Sound, Syncing, and Sound Lines [Tutorial]

Intro

A stickman punching and kicking
The simple animation used for most of this syncing.

Welcome welcome. If this is your first tutorial on here: good luck out there! Plenty more to be found here on anim8.io. Syncing is a skill that can turn a simple animation into an amazing one. Even if your choreography is lacking everyone has a soft spot for some good syncing. Once you start syncing you likely won’t want to go back.

What is a sound line, what is syncing?

Now sound line, if you google it: isn’t going to tell you much about what it actually is. That’s because when people refer to a ‘sound line’: they don’t mean this.

A sound line
A sound line.

But this

Special thanks to Shuriken for making 11 sound lines for free use.

Essentially: A sound line is a collection of sounds formed into a beat. These sounds are typically: punches, kicks, slashes, or gunshots. The simplest way to make one is to take a snippet of a song and then add the sound line on top. Then you remove the song: leaving yourself with a sound line(Or keep the song at a lower volume). I’ll be going into more detail on sound lines later down the page.

Syncing on the other hand: is timing impacts and animation to the beat of music or a sound line. It is not exclusive to sound lines: but they do go hand in hand.

Picking your song: Impacts, timing, and mood

Now it might be tempting to pick your favorite song for your animation. But one must always keep in mind the tempo of the song. The rate of movement. A fast paced song is going to be harder to sync to compared to a slower paced song. The simplest way to determine the tempo is by using your ears. Drums might seem like they would be easier: but not all songs have a tempo based around their drums. Some use guitar. Listen to the music: and count in your head ‘one two three four’ to your head bops. (Sometimes it might be ‘one to three’ to throw you off too!)

With only guitars and no drum: this song shows the example off clearest.

These ‘bops’ are the hard impacts of the song. They’re made to be picked out. The other notes are soft or medium impacts. If you time the impacts to the heavy beats of the song you’ll be be syncing. But for best impact you want to mix in soft and medium beats as well. Not every punch is going to be at max force.

The stronger guitar string in this video is the hard impact.

Adding in some medium impacts will allow you some greater freedom. Think of medium impacts as the quick punches. Soft impacts meanwhile are whiffs or fast movement. Or can be skipped like medium. You don’t want it to be constant movement. You need rests in the song. breaks. The same goes with punches and sound lines.

How to sync

For the following clips I will be using a Mangoo track called Happi that is not copyrighted. We will be using the follow segment for this tutorial:

The segment used for the remainder of this tutorial.

As you can see: there’s a clear beat: with other sounds in the background. Let’s call the ‘aaaaeeeh’ as the ‘soft’ and the ‘ah ah’ the ‘medium’s in this example. But you could easily swap all three depending on your needs. Now go into your animation program of choice: and (provided it allows you to add a music file) add your music file to it. If you cannot add music to it: grab Audacity and edit in a few seconds of silence at the start. To allow you to get your hand to the ‘play’. Remember: Set the music to stream and not event if it is not already set as such!

Nabbing a keyframe on Krita
As Krita doesn’t allow keyframes during play: I have to eyeball it and then remember the frame. Then I use the stream function(It plays sound while you switch frames) to narrow the timing down by slowly moving the keyframe left and right until it’s as synced as possible.

Now: Find out what key is your ‘new frame’ shortcut. Eg: F6 is what I normally set my keybind to. Now all you do is click ‘play’ and press F6 to the beat. You can then modify the frame to be a little earlier or later depending on your reflexes. If you went purely for hard impacts it should look fairly uniform. (If your animation program stops when you make a new keyframe: you can always eyeball it too)

Those frames are where your big impacts should be. Or you can have them become mediums leading up to one final big impact. The choices are endless, but not the focus of this tutorial on anim8.io. Now let’s add some basic keyframes and betweens to this on a new layer.

It’s important to leave a little gap at the start to allow for things such as entry when creating sound lines and syncing.

Oh hey look! We’re done 😀 ! Be aware things may become desynced over time. The tempo likely won’t sync up perfectly to 24 fps. So you may have to add or remove a frame at points to resync it up.

How to make a sound line

Let’s take that same segment from earlier and pop open audacity. It’s free and has a lot of versatility. Such as adjusting the tone of a punch so it has a similar tone to that of the music. But that’s not the purpose of this guide and tutorial.

An image of Audacity
This is the unedited segment chosen above.

Now grab a free sound pack. The best resource I know of currently for this is Hyun’s Dojo. But that may change. The key here is not to pick 50 different sounds: but 1 for each instrument. Now if the sound is mono: you can right click to convert it to stereo. (This will stop one ear sound syndrome)

Adding a sound to Audacity
It’s as simple as that to add it and move it into place.

This will take some attempts to get it perfectly synced. But audacity allows you to zoom in very close into audio. Meaning with enough patience you can get it synced.

I only used one sound for simplicity: but by changing the pitch or slowing it down I can make it sound completely different. Ideally you want to mix in more than one sound so it sounds better. But be careful not to use too many either!

Once you’re done: export the file as a wav or mp3: and you’re done! Sound line created!

Organization is key

Layers. Like Ogres.
I’m semi guilty of this too. So I know your struggle.

In animation: 50 layers is ‘maybe’ too much. That means if you don’t label them you could spend 5 minutes every day working out what layer is ‘draft version 2 edit 5’ and what one is ‘lining main character’ and so on and forth.

Remember to split your animation up too: even Krita will crash if you’re not careful! Or if you’ve got the time: go deep diving into the settings and lower the quality of the render while you’re working. (And then split it right before you up the settings to render out the proper anim) Or just leave it low quality. Unless you’re animating a highly detailed scene you likely don’t need over 20k pixels. Just enough to make it 1080p.

Conclusion

With this: you have the tools to sync. While you may not have the paid tools that allow for more freedom: you can gain the skills that will easily transfer over. So go out there and sync! You can do it!

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