Crazy Talk 7 review

Duncan Evans reviews CrazyTalk 7

The premise of CrazyTalk is to take a static image and add lip-synching and animation to it. With version 7 comes an added feature, that of whole facial animation and movement, which makes the entire project significantly more realistic than a static talking head. The interesting thing is that as well as 2D photos you can also load 3D models, but this is let down by limitations in the file formats supported. To take a photo though, there’s a process that needs to be followed to define all the features. This starts by marking out the face shape, eyes, mouth etc. There’s a few problems here. One is that the guide for positioning this is tiny, the other is that the actual mask is slightly different. There are previews to help refine the process, but the eyes simply don’t work because when you roll them upwards, you are exposing the whites that are out of view. In this app, it simply pulls up surrounding skin, whether you have included it or not. Also, after fitting out the face, it is cut out and added back over the original without blending the edges. It also isn’t that accurate. On top of that, there are issues with the background options not blending in and having tried some options, trying to restore the original background doesn’t work.

Fortunately the next stage is better, with the automatic lip-synching and importing of either a template or recorded speech working fairly well. The automatic motion and the motion templates here are a success, they really add to the effect. What’s even better is that as well as the general head movements and synching, you can then add specific movements into the mix like having the character sneeze, yawn or panic, while speaking. There’s no doubt that this all works better for illustrations than it does for photos, where the slightest flaw is immediately obvious. However, the results can be quite amusing and effective.

Rob Beattie reviews CrazyTalk 7

Crazy Talk is an inexpensive way to create animated talking heads – either for fun or to use as narrators in videos and presentations. For a spit over £20.00 you get the ability to animate one of the 11 included ‘actors’ (these include some predictable stereotypes - nagging wife, hen-pecked husband, sarcastic cat) or import your own photo, either from a file or the Mac’s camera, then define various key points around the eyes, nose, mouth and facial outline and save that as an actor. Once stored in Crazy Talk, actors can be animated in various ways and then exported for use elsewhere.

When using the included actors, the results are pretty good but when importing your own photos, things are much less predictable and unless you get lucky or are prepared to put some time into choosing a good base photo (face on, head and shoulders, open eyes, closed mouth, blank expression) and then mapping the face carefully, be prepared for some unexpected results.

As well as the standard view, it’s also possible to open the timeline and fine tune the audio and music tracks, as well as the animation itself. 

Version 7 ups the ante animation-wise and introduces much cleverer, more realistic facial movements that go far beyond just lip-synching – heads move forward and back, up and down, eyebrows rise and fall, while eyes widen and squeeze shut. Even more impressive, the software’s able to ‘listen’ intelligently to standard audio files and create facial animations based on what it ‘hears’ – thus, if your recording is  whispered, expect restraint from your Crazy Talk character, while if there’s lots of  shouting, laughing or even singing, it’ll throw its head back or lean forward when emphasis is required. 

In truth, Crazy Talk’s real world applications are fairly limited, but given the low cost of entry, creative types can just dig in with confidence and see how far they can take it. The technology’s impressive and at this price, there’s nothing to lose. 

Crazy Talk 7 includes 11 animated ‘actors’ each of which can be controlled in a range of expressive ways. 

OUR VERDICT

You can either see an application for an animated talking head or you can’t. If you can, then at just over £20.00 this is good value – easy to learn, quick to use and for anyone prepared to spend time importing and setting up their own ‘actors’, extremely effective.

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