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WoodWork - Character Dialogue

WoodWork - Character Dialogue

Mark Morris
by FlyingPotato on 25 Oct 2023

An 11 second cut-out 2D character dialogue and acting project to learn lip-syncing and character animation in ToonBoom Harmony.

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WoodWork - 2D Dialogue and Character Animation


The goal of this project was to create a ~11 second character dialogue and acting animation. The project was a introduction into lip-syncing and character acting on a three week deadline whilst solidifying my ToonBoom Harmony foundations.


The first step of a lip-sync animation is knowing what dialogue you're supposed to animate! For this I turned to a favourite show of mine, [Strange Hill High] by Yoshimi & Katoi (Kat Van Henderson) and Josh Weinstein with CBBC, Factory and FremantleMedia. Out of the many funny quips and moments I wanted to use, I still had to ensure my project was kept reasonable for a three week deadline (). That meant no representations of 10-dimensional space-time and less rapid conversation with fewer characters!

In the end I chose a clip between two characters discussing their woodwork project where one teases the other with a tongue twister. This kept it to two characters, left theoretical physics at the door (this time) and even had a tongue twister to reduce the overall number of words and sounds I had to translate!

Now storyboarding could begin.

From this point I used feedback at every stage to help build up and refine my ideas. I also had not yet chosen which character rigs I wanted to use so instead used placeholder designs to help communicate their personalities for now. My first storyboard [A] was a shot-reverse-shot between the two characters with quite extreme camera angles. I liked the poses in [A] but the cuts at each character's line proved too jarring in motion and the dialogue didn't warrant such confrontational framing. Storyboard [B] so evolved to block the characters side-by-side in a friendlier manner with no cuts needed, however, I felt I lost the strong posing from [A] and both were rather location-less. Finally storyboard [C] was made to take the lessons from both; It sought to place the characters in more context, keep the clearer blocking and enforce their buddy dynamic.


The initial plan in mind whilst storyboarding was to use ToonBoom character rigs that roughly shared the personalities of the story's characters. After storyboarding I experimented with several rigs and even began trying to morph some into shape. I had, however, fallen in love with my little quick sketched characters and struggled to find rigs that could fill their shaped personalities.

The solution?

Well make them into rigs of course! (Did I mention trying to keep the project reasonable earlier?)

But before we jump the gun, lets bake these characters a little more. Firstly, they need names. How about Deepy, for the large slow square one, and Highpy, for the small zippy circle one. Now an environment, lets go with a workshop where they can build their woodwork project. From here I continued to experiement with different shapes, colours and details. From this and feedback I found a watercolour bleed art style and washed-out colours. And it continued to shift and morph as the project continued.

With storyboard set, characters designed and backgrounds drawn; the only thing left in pre-production was to make my rigs (funny how a project seems to grow). Whilst rigging in ToonBoom wasn't entirely new to me for this project, the previous rig experimenting this project was my first exposure to industry standard rigs and some new techniques. I took the new parts of those rigs and went to learn and implement them myself. As this project is primarily focussed on lip-syncing, I also needed to create mouth charts for Deepy and Highpy.


Time to animate!

Animation begins with getting the key poses and timing from the animatic and storyboard with the rigs. From there they were broken down and inbetweened. For Deepy and Highpy I animated them to contrast in the way they move. Deepy is done with twos and threes to further his slow and limited energy. Highpy contrasts with tweened animation to go with his bouncy and fast motion.

Final Animation

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