Blender – Animating and Compositing a Dragon Part 1


Hello everybody and welcome to the 3rd episode
in our blender cool stuff series today as you probably guessed from the title we are
going to be looking at animating and compositing a dragon and this is going to be really big
and complex so I am going to cover this over two tutorials the first of which, today, is
going to be about getting your dragon model ready for animation and animating it correctly
and the second tutorial is going to be about lighting rendering and compositing fire and
different effects onto the dragon. So let’s get started. I am in a new file in blender
and I am going to hit a a and delete. And deleted all of the objects in my scene. Now, I am
not actually going to make the dragon myself, first of all because I am not very good at
3D modelling and second of all because it would take a very long time and I wouldn’t
be able to texture it and things, so we are actually going to use one download from online.
This is from thefree3dmodels.com it’s a really good website if you want to get a good model
quickly for some animation. And you can download them all as different files. We are going
to use the obj version of this file. And this is a dragon created by the user 3DGenerator.
So, thanks a lot for that and if you can check out thefree3dmodels. I am going to include
this dragon as part of the project file for you to use. So let’s get into blender and
start importing our dragon. So to import the dragon we need to import it as an obj object
so go to file, import and Wavefront obj. If you don’t have this go to your user preferences,
search for the obj and there should be the option import/export obj and just tick that.
Shut it down and you should have the option to import an obj. I’m just going to navigate
to where I saved my dragon, you see we have got this dragon.obj there is also a textures
folder with this dragon which is really handy. and import obj. and horray we have got a dragon,
but there is a few things wrong with it. First of all it is huge, and second of all it is
facing the wrong way. Let’s fix the rotation first by going r x 90. Actually it needs to
be the other way, let’s just fix that. and hit S to scale it down to a more reasonable
dragon size. Now with this particular model, the thing is that it is in two parts. So we
are going to have to join these parts together. What I will do is select them both and use
Control J to make them one big object, Along this seam here we are going to have two vertices,
one for each side, so I will go A A to select all, W then Remove Doubles. Basically what
that does is it takes vertices in the same position and merges them. So you see there
at the top it says merged 229 vertices. Let me just do that again, you see it says removed
229 which is a lot. And it now means these ones in the middle and merged into one vertex
so I can move them around better. Which is going to be handy when we get to animating,
right now. And because this is one object I will just set it to smooth as I said I would,
because this is one object we are going to need to animate in a different way. So first
thing to get this right we need to recalculate our normals. So you can see we have these
funny black lines going all over our model. So we if you go to Control A, no Control N
and you see Make Normals Consistent and that has reset our models normals to the way they
should be and next thing we need to to do is build what is called a rig and that basically
is like a skeleton for the object, if you have worked in other 3D applications that
is what it is called and it is basically creating a little bone structure which control certain
parts of the model so I am going to get started in creating my rig and go shift a Armature
and single bone. and that has created our armature. which looks something like this
I am going to do my rigging in wireframe mode. and I am just going to build a rig around
my object. go into orthographic view by hitting numberpad 5 and let’s just move this into
what we would have as a rig. I’m going to position this bone right on the tail, and
there is a reason for this in a minute. It’s because If I go into edit modeby hitting TAB
and extrude it you see the bone is going to the tail go the correct way for rotation and
these the correct way for the neck. So let me just extrude a few bones for the tail.
I’m going to redo that. And one for the final tail tip. And then let’s extrude some bones
forward. You can just extrude like any other object by hitting the E key. When I get to
the head I am going to extrude one bone for the top of the head. I am going to go Shift
D, duplicate that, rotate it to make the jaw bone. If I go back into solid view what I
am going to do is go to the armature options and select X ray which means I can see it
through the object you can see we have kinda created a bone structure but it is not quite
centre so I am going to centre it up. And then we can work on extruding some more bones,
so I am going to get back to you once I have finished rigging this model and then we can
work on assigning bones. Ok so I have built the rig for my dragon and the next thing I
need to do is get organised with my rig. So I am going to go back into edit mode and start
by selecting this bone I have got for the top of the head. If I go the bone tab what
I can do is give that bone a name. So I can choose ‘head’ so I know what it is. I am going
to call this Jaw. Then neck underscore 1. And there is a few set rules to creating the
names for your objects. Say for example when we get to the wing. We need to do Wing, then
Wing R. So do Wing, let’s do wing base dot R. then we do wing middle, I seem to have
forgotten how to type, there we go, dot R because this is the right hand side of the
body. So that means if then go to blender and say we want to swap the left and right
we can just select all Autoname and Flip Names and have that automatically generated because
we have set these up with these names. So I am just going to quickly go through the
wing, so I can do wing base dot L.
Wing middle, and it is really important to name your bones otherwise as you have seen
before you have just got Bone 18, and you can name these as you go and I have just for
this example and it is only a small rig and not very complex. We can just name them afterwards.
I can do upper leg 1 do L because there is a back leg and a front leg. and to create
these legs I have literally just put a bone in the place where I think things should move.
So say in the knee joint, there is a bone there and just across the whole model I have
built it like that meaning if you are watching this and you are a professional rigger or
whatever. I am not very good rigger but this is a way that works for me and it will work
for you. It’s just you wont have as much control as if you did this with IK solvers and lots
of other things that I will get into if I do rigging in a basics tutorial. I am just
going to pause the video here and finish off naming my bones. Ok so I have just finished
naming of my bones so I know what they all are. If you noticed if you are in edit mode
and you have a bone selected in the bottom it says Armature upper leg and it will give
you the name of the bone you are working on. So we have created our structure, there we
go we are finished. Err not quite. Now we have created the structure we need to actually
assign it to the dragon so the first part of this is going to the modifier stack and
adding a Armature modifier. And under the object we should have only one option which
is out armature object. And you see we have these two options. Vertex Groups and Bone
Envelopes. Vertex groups is where you assign vertices to each bone, we is the method we
are going to be doing today. Bone envelopes is where each bone has it’s own little sphere
of influence on the model. But as I say we are going to be doing vertex groups. So I
am just going to uncheck bone envelopes. Now we need to assign our vertex groups, and the
first thing we need to do for that is go into the Armature object and go into Pose Mode
down here. Now we can actually see what these armatures look like and how they can be posed
on the object. So you see I can move the tail and stuff. But it doesn’t affect the object
yet. And on the main object go into Weight Paint. And this is where we can paint on the
influence of bones. So I am just going to go into the armature and hide it once I have
selected it and go into side view and see we have this weight paint window up on the
left. You see I have these brushes. I am going to select the Add brush and just start painting
on, I need to adjust my strength, there we go. And when it is red it means that bone
is influenced fully on that mesh. You see if I switch the armature back on in my hierarchy
you see I have this tail bone selected. I can select difference bones and I can paint
on what I want it to influence, so I just make sure it covers the whole of this tail
then I can move onto the next bone. I do like to switch it off while I am actually painting
on. Just switching it back on and off for reference, just so I know where it is. I find
if you leave it on all the time you can’t quite see what you are doing. It gets in the
way a bit. And this doesn’t have to be quite exact you can overlap a few things. It doesn’t
matter too much, tweaking really come later. As you will see. So let me just paint on a
few and I will show you the effect this has had on our model. Remember to paint both sides
of the model if you are doing a thing like a tail or a leg or something that has two
sides to it, most parts do so remember to do both sides otherwise only half of it will
get moved. Let me just finish off this last bit of the tail then we can tweak this section
the I will move on and finish the model. You guys can finish your model to whatever you
want, whatever standard you want. And there we go that is close enough for what our purposes
are. Let me just go into the subtract brush, I painted a bit on the leg by mistake. Turn
the strength up, otherwise we will be here all day. There we go. So let’s say I have
finished the whole body, I am happy with that. Go back into object mode. If I go into pose
mode I can now test this. So if I go R Z you see this bone is now moving the tail but you
see have got a problem here, as this bone has left some vertices behind. But that can
be fixed. If we go back into weight paint our pose is kept the same, so if I go back
into the Add brush I can literally just paint those vertices on. And go back into object
mode and now we have go our object ready for posing. So I am going to go on and finish
this model. And I will get back to you once I have done that. Ok, so I have actually cheated
a bit. I have nicked a model which I have already pre posed. So now I can move this
around in all the parts that I want. I have done this tutorial before. So you see if I
move my head the head goes up and now I’ve got the lower jaw all sorted. I am just going
to close the jaw by going into pose mode then R Y. Just because I don’t want my dragon to
have his mouth open all the time and the next thing we need to do is make sure the armature
moves with the object. If you see in our hierarchy the armature is separate from the object.
Let me just rename this to Dragon rather than Mesh 001 and this to Skeleton. And I am just
going to go with the Armature and Shift click the dragon go control P, set parent to object.
Now you see the Armature is a member of the Dragon. Make sure you select the armature
first then the dragon otherwise the parent will go the other way which is what we don’t
want. Now if I move the dragon, the bones come with it. Ok so I think we are now ready
to begin animating. Now I want my dragon to start in a position like it is just waking
up. So I am going to start by positioning my wings. Let me just move it so you can see.
I am just going to start by positioning this wing because I am going to position it it
like a bird and birds sleep with their heads under their wings. Let’s bring that wing up.
I am just doing R Z, have I missed off. I’ve lost my keys, let me switch on my keys so
you can see what I am doing. There we go. I am going to use the rotation functions to
get that head down. And rotation is really mostly what you are going to use to animate
using armatures. Stick the head under, and I really want the head to be a lot lower than
that. And then we want the wing to be curling over. Oops. Now it might take a while to get
your pose right but once you have got it right it is important because it will add to the,
it will make the audience really believe the story you are telling. Or the character you
have created. Which is what it is all about if you are doing animation. You want the audience
to be caught up in your story. So I am have messed this up a bit, this is not as good
the first time I done this. There we go, so I have got the head under the wing. This other
wing I want to be curled up. Sort of like this, and once you have a pose that you are
happy with. I am going to curl the tail around a bit to make it a bit more believable. It
is literally as easy as animating anything else. I am going to select all of the bones,
go I insert keyframe Location Rotation. You see there is a little keyframe icon in the
bottom. And we just want our dragon to wake up, so let’s set this to 250. It is going
to take, about 4 seconds for the dragon to wake up. So let’s just reset some of these
bones. If you go Alt R you can reset. So I can select all and go Alt R to reset it back
to it’s original position and pose from there which is what I think I will do in this case.
Just takes a little while for the mesh to update. Going to make sure the head is nice
and low, sort of looking up. You have to think about animals and how they act if you are
posing think about people how they act if you are posing a person. And this is going
to be a really short animation for now. I am just going to do the very basics. So this
is the kind of thing I am going for. I am actually going to curl this wing slightly.
I don’t want it to be symmetrical, that is a bad thing to have symmetry in your work.
Then people instantly don’t believe that it is a real creature. I am just going to swing
the tail the other way slightly. And let’s just add a new keyframe. And you can see as
soon as I start moving the play head it animates between those two poses we have done. And
then I want the dragon to curl up because this is going to shoot some fire and that
is going to be the main topic of our compositing tutorial is getting that fire to look good.
So I am going to have the wings curl up as if he is ready to shoot some fire. The neck
to sort of curl up. Now your animation might be completely different to what I am doing.
I am just doing this so it links in with the next tutorial. I have the neck screwed up
like it is ready to pounce or something. Let me just position a few of these wings back.
I want to rotate that neck a bit more. I am trying to get this to look good, I might completely
fail at that. I can switch off the armature to see how it looks. Maybe I have rotated
that neck slightly too far. Let’s rotate this tail back. Just by rotating the tail every
time I pose is creating a swinging tail at the same time. You can see you have that wagging
tail like a real animal. It scrunches up it’s neck. And then in the space of about 20 frames
I want it to really lean forward. And if you have noticed a few animals when they are trying
to intimidate something they spread themselves out and make themselves as big as possible.
I am going to make the mouth open wide to shoot some flame. And rotate these wings so
they are really high in the air. Like it is trying to intimidate an animal or something.
Just by switching, rotating these wings slightly. This tip I can rotate it on the Y axis to
bring it around and the same with this. So you can actually see the wing a bit. I am
going to make the tail straight for this like it is concentrating or whatever. It is actually
using a lot of power to shoot out some fire. It is the little details that make the difference.
If I then insert a keyframe you can see how that reacts. If I go back to here, I can hit
the copy. And at frame 250 I am going to paste it. Insert a keyframe and I am also going
to copy the pose from when he is active, paste that. So now you see we have got this animation
if I play it through. Shoots some fire. I just want to modify this pose slightly so
it doesn’t look exactly the same. Bring it down slightly, just little changes so it is
not exactly the same pose for a while. Just going to change the wings as well. I am actually
going to bring them all slightly down. There we go. I am pretty happy with that animation
I mean you can spend a lot more time making yours look far better than what I have done
but is what I wanted to happen so we can have a look at compositing next time. And I think,
that is pretty much it for our animation tutorial. You can spend as much time as you like getting
yours right. This took me probably about half an hour to get the actual rig ok. You can
spend up to an hour getting a rig perfect, but for our purposes this is fine and in the
next tutorial we going to look at actually texturing and lighting this along with the
actual compositing of our fire and other compositing things inside blender and outside blender.
So until then thank you for watching. And I will see you in the next tutorial.

51 thoughts on “Blender – Animating and Compositing a Dragon Part 1

  • @Abyss7799 The program works them out. Animation is the subject of saturday's episode – I explain things better there. I hope! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Part 1 of the tutorial covers preparing the model and rigging it for animation, Part 2 covers animating and compositing. I hope this is clearer.

  • I have a question. When I save the dragon model and I try to import it using obj it doesnt appear where I saved it…

  • Lol i'm interested in animating and i'm 14. So far from this video it's all going well but yes the model download is still up. I got it from searching Dragon on the website he gave us. I chose the same one as him. Try checking again or maybe u didnt put the right thing

  • @Rairou Go to the top menu bar ('File' etc.) hover the mouse between that window and the 3D window until it turns into the two arrows symbol and drag down. The preferences are hidden above the main menu. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • i have a question when i am useing weight paint i try to select an armature it selects
    the whole bone structure hoe do i fix that

  • I can't download the dragon as a file, it only gives me something that I can't even upload into blender. Can you help me? I'm using a mac.

  • Great tutorial! Very helpful for creating basic armature movements of any model in Blender. I watched it once through, and am watching it again to take notes and follow with it this time, only with a different model. Thanks Nick!!

  • how do i download blender files fromย tf3dm. when i download it, even tho it is listed as dae, and blender it dose not download as blender and theres no way for me to chose.

  • I have a problem, when I move the dragon parts they move right yes but the way I move them makes it look terrible, when you move the dragon parts they move smoothly, mine they look like I they break or something, so when I move even only the neck as you did it looks bad, any suggestions?

  • I am unable to name my bones and when I tried the weight paint it acted like the whole structure was just one bone. Can you help me.

  • @Logan Tytus – Youtube wont let me reply conventionally for some reason…. ensure that the armature is in 'Pose Mode' before starting to paint. This should fix the problemย 

  • Hi, I have a problem. I try what you did with the bones, when I weight paint the bones. The mesh doesn't move with the bones, I try rewatching the part over and over again, still not working. What am I doing wrong? I don't understand it, you show after the modifier, I did the same thing. Then you paint the tail tip, I did the same, its still not working. Please help, I really like to finish this so I can animate my dragon. Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

  • i need a little help. For some reason, no matter what i do, I can't seem to get into edit mode. Did I do something wrong? Please help.

  • Can someone help me? When i'm doing the weight painting, it doesn't become specific to the bone i clicked in pose mode(RightfulprovedcynderangelDW's problem)

  • I didnt really come here for the tutorial you gave, bit i have been trying to get this model into my Game im creating, and i had a problem with the animating, bc of the black lines, but this helped with that!

  • Fairly new to Blender; on import I can't see the dragon, I followed your steps and it (dragon) is not visible, tips?

  • Alot of handy tips, especially how to rig the model & connect it to the model, plus the website for free or pay digital models to use in your respective projects. Great & Thanks!

  • You may find that the vertices on the spikes at the tip of the tail rotate or scale strangely in pose mode (as if they are being pulled). To fix this use the subtract brush to remove any weight on that bone that affects the tail, once its all blue again tick the "Auto Normalize" box on the left and reapply weight with the add brush. Hope this helps anyone with the same problem I had.

  • thanks for showing this man, I'm good at Maya autodesk not blender but a lot stuff your doing here is so similar to Maya lol

  • +Nick Pearson when i download the dragon and try to import it to my project i can't find it even when i save it in the correct folder

  • This was a bad video, you should of showed us how to rig the rest of the body, yes I know it would of taken a while but u could of started us off.

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