Making Of 'Shark' - Animation

Many of you wrote me an E-mail asking when the shark animation tutorial is going to be. So here it is. It's not state of the art animation but you will see some basic things about animation that can help you build your animation skill. To tell you the truth this is just a simple animation that needs a lot of addition work to make it for a showoff. So anyone who make something that looks good with this shark, send me a link, I would like to see what you done.

So lets start.

Like always before entering the software you need to do your homework on what you will be animating. We are lucky, this time it's a shark so turn on discovery channel and in a few days you are shark movement expert. Shark always go straight forward. There is not much movement. Just the tail going left to right and when turning the whole body bends so it looks like the front part of the shark is bending in turning direction..... so we are going do animate the shark by moving tail and front part of the body. Movement should look like this. Shark is going straight to camera and when its close turns away from it. Look at this like the shark wanted to attack the camera but change the mine in last second.

Here you can download shark model max 4.0 or 3ds.

This is the shark model seeing from Right view. This view is most suitable for starting to build skeleton (bones).

We will create bones and connect each bone to some part of the body (mesh). And when you move a bone part of the body attached to that bone is moving with it. Simple, right.

How to create bones?

Go to the Animation/Create Bones or Systems under Create panel and click on Bones button.

Now click in viewport and one part of the bone is placed in place, now click to finish the bone. Next bone is starting automatically from the end of previous one. To stop creating bones just right click. When you stop creating bones a small rectangle like bone is placed at the end. Sometimes you will need this end bone, but now you can select it and delete.

Try to experiment with Bone Parameters. Select the bone and change its width, dimension of fins.... So know every bone can have a shape of its own.

Above you saw some basics. Now to make our skeleton. Make first bone like the picture is showing and right click to stop.And at the end delete that small bone.

Now create 4 more. Starting at the start of first one. Try to mach same connection points like on the image, and at the end you can delete that small one or not. And add one more bone to the lower part of the tail. That bone should start at start of last bone.

Bones are automatically linked to one another. You can use link tool to link bone manually. We will do this a little bit latter.

This is how the skeleton looks like so far.

In Top viewport create two bones inside fins. Use a picture as reference.

The bones are created in horizontal lane. We need to adjust vertical bones position. You can not move bone like every other element. Select the second bone. Go to the Hierarchy panel and check Affect Pivot Only. Now use move tool and move that pivot vertically so the first bone and start of second mesh the fin. Do this for a small end bone and you will have bones inside the fin.

See those two pictures below.

When the bones of one fin are created and adjusted, to save some time you can copy them to the other side using mirror tool. Select all bones in the fin. Click on Mirror tool and adjust position in Mirror tool window.

Now select first bones in side fins on both sides. Use select and link tool and link those two bones to the first bone we created (blue arrows). At first I linked those bones to the second bone (red arrows) but when animating I got better results with those blue arrows linking, and you will see latter why. Now every bone we created is a part of the skeleton.

When you hide the body this is how the skeleton looks like.

So I forgot to add a back fin bone. Do it now in right or left viewport. And then select the bone and link it to the second bone in body.

You probably notice that all the time I been calling bones: first bone, second bone...
Its a little bit difficult to understand and to follow me. So imagine a more complex bone skeleton and deferent people working with same model and trying to talk about some parts of it.

So we are going to add a name for an every bone. Now at this stage, for as are important only three bones so you follow the picture at left and the rest of bones name like you want.

Skeleton is created, now its time to connect skeleton with skin (mesh). Select the shark body (mesh) and add a Skin modifier. Click an Add Bone button and select all bones. Now the bones are part of the model. Try to select one and move it or rotate it.. see how the body moves with it. But something is wrong. Not all the parts of the mesh are moving with the bone. That's because every bone has an envelope around itself. Envelope define space around the bone and every vertex of the mesh that finds in that space will move with the bone.

Lets try to adjust our bones to the mesh. Select Body bone. If you find difficult to click on bone use selection filter on main toolbar. In drop down menu select Bones. Now you can select bones only.. While Body bone is selected click Edit Envelopes. Envelope is shown. You can scale or move the Envelope. See that red vertexes?, movement of the bone will effect them the most. Main front part of the shark should be in the envelope of the Body bone.. Now do this for every bone.

At the end to check connection select the Main bone and move it. The model and all its parts should move with the bone. Any part that stay in place is not connected well. That mean that you need to adjust the bone envelope near that part of the mesh.

Its time to start with animation. Firstly place a Target camera, facing shark. Make sure that camera is not too far away, so you can clearly see the shark. Select the Camera Target and link it to the Main bone. The main shark movement will be done by moving Main bone so the camera will always look at the center of movement. At these three images around you can see the main path of the shark body...

Select the Main bone. Turn on Animate button. Move the time bar to the frame 80. Move the Main bone just down next to camera. Now move the ruler to frame 100, and move the Main bone away from the camera like the picture below shows.

Now turn off Animation button. Turn on play. In top view you will see how the shark moves and camera follows. You will notice that while shark goes away from the camera it keep straight forward position like its not turned to the left. That means that we have to rotate sharks body around frame 80.

Go to the frame 85, turn on Animation button, select Main bone and rotate it so the shark's head is almost facing turn left direction (final destination of the movement). Now go to the frame 90 and rotate the Main bone so the head is facing turn direction. Turn off Animation button and play anim. Something is wrong. It looks like shark is starting to rotate from the start. That's because we add a rotation in frame 80 and Max automatically starts rotation from the frame 0. Every change in Animation is written in keys. And you have a key for rotation, position, scale of the every animated element on every frame.


This rotation problem we are going to solve in Track View. Open it.

When Track View opens to make thing easier right click on first button and select Animated Tracks Only. This means that only animated object's tracks will appear. Now right click on World and select Expand Tracks. If the Main bone is selected its name will apart bordered with yellow. Find its rotation line. Keys are those eggs like dots. Selected key is white. Use move tool and select and move rotation key from the frame 0 to the frame 78. Now the rotation will start at frame 78 and will and at 90. Turn of Track View and play animation. See?, already better.

So far we have main movement. Its time to add small tail and head movements to add realism. Only bones we are going to animate are: Main bone, Pre-tail bone and Tail bone. Lets start with the tail animation. So how many times should tail move form left to right? Lets say that one movement is 2/3 of a second. We have 100 frames of a little bit more then 3 seconds. That means that movement will last 20 frames.

So go to the frame 20. Turn on Animation button. Select Pre-tail bone. Use rotating tool and rotate it so it look like a picture on the left. Rotate the bone in Local coordinates and looking it from the top.

Now do the same with the Tail bone. See how the mash is not smooth at the place where the bones rotate. This is not a big deformation and will not affect how animation looks so will leave it for another time. But if you have to do something under Skin modifier/Gizmos you can use Join Angle Deformer. This sort of envelope will deform skin (mesh) as you wont.

Note: Try not to animate Main bone for now. You will do this bone at the end. Try to do the tail all the way and then play animation to see how it looks. Then add a Main bone animation and see how it look then.. You will see the big difference in shark movement. Movement is more convincing.

Go to the frame 40, turn on Animation button and rotate Pre-tail bone and tail bone like at frame 20 but on other side.. and do like this two more times (frame 80). After frame 80 do same tail movements but on every 10th frame because we want to shark go faster when its going away from the camera like it angry or something.

And at the end I added a Target Direction light with Noise as a Projector map. Look like under water. Background is white and Animation is rendred with Brazil r/s. Click on image below to see the animation... done in divx.

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