Timing for music video/animation

I'm one of those who bleats about markers being added to HF. However, given that they've yet to be added, how does everyone else time their animations (or any vfs come to that) accurately to coincide with a pre-recorded soundtrack? Any neat tips?


  • I just use a mix of my ears, eyes, and the two-frame rule.

    If I can clearly see via the clip's/layer's waveform (assuming it's turned on, of course) where a sound occurs that I want to match, I'll use that to start.  Even if I can't, though, I'll still step-frame through the general target area with the keyboard (comma and period keys) and listen for the snippet of sound I want.  (I did this for years as a character animator to work out timing for lip sync, so I'm used to picking out what I want from the fragment that plays on each frame.)  Once I've found the frame, I'll step two frames earlier and make my change there.  Because of the way that our brains process sight vs sound, having visual changes happen two frames before an associated audio change typically feels the most in-sync.  However, sometimes I'll shift earlier or later by a frame after testing my change via a test render or preview.

    If markers ever get added, I'm sure I'd use them, but probably not that much for things that need to be sound-synced, as I'd still end up using the above technique to figure out where to put the marker.  However, if I had several things that all needed to match the same timing based on something in the soundtrack, laying one marker down and then using that as reference would sure beat scrolling through layers to remind myself when something happens.

  • Thanks JS. I'm actually trying to do what you spent years doing - making a snowman sing along to a vocal only soundtrack (it's just an animated ellipse for the mouth, nothing fancy). I'm much more used to cutting to the beat of a music track where more percussive sounds make the waveform spikes (and where to cut) more obvious. But I've generally done this in Vegas so am used to markers - I've found tapping along gives a better "feel" for where to cut than where the beat appears in the waveform.

    Mimicking voices is more tricky (as I'm learning)  - it takes several frames for a mouth to open to form certain sounds and at which point to start/finish the movement is, at the moment anyway, trial and error. The two frame advance you mention is a useful pointer. However, I'm sure if I could see clearly where the beat falls, I'd get a quicker start.

    Maybe I'll just record an audio track of me tapping a pencil on the desk, in sync with the voice and use that waveform.

  • That reminds me. I produced some tutorials years ago (dig dig dig...2004? Wow...) all about lip sync.  They were originally sold as a 2 CD-ROM set, then I moved them to an educational streaming site when the distribution company stopped selling them and reverted all rights back to me.  That streaming site went belly-up a couple years ago, and I've been meaning to release the whole shebang on YouTube for free, but keep forgetting it among so many other things.  This made me think of it, though, in part because one of the demos I did was animating a simple flat VeggieTales-style mouth shape.  The process would be a little different for a simple oval, but many of the techniques would still apply.

    Another part of the delay in re-releasing them is due to the need to convert the files, as they used a long-outdated codec.  I just tested one with MPEG Streamclip, though, and it reads it just fine, so conversion to  something YouTube friendly should be easy.  I just need to re-do some of the intro elements and I can probably kick this thing out to YouTube fairly soon...ish...

    If you're interested, I'll keep you posted.

  • @DigitalBlast has a tutorial on his YouTube channel of his workaround. Short version, create a track and drop colored planes on it to define regions. Not optimal but actually works pretty well. 

  • @jsbarrett I'd certainly be interested if you ever do get around to  posing these.  As would many others, I'm sure.

    @triem23 do you mean this https://youtu.be/IwLX7QdipQc ? I've seen the tecnique before but the problem remains - getting the timing of the coloured planes in the right place (If I could do that, I could put the key frames in the right place )

    I find it fascinating how we work in different ways. I can't live without markers (possible exaggeration here) - yet others just cannot see the need for them. Shortly I'll be editing a few primary school Christmas productions shot during two of three performances containing songs sung to backing tracks. Line up the video/audio for each performance, tap along to the beat to create markers, ensure all cuts are made on the markers - a nice an easy way to cut seamlessly between performances. 

  • Yeah, that's the video I meant. I'm on an Explorer Vessel leaving South Georgia Island right now with limited internet, and attempting YouTube makes the system just say "not enough bandwidth," or I'd have posted it.;)  

    I guess with planes you'd have to do an entire pass through your master timing file to lay in planes before progressing to the main edit. A bit of a pain.

    I feel ya here. I'm awaiting markers with baited breath. Hitfilm is my primary compositor, VFX and animation tool, but Vegas Pro remains my primary editor--because I use lots of markers. Sorry I can't be of more help. 

Sign in to comment