Have you ever wanted to make your cat sing? Did you ever want the furry ankle biter to say thank you for the roof, and the food? Well your luck might just have changed. As long as you have Crazy Talk 6 Pro installed on your computer, you can do just that.
Crazy Talk 6 Pro is a Facial Animation Creator from Reallusion, and can take any picture and make it speak, laugh, cry, and just about do anything you want. As long as you have a picture, you can even get Daisy Duke to tell you just how fantastically attractive you are. Ahem, except of course no-one would stoop that low.
Crazy Talk 6 Pro will cost you around £110.00, but there is a standard version for about £35.00. The difference between the two is the pro version will allow you to:
- Modify or create custom SFX
- Collect and edit Motion Clips as emotion library
- Solo feature control and key editor
- Create a custom puppet profile for full face control
- Full screen HD output
Got that? Jolly good. It will all make sense, trust me. Lets go through the kit and kaboodle, and see what we can make of Crazy Talk 6 Pro.
I’d like to start, if I may, at the beginning. Installation to be precise. Big yawns, and an even bigger, big fat hairy deal. I know, I would have thought the same, but I’m going to anyway.
Once you put the disk in, and if you have autorun enabled, you are confronted with the options to install, or go to various training and demo sites. It was my experience that the links to the sites did not trigger my browser, but it could just be me.
I chose the option to install, clever me. The install is a next, next, next, but with a choice or two to make. For example, you can choose where you would like to store your custom data, something I appreciate as it’s often the case that applications bury files in the application data on your C: drive.
Once Crazy Talk has been installed, you are confronted with a demo that can show you the basic usage of the programme, and get you used to some of the controls. There are also six other demos on the right hand side that show just what Crazy Talk 6 is capable of.
One of the new features of Crazy Talk 6 is that you can have multiple characters on screen at once, and have them hold a conversation, but I will just take you through creating a basic Crazy Talk 6 Video.
Meet Edmund, the ankle biting ingrate I alluded to earlier. He is going to be my test subject on this project. By clicking on the new project icon on the top task bar, you start with a blank page. Here you can import from the templates to the right, or you can click on the Model button on the task bar and import your own image. That is what I have elected to do.
From this window you can select to import either from a picture, or a web cam image. Unfortunately, I was unable to try the webcam option because Packard Bell has decided to bury the drivers for my webcam, and I have temporarily misplaced my CD, but that’s another story.
So you click on the picture button, and it launches the image processing wizard. From here you can crop, rotate, mirror, and adjust the colour levels and balance. I found that using the Smart Level button nearly always did a good job of bringing the subject out of the picture.
Clicking next processes your changes, and takes you to the Face Fitting wizard. This is where you can mark the points of the face that movement will be centred around. If it looks a bit basic, don’t worry, there are loads of chances to manipulate, and build on what you do here.
Click process, and before you know it, you are on to the Face Orientation section. Place the template over the face to match the orientation. They provide the templates you are more than likely going to need. Big nose, short snout, strong chin, and human, to name a few. All of which can be strengthened or weakened for greater or lesser effect.
Clicking OK drops you back to the main editing interface. Now remember that I said you can now go back and edit even more? Well in the main screen we can really dot the I’s and cross the T’s. Clicking on one of the more detailed facial mode buttons, here highlighted in yellow, you can get the wire mesh just right. There is a Calibration button here that instantly brings you creation to life, letting you see if the adjustments you make are making things better or worse. I found that with a bit of practice, you can get things looking quite reasonable without too much fiddling.
The next stage is to work on the eyes. Reallusion has introduced what they call Vivid Eye technology to Crazy Talk 6. This allows you to add moving eyes that are multi-layered with shine, colour, even lashes. Not that our cat has lashes, but never the less, you might want to put them in as any of this is optional.
There are five eye templates, Cartoon, Anime, Animal, Comic and Human. Each one containing different eyes to choose from. I went for cat, unsurprisingly enough. You can also create your own eyes by importing an image. That image is then wrapped around the eye template, and you have your eye. So I suppose you could even take a photo of you subjects eyes and use that. Not with my cat though.
Having selected your eye, you can then go on to choose the colour, lashes, eye optics, and even add some eye shadow.
Next on the list is teeth. Again you have different gnashers to choose from, and again you can import your own teeth if you so desire. Just like the eyes you have colour, mouth, and lips, plus their respective orientations.
A few other points that are worth a mention that I have not covered in this review are the ability to mask the background, and add your own if you wish. You have the ability to draw round your subject with a brush size of your choosing, and where the mask is, you can change the background to anything you like. While this feature is good, and should exist in a programme of this nature, I find they never work well with fur.
The other point is that you can set an idle setting, so when your animation is not doing anything, you can have them looking sad or peaceful, or any manner of emotional states. Nice for adding a touch of realism to your subject.
Now that all the work has been done to create your talking whomever, you can go into the Stage editor where you can build a script, and add dialogue. The main ways to do this are by importing from a sound file or recording your own audio if you have a microphone. You can even get Microsoft Sam to fill in for you if you want that robotic sound. Once you have some audio, drag it into the time line, and watch your creation speak.
Inevitably you might find that the lip synchronisation is a bit out, but this, and so many other parameters can be configured. Just above the time line, there are options for morphing the voice to pitch up or down or do the robot. Then you can configure the lip sync, using key lip shapes you can make your subject talk more naturally. You can edit the facial expressions as well, but not just to pre set patterns, you can literally tweak any of the muscles in the face to pull any expression you desire.
You can also add effects, change the eye settings, shoulder and head movement. All of which, you can tweak almost infinite amounts. And if that’s not enough for you, perhaps you would like to play with the puppet control feature that lets you move your mouse to have the head bob about at a whim. I perhaps I would have, if I could have got it to work. That’s may well be just yours truly than a fault of the application.
Finally, you may want to get your finished article out there to family or friends, or heaven forbid, the public at large. Well Crazy Talk 6 Pro has you covered. you can output in a tonne of formats, including flash files, .wmv, .avi, .mp4, Widgets. You can even fill in your YouTube account details, and have Crazy Talk upload directly, although I found I had a few difficulties, and was unable to manage this.
With all of the formats you are allowed to choose resolutions, and you can even pick HD if you want to. So there is simply no barrier to getting your creations out there. The only limit is your imagination.
The Gaj-It Verdict:
Unbelievable amount of configuration for you to get stuck into. One or two little quirks, but not enough to put me off. If you like your animation, then this is a serious consideration.