Animated Dictations

Type of Media: Animation (Face Puppetry – 4 Clips)
Completed: December 2009
Created by: Stephen Richards (narration, music, animation)

 

Video 1: Liberal Studies (www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kPfzRq5sHM)

These four dictations—our studio’s first products— were created to help Form One (Grade 7) students learn key terms in preparation for their examinations. Our students are native Cantonese speakers who take most of their subjects using English as a medium of instruction. In Primary Six, almost all students studied using Chinese/Cantonese as a medium of instruction, so when they start secondary school, many students will find it challenging to suddenly have to handle a lot of English vocabulary in their content subjects.

To make the dictations more interesting, I used a face puppetry programme called CrazyTalk 5 (www.reallusion.com/crazytalk/). With this programme, you simply select an image with a face (facing straight on), identify the position of the eyes, eyebrows, nose and mouth and input an audio file of some dialogue. The software then animates the lips and eyes to match the dialogue. You can finetune the movements so that the character moves exactly the way you want, but as this was first attempt at using the software, I mainly used the software programme’s presets.
The videos were posted on YouTube. After listening to the dictation and writing down the selected words, the students could the check the accuracy of their transciptions by clicking on the more info link.

 

Video 2: Integrated Science (www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZiDQFZOptg)

Like the cat in the first video, the character in this video is one of CrazyTalk’s pre-set characters. For this video, I added background music. The improvised song was played on the studio’s Korg MicroX keyboard and recorded using Goldwave. I mispronounced one of the words toward the end (ovulation should have a long ‘o’ at the beginning).

 

Video 3: Mathematics (www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xXJwk7UXFo)

For this video, the picture of the lion came from one of the studio’s clip-art collections. A jazz score was added using the Band-in-a Box midi arranger programme (www.pgmusic.com/). I simply typed in the chords for the verse of a song (Bernie’s Tune by Stoller, Lieber & Miller) a jazz fakebook. After selecting the style, instrumentation and tempo, I converted the song into a midi-file. I opened it in Cakewalk Sonar (www.cakewalk.com/products/homestudio/), a mulitrack-recording programme and had each part played back and recorded via the keyboard.

At the end of the video, when the lion’s head is going around (this part was custom-animated), the face is moving, but some parts of the head (e.g., the ears) remain stationery. I hadn’t been careful enough when lining up the animation points for the facial features.

 

The CrazyTalk software is quite easy to use. It took a few hours for me to make the first video as I was still feeling my way around the software. Once you learn how to use the programme, however, you can work much more quickly. It should only take a few minutes to do a simple animation.

 

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