Breaking down a soundtrack is not too difficult once you get used to it. It does however take a lot of concentration and a lot of time.
Heres how it goes. Once you have your soundtrack recorded, edited, and properly timed out you can then go about the process of breakdown. Breakdown simply put is finding out exactly what sound is being made on every frame. To do this properly you need to have the soundtrack opened in something like Premier.
This section will describe the process in Premier.
Step 1 - Make Copies of the Exposure Sheets
First you will need to make copies of the blank exposure sheet.
Step 2 - Label the Exposure Sheets
I personally like to get all the labeling work done ahead of time so that when you are deep into listening to the track and figuring out the sounds you dont need to worry about numbering the frames.
Start by finding out how many frames there are in the scene you will be working on. Lets pretend there are 253 frames. Thats the same as 10 1/2 seconds, or 10 seconds 12 frames. To calculate the number of seconds in your scene just divide the number of frames by 24.
When you first created the project file in Premier, you may or may not have noticed that you had the option to set the frames per second at either 24 or 30. The default is 30 frames per second (fps). For our purposes, 24 frames would be better as that is the animation industry standard for timing for film. With the advent of computers, some people animate to 30 fps which requires you to alter your overall perception of time in frames and can create some awkward timing charts. 24 can be divided evenly down to 2: 24 ÷ 2 = 12, 12 ÷ 2 = 6, 6 ÷ 3 = 2. 30 cant be divided evenly down to 2: 30 ÷ 2 = 15. You cant divide 15 in half. 15 ÷ 3 = 5 but you cant divide 5 by anything.
Go to PROJECT then SETTINGS and select GENERAL. Set the TIMEBASE to 24 fps
If the Timebase option is locked or only shows: 30 frames / second, you will have to open a new project from scratch and then select the "24 frames / second" option (it's actually 23.976 frames / second).
Under "Available Presets" click on "DV - 24P" and choose "Standard 48KHz" then in the Description window it will say "For Editing 23.976 fps..." Select the location you want to save the project in the lower option windows and give it a name then click on "O.K."
In the right side column with the numbers from 1 - 9 then 0 and then repeating again, write in the 10s numbers on every other frame. So, for the first 9 frames, leave them blank and then add a 1 in front of the first 0 to make it 10 then 11, then 13, 15, 17, 19, 20, 21 and so on up to 253 (or whatever the final frame in your scene is).
Next label the page numbers: page 1 of 9, 2 of 9, 3 of 9, etc. Now staple the exposure sheets together in order. Now youre all set to begin the soundtrack breakdown.
Step 4 - Listen to the Soundtrack
With the soundtrack opened in Premier, it should be sitting in the audio tracks.
If you havent rendered the project or saved it yet, do so now. To render, simply press the enter key. DO NOT mix the tracks together!!
If you have multiple tracks with sound effects and music, turn these tracks off so you cant hear them. Itll make listening to just the voices much easier.
Listen to the vocal soundtrack several times before you start the physical process of breaking it down. This will help you to understand the overall timing and refresh your memory as to the dialogue being delivered.
Using the cursor to grab and move the time slider and find the very first sound of dialogue. Look at the frame count then find the corresponding frame on your exposure sheet. If the first sound begins on frame 53, find it on the exposure sheet. Here comes the fun part now. Using the cursor you need to scrub the track. Its just like when you are scrubbing out a dirt stain with a cloth, you rub back and forth over it. You do the same thing with the soundtrack. You move the cursor back and forth over the word on the track to hear when different sounds hit. Its kinda hard at first but when you practice a bit youll start to get it. Take a look at the video example on the DVD titled Scrubbing the Track to see me doing this.
As you go through the track, listening to the different sounds, take note of where the sound begins and ends and mark this down on the exposure sheet accordingly. These notations will be your guide for later on when you begin to match up the drawings and mouth positions.
When you listen to the track and write down the words, dont write it as its actually spelled, rather write it as it sounds. This is called Phonetics. Most of us learned how to read this way, by sounding out the words as we read them. If you look back at the section on What Is Lip Sync?, youll see how all words are broken down into sounds called vowels and consonants.
Work your way through the soundtrack until everything has been broken down completely. It may sound redundant, but you really should go back over the whole track and double check to make sure you havent made any errors. An error at this point will cost you big time later on when youre animating. Its much easier to find it now rather than later on in the middle of the drawing stage. I've had students who didn't accurately breakdown their sound and went on to animation. When they tried to match their drawings up according to the exposure sheets, it wouldn't sync up and they would get upset about this. I'd take their exposure sheets and scrub through the track only to find out their original breakdown was wrong. One student was off by 7 frames at the end of the first word. Another student did the breakdown but instead of figuring it out on two's, they had it on one's for some unknown reason, so their animation drawings were twice as fast as the sound. Fortunately, all they had to do was add an inbetween for each drawing to make it work.
Once the breakdown is completed, youre ready to move on to the animating stage.
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