Saturday, 4 January 2020

How to Animate a Dragon in Flight

Dragon in Flight Tutorial by Jamie Floodgate
We're delighted to announce a new animation tutorial at our growing Vimeo Tutorial Channel; showing students how to animate a dragon in flight.

The tutorial, recorded by Escapee Jamie Floodgate, uses the free Jaemin Dragon rig by Truong, which can be downloaded here.

The dragon flight tutorial can be found here at our Vimeo channel, and is free for all our students and Escapees.

Dragon in Flight
The tutorial, which lasts just under half an hour, is based on the excellent dragon animation below that Jamie completed for his demo reel while studying at Escape Studios.

Jaemin Dragon Rig by Truong
The tutorial uses the free Jaemin Dragon rig by Truong, which can be downloaded here.

Jamie Floodgate
Jamie Floodgate
The tutorial was recorded by Escapee Jamie Floodgate, who last year landed a position as a junior animator at London animation powerhouse Blue Zoo.

Jamie applied to Blue Zoo on the strength of the animation demo reel which he put together after taking our 12 week animation course at Escape Studios.

Jamie wasn't initially successful applying to Blue Zoo but, undaunted, he continued to polish his animation skills, working on an entry to the 11 Second Club monthly competition (see below).  The second time around, everything fell into place.

Komodo Dragons
Dragon Flight tutorials at Vimeo
You can find the Dragon Flight tutorial at Vimeo:

Live action Reference
One of the challenges of animating fantasy creatures like dinosaurs is the lack of useful reference. You can't import live action reference of a dragon or a dinosaur into Maya, so we are forced to look for inspiration in the creatures' modern relatives, such as lizards, crocodiles and birds. 

Anatomically speaking, dragons are hard to animate because their physics don't actually make a lot of sense; they are too heavy by far to fly and their wings are where their front legs would be (think of the anatomy of a bat or a pterosaur, for example).

Back to basics
What animators should always avoid doing is copying someone else's animation; it is important to go back to basics and find references in the natural world.

Dragon Animation at Dreamworks with Simon Otto
Below is a great video interview with DreamWorks animator Simon Otto on animating dragons - and on animation in general.  If you want to be a great animator, following in Simon Otto's footsteps is a great place to start.

Dinosaur animation with ILM
Fallen Kingdom
One of the highlights of last year's VFX Festival at Escape Studios was the presentation by Jance Rubinchik, animation supervisor at ILM on the making of Jurassic World, and Fallen Kingdom.

The talk was a masterclass in creature animation, demonstrating how much careful research goes into the creation and animation of the dinosaurs.

The Jurassic World series of movies as are a "balance between science and entertainment", as the film-makers try to keep both audiences and paleontologists happy.

From the point of view of animators looking to tackle realistic creature animation, the lesson is simple: use as much reference as you can, and make sure you use live action reference that is as close as possible to the anatomy of the creatures you are trying to animate. 

The Escape Studios Animation Blog offers a personal view on the art of animation and visual effects. To find out more about our BA/MArt, follow this link.  To apply, visit the offical page here.

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