Reallusion CrazyTalk5 Pro

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Reallusion CrazyTalk5 Pro
  • Reallusion CrazyTalk5 Pro
  • Reallusion CrazyTalk5 Pro
  • Reallusion CrazyTalk5 Pro

Pros

  • Offers fast results straight out of the box, lots of extra tools and features for more freedom

Cons

  • Price is a bit steep compared to standard version, lip-syncing remains a bit ropey

Bottom Line

If you're a disciple of machinima who requires more control over your facial animations, CrazyTalk5 Pro offers fast and effective results. However, if you just want to make funny animations of your friends and family, stick to the cheaper standard edition.

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CrazyTalk5 Pro is the latest and arguably greatest version of Reallusion's quirky 'face puppet' animation studio. If you've never heard of CrazyTalk before, it basically lets you create a talking three-dimensional avatar from any photo or image (BMP and JPEG files are both supported). While most 3D animation tools require a substantial amount of know-how to operate, CrazyTalk makes the entire process as simplistic as possible; a feat achieved by its user-friendly editing interface and ability to auto-render images. As such, it's one of the few products on the market that allows you to animate photo-realistic faces in just a few easy steps.

From 'Machinima' enthusiasts who require lip-syncing for their computer-generated movies, to cat lovers who want their furry friends to talk, the program offers something for practically everybody. To differentiate itself from the standard edition, CrazyTalk5 Pro adds a swathe of advanced tools and features, including real-time puppet control, special overlay effects, individual sliders for facial muscles, adjustable strengths for different expressions, an editing timeline for precise puppet movements, and the ability to output your animations to Flash video or in 'full' HD.

As with previous versions of the software, CrazyTalk5 Pro's interface is divided into two specific sections – Model and Script. As their names imply, the Model section is where you model your 3D face from a 2D image file, whereas the Script section is where you add the dialogue and accompanying facial expressions, or 'emotives'.

To make a 3D avatar of an image, you need to bond a wire frame to its contours, which isn't nearly as complicated as it sounds. By placing indicators at the extremities of your subject's facial features (eyes, mouth, etc) the program will automatically manipulate the 'muscles' beneath to realistic effect. There are also options for specific puppet types, allowing you to adjust the facial profile of a dog, for instance, to give it an elongated snout. By mapping out the grill and headlights as 'facial indicators', you can even animate an image of your car. You can also insert silly templates over your puppets, such as oversized moustaches and novelty hats.

Giving your puppet a voice-box can be achieved in two ways; by recording your own dialogue directly into the program with a microphone, or by choosing from a library of voices and using text-to-speech recognition (with variable pitch, speed and volume controls). In both cases, the CrazyTalk software will automatically synchronise lip movement with speech. While the overall effect will never give Pixar Studios a run for its money, we nevertheless found the results to be surprisingly good.

Specific facial expression templates can be added to boost your puppet's performance, ranging from happy-go-lucky to pantomime villainy. The advanced timeline editor offers a lot more freedom in this regard; allowing you to make minute adjustments to every second of a scene's duration. Naturally, the quality of your animation all comes down to the finesse with which you map out the puppet's facial muscles, along with the suitability of the image in question. A word of warning though – resist the urge to upload photos of your baby; unless you want to be emotionally scarred by the terrifying, unholy results. We're still having nightmares about its 'evil intention' face. Brrrr...

While the assorted enhancements definitely make CrazyTalk5 Pro a better product than its vanilla sibling; we're not sure whether they justify the inflated price tag. With an RRP of over $200, it's not something you would buy on impulse for its novelty value (which is kind of where the primary appeal of CrazyTalk lies). Instead, only obsessive animators who require extensive control over their virtual actors need apply – everyone else will be better off opting for the standard version, which offers most of the same features for just $89.95. With that being said, CrazyTalk5 Pro remains an excellent and fun-to-use tool for its intended user base. It will particularly suit short film-makers who rely on computer game engines for their animations (such as World of Warcraft and Second Life).

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