Animating the Owl

I animated the owl for all of my scenes in Maya as did the rest of the group. The first thing I did was analysed some reference footage of owls flying on Youtube to base my animation off. I noticed how the wings bend as they lift up and stay completely extended as they come back down. Luckily our rig was really easy to use for making the owl fly and it allowed us to make subtle changes to the animation. Sophie designed the owl model and rigged it and did an excellent job because the rig was very easy to use and make convincing animation with.

I set out each scene to be the exact duration as seen in the animatic (this is why having a frame counter on the animatic was very useful). I started animating each flying shot by doing a simple A to B with the rig to block out the timings. I used the animation layers in Maya for all of my animation. This was a workflow I learnt from the Youtuber Sir Wade Neistadt. On one layer I put all the wing animation, this was so that I could easily manipulate the wings on their own without altering the rest of the animation. I got the animation right for one wing and just copied all of the values over to the other wing, except for the X value which I always had to invert. I also created another layer for animating lift on the owl, this meant that as the wings went down, the owl’s body was pushed slightly upwards and vice versa. Animating on layers allowed me to control the influence each layer has on the final animation with a slider. So if I felt that the owl was lifting up and down too much, I could just pull down the influence without affecting the graph editor.

This video is a much longer version of the video above. I created it as guide for animating the owl for the rest of the group. So this video acted as part of our production bible.

There were some moments in the story that were difficult to animate with this rig because of it’s limitations. These were mainly times when the owl has to land and take off. We tried creating another rig to do that, but we were running behind schedule. In the end I decided to alter the storyboard for those scenes to kind of cheat the owl landing. Some of the options were to have the owl be obscured by an object, have a cut away to a wide shot or a close up, but basically just have the owl land out of shot. But I think we got away with it, especially with the landing shot towards the end of the film.

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