Here a detailed RECAP of my last Tutorial “Breakdown of a Dragon Animation”
here the Tutorial
In this tutorial I’ll show the breakdowns for this animation I made recently
I will explain STEP BY STEP my process starting from CONCEPT to the FINAL RESULT
Now I want to show you something more advanced: in this shot I have two characters that have parts that perfectly show this principles!
We have the tailed head/ball (that I used for the previous tutorial), this character has a very simple and basic animation and then I have this awesome and much more elaborated and advanced rig made by Josh Sobel, called ARC, that has a more complex animation. Arc is a customizable Dragon, with huge wings and big tail that is really perfect to show you the concept of overlap, drag and follow-trough applied to a more complex animation
So, for this shot, I started from a SKETCHED ANIMATIC – the 2D animatic is very important to study the rhythm, the story and how to represent the personality of the characters!
TIP: I’m not a good drawer so for the dragon I first studied the rig and tested some poses that I used as reference for the sketches. It’s a sort of blocking but with very few rough poses that you can exaggerate in 2D and have a better idea of what you need
The story of this shot is basically a “Dangerous-playtime” between this little bouncing creature and a young dragon that play with fire!
I imagined that they are actually friends, so…the dragon doesn’t wants to hurt him is just that he’s too ingenious and he has no control of his dangerousness!
For the dragon’s attitude I got inspired by my lovely/crazy dog. I had in mind my playtimes with her, that usually gets so excited when we play that she literally loses her control and the play-time becomes actually a “fight”!
So, with my little crazy dog in mind, I decided to animate the dragon with a doggy attitude in the first part, when he enters in the shot and when he smells the ground trying to sniff out his friend. And in the final part, when he jumps in the air with his wings and when he goes out of frame, I switch to a more classic dragon attitude
-Set the Scene-
So starting from this animatic, I set the scene on maya
For the background I just have a plane and some rocks, something very very simple
As usual I use a surface shader so I don’t have to worry about lighting and I have the 2d effects that I personally love.
I set the camera, with the same frame of the animatic
I add a plane in the background where I import the animatic video so that I can use it as reference during the blocking, in this way I can see the timing and the main poses
-Tailed Head/Ball BLOCKING-
So now… I import the tailed ball character and I create the blocking
I start to pose the “body/head” so I go to hide the tail
I go to animate the creature like a classic bouncing ball but very cartoony, I follow the animatic key poses so we have the bounces at the beginning, I squash it and stretch it and I check the contact with the plane, this pass is very fast cause I have the animatic as reference
So, he’s running away from something, he also looks on his back in few frames just to see what’s going on behind him, to check where is his friend and in time to see the flame coming towards him (I add a place holder fire effects just to have an idea of the timing)
When he bounces behind the rock he trys to hide himself super frightened…trying to be as smaller as possible, using his tail as protection
The tail is not very big, I don’t have a lot of control of the shape so what I can do is just to give the idea that the tail covers the body
I also add a very fast shake any 2 frames ’cause he’s trembling
He hears the dragon coming closer so he has a reaction turning in the opposite direction
and…when the dragon jumps on the rock he has a bigger reaction jumping hight in the air (I imagine him screaming here so I add a little shake), and the he just runs away faster then light
In a second time I add the tail poses. I follow a path, just like I showed in the previous tutorial, I draw a line on my paper so that I can better follow the arc and I just do this for the length of the shot
So this is the ball blocking, I mixed the principle of the bouncing ball but I also added some cartoon movements, it bounces with physic but it’s a character, so it has life and we can break some physic principles or exaggerate them to make it more appealing
Let’s add the dragon
As I said before, this rig has some customizable options, we can change the face design and the texture colour
I choose the young version for the head and the black textures
I start to create the main poses, this part it takes most of the time, the character is quite complex, it has a lot of controls and parts to pose, so I take my time….
I use some reference from dogs and dragons
I try to make him cute enough: at the beginning he has a very innocent expression
He just stands there for a moment, very calm and apparently harmless, his raised leg helps us to catch that he’s looking for something, trying to be quite
I continue to block the shot using the animatic as reference for the timing and this is the first pass of blocking for the dragon
There are not too much poses: there’s the first part “the entrance”, we see the forefoot coming in first and I keep this pose with a moving hold
Then we have the reaction, he knows his friend is near there so… before moving forward he makes an anticipation with a jump in the air
First I create the key pose with eyes closed, squashed head, both the legs flat on the ground and the opened wings that he will use as push for the jump within the legs
When he moves upward we have the overlap of the wings, we don’t see them cause they are out of screen, but we can imagine that they are pointing downward as reaction to the drag movement of the leading part, the body, same for head and arms that are dragged so they point downward
He makes this arc jumping high and straight first
and then he lands forward creating this arc with the body, the tail and the wings
Then we have some steps while he’s sniffing the ground
I create this curve with the body, the typical exaggerated classic dog sniffing pose, with the upper part of the body almost flat on the ground and the backside pretty up
The tail is pretty long so it really has to be soft and smooth and overlap for the entire shot. It always moves creating a nice curve and following the follow through principle
I move each section of the tail with a delay
To make the sniffing action readable I add just 2 poses in the blocking, increasing the size of the nostrils, moving up and down the nose and the eyebrows. Is enough to make the action clear in the blocking and then I will smooth it and add more details in the refine
He felt something so he turns in the super excited mode
I add this big anticipation before he moves forward, just to emphasize the reaction and to create a nice path of action
The anticipation is made with the eyes, cause he already looks towards the point where he want to jump
and also with the body movement, ’cause he moves backward raising the back, the tail and the wings
Then we have the jump poses, always creating a path with body and a different one with the tail
He turns upward the head following his friend movement
And then another jump in the air, flying in place with a couple of movements up and down with the wings, staring at his “prey”
l add an anticipation moving backward before going out of frame very fast creating this line of action and with a very aerodynamic pose with the wings closed to the body
As I said, in this first pass of blocking I have very few poses but for this kind of animation I want to add some other keys just to make the refine easier
I add some breakdowns here and there and some moving holds, for example I added the leg poses at the beginning:
1) one pose with the raised leg with the toes pointing backward
2) one pose of contact with the toes upward
3) one pose with the leg flat on the ground
I add more breakdowns and in-betweens during the steps and others for the rest of the shots and this is the second pass of blocking with more keys:
During all this process I help myself using the silhouette visualization to adjust the poses and check if everything is readable
So… in this phase I focus on the timing and the poses and I watch it and watch it several times to check if everything works well or… if I can do something better or add some poses if necessary 😉
-Tailed Head/Ball REFINE-
The blocking is done and now I can turn off the dragon and refine the head/ball
As before, I hide the tail and I refine and polish the ball, for this character the refine process is pretty easy, there’s not much to polish, I just use a lot the graph editor to make the ball movements clean and smooth, I check the arcs first for the ball/body, and then for the tail
I also adjust the tail poses frame by frame in some parts, where I want to exaggerate the shapes or add some further movements
Here the Head(Ball Refine
Then I turn on the dragon again for the refine
I switch all the curves in auto tangent and this is how it looks like (I didn’t touch anything, this are just the blocking poses switched to auto)
and ….it defenetly needs a lot of work! 😀
I start splitting the scenes in different sections, for example: I start to refine the part when he enters in the screen and I stop before the jump. So… I reduce the range of the time slider
I go to adjust spacing, contacts, breakdowns for the entire shot but moving forward by a range of frames, splitting the scene following the different actions, refining them one by one
I draw the path on my transparent paper so I can easily follow the path with each part of the body, frame by frame I go to adjust the poses where needed
When you refine an animation can happen that you just realize that you need to change a bit the timing or the spacing of your blocking! It happens, some movements result too slow after you switch from stepped to spline or vice versa, so in this cases…just move your keys to reach the better result or add more breakdowns that were not necessary in the blocking but that you need in the refine!
With a loooot of patience I finish the refine of entire shot, I can’t show you each step ’cause it would take too much time
For the entire shot I spent 5/6 hours for the blocking (for both the characters) and around 15 hours for the refine
I add the motion blur in the render, the the 2D fire effect I made and…that’s the final result!
I hope you enjoy this video, show the entire process for the creation of a shot is not easy and I tried to show the most important steps for me.
When you plan a good and efficient blocking, the refine process will be easier so… see you for the next lesson and tutorial, thanks for watching! 😉