Extra: "Bad news. It seems our animation budget has been seriously depleted by excessive robot battles! To correct for it, we've given strict orders to eliminate all lip-synching from the remainder of this movie!"
: "Nobody look at the camera! Nobody look at the camera!"
Maybe the characters are having a heartfelt conversation while looking out over the horizon. Maybe they're monologuing in a corner of a darkened room in an over the shoulder kind of camera shot, or at a Dutch Angle
Now mute your television and notice the screen hasn't changed at all.
When you don't have to draw a face (or at least the mouth) this can make scenes and voice dubbing much easier to do. Another trick is to pull the 'camera' back far enough so that you only have to animate gross motions.
For comedy, the lack of expression can lead to hilarious non sequiturs. If it goes on too long, it looks like a cheap trick to save on the budget, so the scene should ideally have lots of additional crowd and sound effects to distract us from that fact.
In Live Action, this is useful when stand-ins and stuntmen are required for certain scenes, or when someone is playing two characters
in the same scene. The trope also comes into play when a movie or TV show is filmed to make it easier to add noises, music, or dialogue after the filming itself. If a work is going to be dubbed, this is also useful for briefly avoiding Lip Lock
and allowing the voice actors more freedom.
See also No Mouth
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- In an online musical commercial for Burger King's breakfast menu, you are prompted to enter your name. During the commercial, the song will have your name dubbed into the lyrics, but every time it is sung, a breakfast sandwich will conveniently be covering the mouth of the main singer.
- Advertisements for lotteries require this trope: since the jackpot increases as it it remains unclaimed, the new dollar amount must be re-dubbed to show it changed.
Anime And Manga
- Neon Genesis Evangelion was infamous for this kind of cost cutting. One example had characters with their backs to the camera while in an elevator... without even any dialogue or music.
- Gendo does this all the time with the Gendo pose — so much that this became a meme.
- In fact, one can pick the precise moment that their budget began to run out. At one point, during a briefing, one of the techies holds a clipboard up to cover his mouth. After that point, if the sequence isn't going all-out with the animation, it'll be this.
- .hack occasionally had people talking slightly out of shot.
- Characters in Noir sometimes spoke while holding their handguns in front of their mouths.
- Cleverly lampshade-hung in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex — members of Section 9 can communicate by a cybernetic form of telepathy, which also happens to allow long stretches of dialogue without those pesky mouth movements. This went further in ''SAC:2'' with a character who had a customised face made up (a pretty one); it wasn't designed for normal use, and so he could barely open and close his mouth or show expression. It's like cyber Botox.
- They take the whole thing a step further: when the characters know someone is trying to lip-read their conversation, they pretend to say things while having a completely different conversation in their heads.
- This seems to happen a lot with Kyon from Haruhi Suzumiya, apparently an artifact from the Light Novels in which little distinction is made between Kyon's thoughts, Kyon's words as narrator, and Kyon's spoken dialogue.
- The English dub of Area 88 added brevity codes during combat that weren't present in the Japanese dub. This was possible because, during all the air combat sequences, pilots are wearing oxygen masks that cover their mouths.
- What's that, Death Note art team? It's time for a series of monologues? Time for close-ups on Light's magazine collection, L's food, Near's toys, Misa's Gothic junk, Mello's hands...
- For the K-On! end credits music videos, Mio tends to hold her microphone in such way that it happens to save the animators from having to lip sync the singing.
- The sequences when Kaze fires the Magun in Final Fantasy: Unlimited. Although he's facing the camera, his clothes cover his mouth, allowing him to say anything without any Mouth Flaps.
Live Action TV
- Doctor Who:
- In the First Doctor story "The Celestial Toymaker", William Hartnell's health was failing at that point and he needed a few weeks off. So a villain was introduced who was able to turn the Doctor intangible, allowing him to be played by either no-one or (for some scenes when the Toymaker makes only the Doctor's hand visible) a hand-double wearing the Doctor's Ring of Power, and for his dialogue to be dubbed in separately. In some parts the Toymaker even decides to make him mute, meaning they don't even have to do ADR.
- Used in some of the more video-based reconstructions to obscure the fact that body-doubles (or occasionally, body-not-even-close-to doubles) are playing the characters. For instance, the BBC's official reconstruction of Galaxy 4 features a fully working Chumblie, but for the scene where the Doctor strikes it with his walking stick we just see the stick extend from the edge of the frame and hit the robot, with no shot even of the hand holding the stick. In the Whovisions reconstruction of "Power of the Daleks", there's a live action shot of the Doctor holding his 500-year diary in front of his face (notably the prop is larger than the one used in the original story, which was pocketbook-sized) in order to obscure the fact that the Fake Shemp playing him is just a Doctor Who fan in a stovepipe hat.
- In the Fifth Doctor Doctor Who story "Black Orchid", there is a character named Latoni who is a South American Indian complete with a large plate massively extending his lower lip. Despite this, he is somehow able to converse in perfectly normal BBC English... but only long shots or when shot from behind.
- The non-talking variety happened in "Time and the Rani". When the Doctor regenerated from his sixth form to his seventh (The Nth Doctor), Colin Baker (the sixth Doctor) refused to film his last scene of falling to the ground and regenerating due to the unpleasant circumstances of his being let go by The BBC. Therefore, Sylvester McCoy, the seventh Doctor, was forced to don a blonde curly wig and lie face down, before turning over just as the regeneration effects conveniently obscure his facial features with a bright glowing light. The truth is it doesn't even work: if you look closely you can see that it is Sylvester McCoy under the glowy effect, and you can see the line between the wig and his head.
- A similar situation led to Quinn and Colin having to awkwardly keep their heads down until they reached the portal in the fifth season premiere of Sliders. Quinn's voice was also noticeably not his own, even though all he says is "Go! Go!" Then a portal accident leads to Colin's disappearance and Quinn's getting The Nth Doctor and a Suspiciously Similar Substitute at once.
- Star Trek: The Original Series is infamous for inverting this. In just about every fight scene, absolutely no effort was made to hide that a stunt double was doing most of the fighting. In many cases, you can clearly see the face of Not!William Shatner.
- As sfdebris points out, this is at least partly because TV screens in the sixties were much smaller, had much poorer reception and resolution and you were only seeing the episode once (no VCR or DVD). It was much easier to get away with this sort of thing back then.
- In the second season of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers after Austin St. John, Thuy Trang, and Walter Jones were fired, Saban didn't want the transition to their replacements to be overly jarring. So they used this technique for EIGHT concurrent episodes to represent Jason, Trini, and Zack. Backs of the heads of body doubles, shots at wide angles, liberal use of Stock Footage, voice doubles, silhouetted by sunset.... you name it, they did it. Granted, they had some help — most of the action sequences had them in helmeted costumes — but the voice doubles weren't especially convincing.
- This was used in Red Dwarf when Lister's love interest Kochanski (Clare Grogan) was in a scene but had no dialogue, so "somehow it was forgotten that she would need to be there" [DVD commentary]. Her role was filled by the sound editor in a big hat.
- The classic back-of-the-stuntman's-head version can be seen in almost any episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer — any scene of Buffy fighting in which she is not shown face-on is almost certainly the stuntwoman who did her more acrobatic moves.
- And even then, you could often see that the stunt people looked significantly different from the characters. The worst example would probably be when Buffy fought the crazy, murderous lunchlady. Not only did the stunt double have a much thinner build than the overweight lunchlady, but the differences between actress and stunt double causes the audience to think one of them was a man.
- The old sitcom The Patty Duke Show had Patty Duke play a double role as "identical cousins". Whenever the two needed to interact, one was played by Ms. Duke, and the other by the back of a stand-in's head.
- The Drew Carey Show played with this for its contests where a winner wasn't chosen by the time of filming, even holding a baby in front of the cast's faces to name it. Once it was even parodied when Drew looked straight at the camera with a wide open mouth shot that was dubbed over.
- Like many lazy production techniques, parodied in Garth Marenghis Darkplace. The episode "The Apes of Wrath" culminates in a long, Special Effects Failure-filled motorcycle chase with a malevolent ape-man. Afterward, Liz asks Rick to explain how the circumstances of the episode occurred, which is clearly dubbed in with Liz's mouth hidden behind a stack of books. Then, the camera is fixed on a potted plant in the corner while Rick delivers several paragraphs of rapid-fire Technobabble explaining what was going on and how he saved the day.
- A variation appears in Metal Gear Solid 2. It's arguably present in the whole franchise, but the second was particularly bad. Long dialogue-based scenes have a tendency to take place on the "CODEC" screen, as talking heads. Justifiable in many cases; but when the characters are in the same room (apparently this method stops people from overhearing because it's all subvocal or some such), then you have a right to feel short-changed.
- The same series did this better and more artfully in Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops. Thanks to the limitations of the PSP, the cutscenes were bare-bones semi-animated images. But the art was in the unorthodox scratchy rendering of the series comic book; the animation perfectly suited the bleak-but-exciting feel; and the Voice Actors, liberated from having to Lip Lock, gave an exceptionally good performance.
- Used with great effect by the voice actor of Auron in Final Fantasy X, whose mouth is covered by his high collar in many shots, but it isn't as strongly abused as most people think. Incidentally Auron's actor is considered one of the better ones in the game, perhaps because he wasn't forced into Lip Lock as much as the others.
- This sort of thing is quite noticeable in Star Trek: The Animated Series.
- And everything else Filmation made.
- In the making-of documentary for The Wrong Trousers, Nick Park mentions how handy it is to have shots where characters are speaking from offscreen or are holding up a newspaper in front of their face or something.
- An episode of The Simpsons about Superbowl XXXIII had everyone cover their mouths with beer mugs as obviously as possible when mentioning the Falcons or Broncos by name, a nod to the animation being done long before it was known what teams would be playing. The gag is then extended to Bill Clinton's status as Presidentnote and Hillary Clinton's status as his wifenote .
- The low animation budget for Danger Mouse meant that characters would often speak when seen from behind or in silhouette or otherwise with their mouths obscured, especially in the early series. This is most obvious in scenes taking place in Danger Mouse's car; Penfold can only be seen from the nose up, while Danger Mouse frequently turns his head at just the right angle to hide his mouth while speaking.