Voice-O-Matic by Di-o-matic is a plugin tool for 3Dstudio Max that allows you to automate the process of lip-synching by using sound files and pre-defined mouth shapes. Once you have created morph targets for all the different mouth shapes (visemes), by completing 5 easy steps Voice-O-Matic will automatically generate lip-sync animation based off your supplied sound file.
Voice-O-Matic uses Phoneme-based recognition at the core of its lip synching engine: Phonemes are the basic building blocks of speech, and Voice-O-Matic can recognize up to 40 different Phonemes. The visual representation of a Phoneme is called a Viseme. Voice-O-Matic offers you a unique approach by defining relationships between Phonemes and Visemes, as it is quicker and easier to map different Phonemes from the same family to one Viseme.
Voice-O-Matic is extremely easy to use and using either the Wizard or working through the stages manually it is a breeze.
The first stage though is all down to you. For each Viseme you will need to make sure you have a corresponding channel in your Morpher modifier (your base model with different mouth shapes). As a default Voice-O-Matic offers a preset of 9 Visemes so having a corresponding 9 channels is a good start. For a full explanation on using the morph modifier refer to the tutorials for lip synching located under help files within 3Dstudio Max.
Working through the Wizard.
First select your sound Wave file. You could try to use only a sound file to link to your morpher channels but I would not recommend this, Voice-O-Matic allows a second level of data via a text file. You can input this directly and it really helps the accuracy of the final lip synch. The best advice I can give at this point is if Voice-O-Matic ever gives you the opportunity to save information do it. So once you have inputted your text, save it. I found when you press that render button all data and links you have put in Voice-O-Matic will be lost if you have not saved files on the way.
The next stage is to specify which visemes go with which phonemes. It sounds complicated but it is not and is easily set up. Okay, a word of warning this is the point where you will find yourself making strange faces in the mirror as you work out how your face would look as you mouth the sound "TH" or "AE". The next stage is to choose which animation track you want to be used for key framing each viseme. In this example we are using a morph target track, however you have the ability to choose any animation track as long as it has a bezier float controller applied to it. So those who like to control rigs and facial movement via bone systems alone will not find this a restriction.
We now get to the automated part, click on Process Lip sync and then Create Keys. A good tip here is to make sure "Always Key All Tracks" is checked. If checked, each animation track picked in the Viseme Mapping rollout will be keyframed. This feature is useful if you wish to tweak the animation later on by just moving key frames on the 3Dstudio Max Trackbar, or if you wish to change a phoneme's magnitude. I assure you, you will want to be able to have this flexibility.
You can now check your animation, make further enhancements in Max such as head movements, add more facial expression and obviously rolling eyes and blinking.
Below you will be able to see a preview animation produced with Voice-O-Matic. It is rough and ready and I make no apologies for that but rather than show a completed animation which would have taken hours of tweaking and adjustment this shows what can be produced in one hour including the time needed to set up all the Morpher channels.
ANIMATION in WMV format
To improve the results in this example, adjustment to the base model files facial shapes and the addition of more phonemes is required but once that has been set up and the animation results are as required everything can be saved, then all future projects only require the imported sound file and text to generate the animation.
There is a lot of information available at Di-O-Matic's website including video demonstrations and details on complimentary products and I would have to say it is well worth a visit.
Is this plug-in worth the purchase? Well I would have to say a big yes, it is simple to use, it is integrated very well into 3Dstudio Max, it is an incredible time saver and if you look under the hood gives a lot of control.