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Synchro-Vox

When're they gonna start moving? Ain't nothin' moving but their lips!
Frozone, the commentary of Mr. Incredible and Pals

Synchro-Vox is an extreme form of "Limited Animation": A mostly obsolete technique in which footage of the actor's mouth is superimposed upon an otherwise non-moving image. See the other Wiki. Can look pretty unnatural. A few lazier productions go one step further and also animate the eye movements this way.

Mentioned on the Dead Unicorn Trope page because only a very small number of productions used it straight, after which everyone immediately realised it looked really, really fake and kind of creepy; anyone using it after the Sixties or so is probably going for comedic effect, Mind Screw or both.

Just as primitive Rotoscoping has given way to Motion Capture, the great-great-grandson of this technique can be found in the advanced facial performance capture techniques used in Avatar and L.A. Noire.


Examples:

Advertising

Film - Animation

Film - Live-Action
  • Used in Batman to mask the lips of the recent victims of Joker's toxin in order to "advertise" his Brand X. Which, in turn, was the Joker toxin that he was going to release at the Bicentennial celebration of Gotham City's foundation.
  • Briefly used in Forbidden Zone during a musical number: It turns out this is because the first-time actor they hired to lip-sync was so nervous he froze up and just stood there, but the film itself has such a strange visual style that the effect fits in perfectly.
    • To this day, Danny Elfman plays the scene for new actors as a warning to learn their lines.

Music
  • In Timbuk3's video for "The Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades" this is used.
  • Jeff Foxworthy's "Party All Night", created out of one of his comedy sketches with a chorus sung by Little Texas, has two instances of synchro-vox in its music video (directed by "Weird Al" Yankovic).
  • Parodied in Alan Jackson's video for "That'd Be Alright", where a crew trying to film a music video without Jackson himself tries doing this to a photo of him, and later tries digitally overlaying a different mouth over clips from previous Alan Jackson videos.
  • Pepe Deluxe used this in their "Pussy Cat Rock" and "The Mischief of Cloud Six" videos. In the case of the former, the lips are superimposed over live-action footage of a robot cat doll.
  • Kraftwerk used it for the Russian-speaking portions of the video for The Robots.

Television - Live-Action TV
  • Conan O'Brien has used it quite a bit.
  • Used to simultaneously terrifying and heartrending effect in Abed's student film in Community.
  • Rory Bremner used this with photographs of politicians he was imitating back in the late 1990s.
  • The intro to the 1988-89 version of The Newlywed Game used this on early 20th-century wedding photos, the lips moving in synch to "The Book of Love" by The Monotones.
  • Used in an episode of Good Luck Charlie when the family makes a short, comedic "interview" with the titular child - who can barely speak - using a deliberate English accent.
  • The Thumbs! series of specials.
  • The old Comedy Channel (predecessor to Comedy Central) aired Clutch Cargo as part of The Higgins Boys and Gruber show.note  In a reference to the show itself, this technique was used to introduce the show as well as to lead back to the main Higgins Boys and Gruber show. Notably, it incorporated a frame from the show with someone acting as Clutch.note 
  • Robot head 790 in Lexx is a variation. The robot head's eyes and mouth are small TV screens that display a mouth played by a live actor; the eyes are fake, but are props with a camera pointed at them, not CGI. The effect was actually done live on the set; the TV screens on the prop are actual TV screens.

Television - Animated Shows
  • A couple of TV series done in the late 1950s and early 1960s: Clutch Cargo and Space Angel.
  • Used in the opening of SpongeBob SquarePants with "Painty the Pirate", who starts the theme song.
    • Also used in the episode "Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy VI: The Motion Picture", where Spongebob was discussing actors in the Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy movie.
  • In the 1992 Looney Tunes short "Invasion of the Bunny Snatchers", clone!Daffy has this for a brief moment.
  • This technique has been used in Courage the Cowardly Dog, though unlike some of the other examples here "comedic" isn't what they were going for.
  • In The Simpsons episode "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Marge" Marge is declared insane. On the "Krusty the Clown Show" Krusty does Conan O'Brien's bit, asking an image of Marge who her favorite Native American warrior is. "Crazy Horse." Krusty realizes the bit is getting old and calls for the Mad Marge dancersnote .
  • The Family Guy episode "Seahorse Seashell Party" used this as part of Brian's mushroom-induced hallucination.
  • One Episode of The Grim Adventuresof Billy And Mandy briefly used this on Mandy.
  • On Clarence, the principal of Clarence's school is depicted this way with only the lower half of his face visible.

Web Original

Other
  • A series of educational VHS tapes called "Standard Deviants" use this in some of their animated clips.
  • The Barbie Liberation Organization, an anonymous group of people who switched the voice boxes of Barbie dolls and G.I. Joe figures, used this in their VHS press release to have a Barbie doll explain the organization's mission of weakening the prevalence of gender stereotypes in children's media.


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