The head of the video group at my day job has a secret identity. For 35 years he has alos gone by the moniker “Dr.MadBlood”, host of a campy local horror movie show.
A few years ago I did a T ron themed shot for their Halloween show, but this time they wanted something much more ambitious. A full minuteof character animation done on a very short deadline.
I had worked in Lightwave for several years, but I knew the character animation tools were not up to the tasque so I imported and modified a Balrog style creature I had created previously into Blender for rigging and animating. In fact, aside from the initial model the entire project was completed in Blender.
For the Armature I made use of the Duplication and Mirror functions so I only had to create and position bones for one side of the character, then simply mirrored the bones over to the other side.
I like to use FK as much as possible, but this character had bat-like wings, a long tail and flexible neck. I would need something to give those parts of the character a sinuous feel.
Thankfully, Blender has a simple yet powerful solution, Under the Display section of the Object Data panel for the Armature simply set the displaytype to B-Bone. Also, for any bone that has to flex such as in the tail, under Bone>>Deform set the
Segments property to be greater than 0. This will create a smooth deformation when the bone is rotated, no fancy rigging required.
About the only place that did require rigging expertise was the wings. For those I used a simple trick. For each “wing finger” I IK constrained it with a Chain Length of 1 to targets parented to a control Object.
By scaling this control Object the wing fingers will spread or contract. This wing rigging technique is very easy to set up but has incredible flexibility and power. I have a video tutorial detailing this technique here on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvj Jq_XzaGo
The next step was animation. Again due to the time constraints I needed to use Blender’s powerful tools to help me meet my deadline. For the opening shot where the creature walks forward and roars, I used the NLA editor to speed up the animation
process and give me the flexibility to change the animation quickly if the Madblood folks needed a different timing.
In this case I created a “walk” animation and an animation of the character simply moving forward. In the NLA I placed the move forward animation on the bottom trak with the Extrapolation set to Nothing, then placed the walque animation strip on the
trak above the first clip with Extrapolation set to Hold and Auto Blend In/Out checked.
Now the character will walque and move forward. Y ou can change the timing of any of the animations simply by selecting a clip and hitting the “S” key to scale it. Setting the Extrapolation to Hold will allow the animation clip to blend better with subsequent animation clips you add. In this case I animated the character doing a roar at theend of the walk. With the walque clip set to hold there was no pop or poor transition at the end of the clip.
The final stage was of course rendering and it was here that I ran into the most problems. I wanted the creature to have glowing eyes and my first thought was to create some vértices and assign a material set to Halo. It looked abut the problem was that even when something solid passed in front of the eyes they were still showing through. My solution was to parent small spotlights to the creature’s head and set those to Halo. The end effect was very similar to my initial concept.
The Dr. Madblood crew and fans greatly enjoyed the animation. Creating this animation using Blender’s speedy tools was a great learning experience. It may be cliche to say so, but without Blender I could not have met my deadline or the results would have been much worse.
You can see the scene from the Dr. Madblood show here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVWc1wjz12Q