How To Make a Custom Avatar for Videos

Kevin Alster
September 6, 2023

Table of contents

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Our brains light up when we look at faces. Literally. Here's the science proving it.

To create unique video content with a recognizable visual identity, any old face won't do. It would be best to have a specific face with which the audience could build a relationship. Regular people have created famous personal brands with just their faces. People like Rand Fishkin, Neil Patel, and even Tim Ferris have used their faces to create internet content that's impossible to ignore. 

So, how do YOU create videos with a friendly but authoritative figure your audience will connect to and engage with?

And if you've already got a high demand on your time, how do you speed up that content creation process? 

Enter custom avatars that use AI video technology

They are a digital double of you, your boss, the head of HR, your CEO; the list goes on.


This post will guide you through how a custom avatar works, what you can use it for, and how to record your custom avatar with ease.

What is an AI custom avatar?

An AI custom avatar is a digital representation of a real human. Powered by artificial intelligence, this so-called digital human only exists in the digital space.

Check out this video for more details on what a custom avatar looks like. 

Welcome to Synthesia

Once you create a custom avatar, you can use it to produce all kinds of videos without filming. Yep, you're done with the long hours of traditional filming.

Did you know? 🤔

You can't just create an AI avatar out of images of any random human. You need that person to record themselves talking to a camera in a particular environment. Synthesia (the AI platform) also has strict rules about using AI avatars to protect people's identities. We also offer 125+ diverse AI avatars that are based on actors.

It's pretty easy to create a custom avatar from yourself or another person

All you have to do is bring a person in front of a camera and record them while reciting a script. Then, Synthesia's custom avatar producers step in. They process the footage with AI algorithms and transfer it into a photorealistic digital representation.

It looks like AI magic from the outside. But for Synthesia's specialists, it's a matter of:

✅ Data & motion capturing: We collect as much data as possible about the appearance and movements of the person in the footage using motion capture.

✅ Data processing: We use AI algorithms & machine learning techniques to make a 3D mesh of the custom avatar from video images, mapping their movements and expressions onto a digital model.

✅ Animation & Rendering: We use computer graphics software to animate and render your custom avatar making it interact in a virtual environment and look realistic.

Here's a video example that describes this method, presented by an AI avatar 👇

How are Synthesia AI Avatars created?

Now that you know what happens behind the scenes, here are 5 simple steps to filming the footage you need to create your own custom avatar.

Step #1: Contact our support team

Begin by contacting us so we communicate all the terms and make sure you have all the necessary information and examples on custom avatars.

Step #2: Read the guide on how to create custom footage

At Synthesia, we have a reliable way to create highly-detailed and realistic custom avatars.

Rest assured that our experts will review all custom footage you send through and ensure they have everything they need to turn your footage into a high-quality custom avatar.

For a great start, understand what we expect from you. Before going into the studio to film your custom avatar footage, read the guide 👇

Custom Avatar Shoot - Synthesia Requirements

Carefully read the instructions in this custom avatar guide. We cover everything, from the shooting aspects and the avatar script to the human model's consent.

Step #3: Film your soon-to-be custom avatar

Custom filming is straightforward. It's nothing too complicated, but rather specific with regards to:

✔️ The filming environment

✔️ The human model's appearance and gestures

✔️ The way your model recites the script

✔️ The footage's final format

Your footage gives our AI algorithms all the necessary information to duplicate the human model and turn it into a custom avatar. It's the base for getting a highly-detailed, incredibly realistic custom avatar.

The prerequisites are:

  • 15 minutes of high-quality footage of the model speaking on camera — best if you can film in a professional studio.
  • Well-lit, no shadows background — either a green screen studio or a white background.
  • Film the upper body, with the camera positioned at eye height.
  • Use a high-quality video camera and clear audio, with the actor only.
  • Provide a video with the look you want for your custom avatar — the actor should wear your desired wardrobe and style their hair to not show the background through it.
  • The presenter should look calm, slightly smile, and make no specific gestures like pointing with their hand.
  • The presenter should recite the script we provide in 3 clean takes with no cuts.

Shooting your custom AI Avatar | Setting up

Step #4: Upload your footage into Synthesia & pick your desired framing

Once the footage is ready, upload it into Synthesia.

You'll also be asked to select your desired framing for the custom avatar at this stage. You can choose between a close-up and a wider framing. Wider framing gives you more flexibility in the types of shots you create using custom avatars but can cost extra. 

Step #5: Submit the footage, and let us work wonders

You hit submit, and your job is done.

You'll have your custom avatar available in your Synthesia account within up to 10 business days from the moment you send the footage.

Unless you specify otherwise, your new custom avatar is exclusively available to your account (in other words, other people can't see it or use it, and it won't be a part of our stock avatars that other creators can use)

3 useful tips for providing quality footage for custom avatars

Help make your custom avatars as close to natural as possible by instructing your human model to give a winning interpretation.

Tip #1: Performance

The model should act relaxed and calm, with a smiling, warm attitude that inspires confidence. They should deliver the script with minimal hand movements and frequent short pauses. During these pauses, the lips should be closed, and the hands should get back to resting position at waist level.

Tip #2: Wardrobe & Style

When creating custom avatars, dress your model how you want your avatar to look. Their face must always be visible to the camera, especially the forehead above the eyebrows. The hair should be styled and kept tight to the head. If they must wear glasses, make sure there's no glare. You could also include company-related items, such as a t-shirt with your logo when creating an AI avatar for training or sales purposes.

Tip #3: Hand gestures

Have your model pick a comfortable resting position, like one hand on top of another. The avatar will return to that position during all script pauses. When speaking, moving hands should stay around the belly area and never get outside the body's silhouette or above the chest.

Shooting your custom AI Avatar | Performance

Are you ready to make a custom avatar for your videos?

Whether you want to kick off this project or have extra questions, there's only one way from here 👇

Go to this custom avatar request page for a roundup of all the relevant details, pricing, and even the option to book a demo. Else, play with a free demo of an existing AI avatar to see how it works.

Frequently asked questions on custom avatars for videos

We detail all important questions in our Custom Avatar Shot requirements. But here are some at a glance:

Can I use a cartoon character to make a custom avatar?

No, you can't take footage of cartoon characters. You can't impersonate someone else, either. It has to be a real person giving explicit content to create the avatar.

What do I do if I can't shoot in a studio?

While not recommended, it is possible to shoot elsewhere. Just be extra careful that the actor clearly stands out from the background and that you have good lighting and clear audio.

What if I can't shoot at UHD?

It's OK if your settings allow you only to shoot HD video footage. Focus on shooting the exact framing you'd like to see for your avatar.

What's the correct framerate for my location?

Avoid video flicker! In an office with fluorescent lights, shoot at 25fps. In a studio with professional lights or outdoors, please record at NTSC 29.97fps in Europe.

What if a three-point setup is not possible? 

Avoid strong shadows across the face and body. Ensure the actor is well-lit from the front and stands out from the background. Be aware that if you're using natural light, it's best to shoot on an overcast day, and be conscious of how light might change over time. 

Do I need perfect audio? 

Eliminating background noise is more important than microphone quality. We need x3 clear takes where we only hear the actor talking, with as little background noise as possible. Make sure you play your audio to check that it's clear!

Do I need to get my video color graded? 

The look from a good quality HD video camera could be good enough. If you film in a studio with a high-quality camera, do it "at 10-bit" and get the footage color graded afterward.

What if the actor is not a native English speaker? 

We're interested in the delivery. You can translate the script and follow the instructions within the <> brackets. We need to see the actor closing their lips during breaks and pausing at different lengths, regardless of the language they speak in.


Frequently asked questions