFinn. At the time I was having trouble bringing out his unique accent without it being too distracting. It seemed that I was either overdoing it, or not doing it enough. 
(It’s a delicate line to walk.)

Anyways, because I was having so much trouble, I decided to do a study of pronunciation through TTC.  It was a short course, but at the time it didn’t really help much with my writing.  I remember how the instructor emphasized his words. He would explain how all these different shapes and muscles in our faces could produce the sounds that we use to make speech.

I found it kind of fascinating, but it also felt rather pointless. After the course was done, I walked away thinking: “Speech is a natural thing, why am I studying this?”

I guess you could make the argument that any knowledge is good knowledge, if applied in the right situation. But at the time, I couldn't fathom an application to where I’d be using this information; I hadn’t a clue that I would be pursuing animation, so the thought never occurred to me.

Now as I’m faced with the task of rigging morph targets for characters, I’m pleased to have taken that course, because now I have an underlying concept of what’s going on (physically) when someone say’s something. 

For me, morph targets are new ground. It will be interesting to see them in action. 

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