After working on my Final Year Project for so long, I felt I needed a break so I can come back to it with "fresh eyes". And seeing as I may need to have some creature animation for my showreel if I'm going to make it as a Character Animator in the visual effects industry, I thought I might as well start practising.
And so I went on creativecrash.com to find a nice rig for any creature and I really liked this rig by Joel Anderson and decided to give it a go. It's a great t-rex rig with great stretchy IK controls that allows for flexible bones.
My usual workflow is to do a lot of planning and referencing before I even begin animating. But since I'm on my "break", I thought I'd just give it a full blast of what I've got. So this is the result of just animating with the animation principles in mind, and hardly any consideration to how a 2 legged dinosaur would move. Animation took about 3-4 hours.
I was quite pleased with the result and found a few handy principles reinforced.
Balance - When one body part goes one way, other body parts will move the other way to counter-act and keep the entire body balanced.
Sine Wave - Reinforcing the balance principle, what I found gave me a happy surprise. By the time the body parts are animated from head to tail, I've found that the entire motion if seen from the top view is a nice sine wave. Just like a snake!
Weight - Heavy creatures spend more time on the ground than in the air. To enhance the sense of weight, I've deliberately slammed his feet to the ground on the contact position in just 1 frame. If you look carefully, you will also notice that the feet are displaced slightly in both translation and rotation to emphasize the weight distribution.
Overlapping Action - Most applicable to the tail swaying. I realize the tail animation could be polished a lot more.
A good animator understands all the animation principles and applies them to everything they animate, be it human characters, cartoons, creatures or even text animations. Sure, but how do you get from good to great?
I strongly believe the difference here would be the level of understanding of the creature/rig that is being animated. I think this t-rex animation is good. But for it to be great, it has to have that level of realism. And the only way to achieve that is to have good reference and understanding of the t-rex anatomy and locomotion.
I first need to study how the bone structures in the t-rex works (different skeletal structures allow for different types of movements) and then find the closest reference I can for it. Although its impossible to find a real t-rex to reference nowadays, I can always look at the closest animals their body structures resemble and go from there.
Once I fully understand how that works to my fullest advantage, and combined with the application of the animation principles, I will no longer be animating as "blindly" as I was when I was just moving bones around without a full understanding of the range-of-motion of a creature like the t-rex.
From there on, I can then start applying an emotional/objective based animation to my t-rex and go from a standard t-rex to a say, "hungry t-rex" or "aggressive t-rex". Nonetheless, basics must come first. It's useless if I try to animate an angry t-rex before I even understand how a t-rex can truly move.
I'll be revisiting this t-rex in the future to create a more polished and showreel deserving slot.