The dragon model is finished – for now

Dragon pose

Doing a short is definitely different to doing a still. Besides from being much more work, its the various aspects for animation influencing the modeling which kept me busy since the last update. And its a wealth of information about oneself.

I also learned to better economize my energy. I tend to immerse myself completely into the project, blending away hours far into the night. This is not advisable for a project like this, as the end point is too far away and I end up exhausted both emotionally and physically. This in turn affects motivation and I already had to experience my first low during this project.

Anyway, I think the dragon as a model is more or less finished. The storyboard guides me here as I know which parts of the dragon will be seen in high detail. The head will have some very near closeups and received the most attention.

As I started with the first rigging steps, I recognized that weight painting (especially with the bone heat method) is not functional once you have a mirror modifier on your  model. That makes me a little nervous. In order to do the weight painting I have to apply the mirror modifier, so I have to be sure there won’t be any major modeling tasks coming along.  I do not have  the experience if the animation workflow will demand any changes on the model (like changing topology for better deformation etc) . If there are, well then it will be more work.

As for the rigging progress,  I only have added the deformation bones with some weight painting to see if the poses work as I want them to be. As it turns out, tweaking the deformation will be quite some task …

I also stumbled upon a problem with bone heat weighting. At first blender always told me ‘failed to find solution for one or more bones’. I checked all the naming and setup of the bones but could not find an error. For weight painting I had the subsurf modifier deactivated, as this slows down the process drastically. Only reactivating the subsurf modifier ( and only using level 2 ?) let me use the heat weighting feature. I just fail to see how the subsurf modifier should influence the heat weighting solution …

I want the dragons rig finished before starting to model Ara. And this includes creating a nice controller set and maybe even a fly-cycle for the dragon. To get nice deformations especially on the head area and on the wings I will most certainly use action constraints, maybe mixed with ipo driven shape keys, but here I have to gather more experience.

Texturing and lighting is the area which I like most, so its very tempting to work immediately on the dragon, but I stay firm. The sculpting, texturing, uv-unwrapping and materials will all come after all the animation is done. This again should avoid unnecessary work.

Here are some wires of the current dragon model.




And here are some poses done very crudely with the current deformation-only rig. The poses are taken from actual shots from the storyboard. I wanted to see how they work out on the 3d model.



Actual status

8:45 Animatics
42:02 Concept Art
--12:00 Ara Design
--18:35 Color Tests
--11:27 Dragon Design
38:05 Modeling
--38:05 Dragon
2:46 Research
--1:16 2d-art
--1:30 animation
4:00 Rigging
--4:00 Dragon
4:30 Script
21:25 Storyboard
121:33 Total

Author: loramel


14 thoughts on “The dragon model is finished – for now”

  1. Looks way better than I imagined from the concept art! Hey, I remember you saying you’d want to start a short after 10years or so 🙂

    1. Hi Markus.

      Nice to hear from you again !

      Well, about the 10 years, I think I got a little inpatient, but actually the idea for this actual short was suddenly in my mind and I used the moment to start this whole thing off. The short I have planned for this 10 year period is another story ( already written by the way).

  2. Yes, things became a little… complicated this summer so I decided to leave you in peace. For a while 😉
    Well, that’s great to see! I am planning one myself, doubting this could possibly be a good idea, but it’ll make me learn more. So I’m watching you closely 🙂 Any recommendable literature? I think you wrote something further down…

  3. Hello,

    Very nice work!

    I am very new to Blender, and having the same bone heat weighting problem.

    After selecting “Create From Bone Heat” (Create Vertex Groups), I keep getting an error, saying “Bone Heat Weighting: failed to find solution for one or more bones”

    I have X-Axis Mirror turned off, all the bones are named correctly on one side or another/and are in symmetry.
    Also, I tried subsurf modifier on and off. but it doesn’t work.

    I am using Blender 2.49b and Python 2.6.2., and trying to apply self-created rig to an imported .3ds figure mesh.
    Do you have any idea?

    Thank you.

    1. Unfortunately I do not (yet) have a solution to this problem. The fact that there is virtually no information available on the cause of this error condition makes it even harder to try to seriously tackle this problem. I start to suspect that the topology or actual (complex) geometry may trigger this problem, which may well a bug in blender itself.
      The problem may surface again, once I start to seriously rig the dragon, but this will take some more time. I may even try a recent version of the 2.5 version to see if the problem persists with the new code base.

    1. Hi Gregory

      I will release the production media (at least parts of it) under a CC license when everything is finished – but only then. So you just have to be patient for little while 🙂

      1. Sup, laramel
        Well my class is doing a historical figure report. iam doing it on Leif Ericson so i am trying to make a viking ship. the due date is April 15 soo if you could . . . . . post the mesh so i can copy it into blender. i promise that i won’t take it as my own. i appreciate it thanks.

  4. Hi loramel,

    here is an email you can reach me at: Thanks i really appreciate it. If you want you could give me your email and i will send you the finished project. it won’t be great because im new to blender. Thanks again.

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