Hi. Along the lines of what you have said.
I find the easiest and most effective way is to
1) add a cube for each character you want to control what they look at. Especially when you want to change what they look at as the animation progresses.
2) Set the character to look at the cube you loaded to control what that character looks at.
3) Select the timeline value to where you want to change what the character looks at and move that characters cube to where you want him to look
4) repeat step 3 so you can change what the character looks at as the animation progresses
5) When completed set the cubes to Dummy mode so they are invisible from the scene
Here are some images to illustrate
Here is a animation showing what moving the cube does
Here is my first attempt at using this method with 3 characters talking and changing who they look at as they talk.
This was just an experimentation project I did for controlling what characters look at.
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