Technology has always been aiding humans with its faster, smarter, and time-saving tactics. Speaking animated characters are a relatively new addition in this realm that’s proved to be really fruitful in any kind of presentation and representation. Many types of research and studies have been done to synthesize intellectual talking avatars capable of expressing human behaviors naturally. Although they are not completely successful, still they've brought AI technology to an unprecedented level.
Talking avatars are a great way to text-to-speech representations. While video content is a priority to obtain audience engagement for your business, your talking avatar will earn that for you. It will talk, it will blink, it will smile at your audience for you. Along with imitating your voice, a speaking animated character is capable of imitating each and every human gesture and movement.
Thus, instead of sending a textual notification, if you send an automated short video to your consumers having a talking avatar to speak for you, won’t they feel more engaged? Compared to some black letters, with such a video, they will feel a close connection with you.
Part1 Why You Will Need to Make a Talking Avatar
So, you must be wondering why you might need a talking avatar at all. Let’s discuss it elaborately depending upon distinguished factors –
Current Demand of the Marketplace:
If you can’t keep your pace with the current demand of the marketplace, with the horse race of the competition, you’ll be nowhere. Prevailing in nearly each and every domain, animated talking characters have been an unavoidable demand in the marketplace nowadays. When everyone else is reaping the harvest of this new phenomenon, you shouldn’t lag behind.
Get an Engaged Audience:
These talking avatars can keep engaged any age group starting from children to adults. These characters are relatively new. As they are not human, still engaging in human traits, it makes them a subject of attraction.
Interaction with the Visitors:
Virtual talking avatars have substantial communication abilities. They can potentially interact with your audience, visitors, and consumers both verbally and non-verbally using their voice, tones, facial expressions, hand gestures, head motions, eye contact, etc.
Customer and Technical Support:
Speaking animated characters are effectively being used to greet, attend to, and aid in the queries of the visitors of a website. This is the reason that many electronic devices starting from computers, smartphones, game consoles, kiosks, pads, etc. are taking the benefits of this unprecedented technology.
Speaking Animated Characters in Virtual Reality:
In a social virtual reality environment, where you can communicate and collaborate with users from different physical locations, animated avatars can be used for both verbal and nonverbal communication.
Train Your Staff:
Numerous companies, websites, and applications are currently using talking avatars for the purpose of providing training. You can release personalized e-learning courses by leveraging talking animated avatars to train your staff or for any generic training purpose.
Talking Avatars in the Field of Education:
Since COVID broke out, the education field has been taken over by online video platforms. In such a case, while classroom teaching is still not possible to be implemented like before, teaching and learning through the medium of animated talking avatars can be really fruitful. Virtual e-learning platforms are already making use of talking avatars to engage learners.
Part2 Talking Avatars in Gaming and Filming:
Gaming is the inaugurating domain to use animated characters. In online gaming, it is very common to use a talking animated character as a representative of the user. As the online gaming industry is growing really faster, the potential need for intelligent talking avatars is also growing with that.
Furthermore, it is really crucial for the filming industry to use talking avatars to create special effects for the audience.
Animated Characters and Talking Therapy:
An emerging digital technology based on avatar-centered virtual reality therapy includes talking therapy that is used to assist young people familiar with digital technologies. Two case studies of young people using an avatar-based virtual reality therapy provided by a software package called ProReal show that virtual talking avatars can be used in psychological clinical practices to get productive results.
Storytelling for Children:
Children love stories as well as cartoon characters. When you combine both of these, their learning can be even more productive. Presently, numerous YouTube channels are seen to be working on this concept.
Part3 How to Create Smooth Head Turns in 2D with Cartoon Animator?
Cartoon Animator, along with Adobe After Effects, can help you easily and efficiently create a talking avatar. They allow you to use your own designs and enhance the effects while creating a customized talking character
In this part, you’ll be guided to create smooth head turns in 2D animation with Cartoon Animator. It is a user-friendly animation program convenient even for a newbie. You can start by downloading a free trial version of the software.
Cartoon Animator and After Effects (that will be discussed in the next part) offer you various different styles including comic figures, animals, and paintings, with which, you can create your avatar using default characters. Alternatively, you can create your own character too.
While starting with Cartoon Animator, you’ll get the library of character templates, heads, and body shapes that you can use as a starter in its Content Manager section. Click on the Window tab to access the Content Manager or press F4 on your keyboard. Once you enter Content Manager, select the Actor tab. Now, click on Template to browse through various types of character templates, heads, body types, and accessories required to make your animated avatar.
So now, follow the following steps to create smooth head turns for your speaking animated character.
Step1 Base Bone
As basic support to create a custom character head, you have to start with a Bone. To add a base bone, go to Actor Template under Template. There, click on Character, then on G3, then on 5_G3 Free Bone, and then finally on Base Bones.
Now, click on the bone and drag and drop it on the stage window. You can change the size of the bone if required by clicking and dragging on the pointers.
Step2 A Template Head
At first, turn on Composer Mode. To do so, click on the button at the top left corner of the stage preview window.
After you switch to Composer Mode, go to Content Manager and pick a template head to use for your character. Suppose, to choose Red_S2 from the varied options provided, go to Head Template. From there, click on Head, then on _G3 360, and then eventually on Red_S2.
Now, drag and drop the selected head on the Bone inside the stage preview window. You can increase the size of the head if needed by dragging on the pointers.
Step3 360 Head Creator
Cartoon Animator’s 360 Head Creator is the main factor allowing your animated character head its 360 degree smooth and natural motion.
To switch to 360 Head Creator, click on the Head Creator button shown on the left toolbar. Alternatively, you can go to Modify > 360 Head Creator.
Now, you’ll land on 360 Head Creator and can make desired changes to your 2D head along with managing its look from different angles.
To preview the applied effects, click on Angle Points. It will show 9 angle points being up, down, left, right, center, and one for each corner.
By clicking on the Preview button at the bottom left corner, you can preview how your character head would look during animation. To check, just move your mouse pointer inside the angle box, and your template head will imitate the movement of the mouse. This is helpful to figure out prospective flaws in its movement.
In this step, you will either create a customized head directly or will import your own custom head assets from your system. This tutorial will elaborate on how you can use your own custom head to create your speaking animated character. For this, go to the Sprite (I) tab within the 360 Head Creator.
To import your custom head, click on the particular element of the face you want to import from within Sprite (I).
The asset or element of the head you click on, for instance, the Face, Mouth, Right Eye, Left Eye, Nose, Left Brow, Right Brow, etc., will be highlighted within a thin green box.
To select assets within the face, you can click on the bone reference points indicated by yellow crosses.
Now, click on the Replace button. And then from the newly opened window, browse for your replacement asset from your system files.
Click on your selected asset and click on Open, and the element will be imported. You can then adjust the position of the element to fit the character head by dragging it with your mouse.
With this process, you can replace all the assets of the custom head.
N.B.: You’ll come across varied assets for certain elements like mouth and the eyes such as PuckerLip, OpenLip, Normal, MouthOpen, SmileOpen, ShowTeeth, etc.
To remove unwanted elements after the replacement of the assets, first, select the element, and then click on the Delete button in the 360 Head Creator.
Step5 Adding Extra Elements
Adding extra elements to your custom head will help to personalize it even more efficiently. For example, you can make your custom head wear a pair of glasses. Or, you can customize its front hair or back hair.
To start, close 360 Head Creator and click on the Layer Manager tab at the bottom right corner of the screen.
Click on the Add Image button shown as the + button visible at the bottom within Layer Manager.
In the newly opened window, browse for the replacement asset from your computer system. Select the element you want to import and click on Open. It will be added to your custom head.
Adjust the size and position of the element as per the requirement of your custom head by dragging on the pointers.
If needed, you can change the layer order for your imported element to change its position.
To further polish your animated character head, return to the 360 Head Creator.
Click on one of the Angle Points.
Now, click on the element(s) that needs further adjustment. To make the adjustments, you can either use the Transform or the Deform tool as per your requirement.
You might need to adjust the layer order to make the elements fit correctly with the custom head.
Use the Mirror effect by clicking on the Mirror button to make the adjustments identical on both sides. While using the Mirror effect, make sure to select the following Mirror options:
● Mirror Target: All
● Mirror With: Transform, Deform, Sprite
Repeat the process with all the angles until you complete it with the whole head.
Step7 Adding Animation
Switch to Content Manager.
Click on the Animation tab that will lead you to the library of different animations you can apply to your talking character head.
Suppose, for example, you want to use a Sad animation for your character. To do so, switch to Animation Template, click on Face, then on _G3 360, and then finally select Female_S_Sad.
Now, click and drag the animation onto your character head. Once you do so, the animation will automatically start on your character head. If otherwise, you can click on the Play button visible at the bottom of the screen.
Step8 Exporting to After Effects
So, you’re ready to export your fully animated custom character head to Adobe After Effects to enhance your animation effects further.
To export, click on the After Effects button visible on the top toolbar. Alternatively, you can switch to Render, and from there, click on Export to After Effects.
Now, click on the Download Script button to download the script that you’ll need to install in Adobe After Effects.
Unzip the Zip file to install the script into After Effects. After that, paste the file Cartoon Animator – AE Script (Beta).jsx to the ScriptUI Panels folder. In case this folder doesn’t exist, create a folder with this name.
So, you are all ready to export your speaking animated head into After Effects. Now, select your animated custom head by clicking on Select Subject(s), select the resolution and frame size under the Export Settings, choose the export range and determine the quantity of your timeline you wish to export into Adobe After Effects.
Finally, click on Export and choose the destination for the file to get exported. And you are all done.
Part4 How to Create Smooth Head Turns in 2D With After Effects?
Adobe After Effects will help you enhance the animation effects for your recently created custom character head with Cartoon Animator. To follow this tutorial, you'll be needing the following graphic packs from Envato Elements –
● Employee Design
● 2D Cartoon Elements | Motion Graphics Pack
So, let’s get started.
Step1 Importing the File
So, start with importing your created animation into the software.
To import, click on Windows, and then select Cartoon Animator - AE Script (Beta).jsx.
Then, click on the Import Project (JSON) button on the new panel and browse for the project you want to import. Choose the JSON file that you exported from Cartoon Animator.
Following that, your animated character head will open up in Adobe After Effects. Now you are all set to further add enhancing effects to your talking avatar with After Effects.
Step2 Scene Composition
To open Scene Composition, go to Project Panel and double click on Scene Composition. You can do it alternatively from the currently open composition.
Step3 Hiding the Background
To hide the current background, click on the Eye icon next to the background layer.
Step4 New Background Creation
Click on Layer to create a new background layer. Then, go to New > Solid (Control – Y). Now, pick a new RGB color for the background.
The new solid layer should be at the bottom of the layer stack. Moreover, make sure that the new color appears in the preview window.
Step5 Transition Effect
With After Effects, you can add transition effects for your character head by downloading and extracting an animation transition pack from Envato Elements. However, you are free to use your own footage too. Follow these guidelines to use an extracted animation transition pack from Envato Elements.
Switch to File to import one of the extracted video files into After Effects. From there, click on Import > File. Alternatively, you can click and drag the video into the Project Panel.
From the Project Panel, drag the extracted footage into the Scene Composition. Position the video layer at the top of the layer stack to appear on top of the turning head animation.
You can resize and reposition the video until it is perfect. And then, you are ready with your newly created speaking animated character.
So, if you want to grab your audience’s attention for longer, this guide will prove to be helpful to you. By combined use of this two effective software, you can efficiently create a talking avatar that will work up to your as well as your audience’s satisfaction level.
1. What is closed captioning?
As explained earlier, closed captions in a video can be enabled or disabled as required, and can even be formatted for improved visibility or to match the theme of the video. Closed captions for a video are saved in an independent file, typically with the *.srt extension.
2. How to deal with the auto-caption process failure?
While making auto-captioning, you can try to stop the transaction process if the program fails to recognize it. Then launch and sign in to the software again and check your transaction time.