Prehistoric Megabeasts


  • Animation Tools

  • 2 hero rigs

  • 1 full muscle system

Prehistoric Megabeasts

With this amazing work done for Jellyfish Pictures these rigs came with some fun new tech to help the animators. This work was done in early 2016 for Channel 4 with these creatures on a quick turn around and needing a lot of time saving technology, which I was able to add to help the animators.

Titanoboa, a 43-foot snake, was thought to be the biggest, strongest ancient megabeast. But, giant crocodilians discovered in Colombia have challenged its status. So, which was the greatest?


Snake Rig

The snake was built using my head setup with an FK / IK spline tail attached. This tail rig included four joint layers for a high level of control with the forth additive joint setup being a system that could be constrained to a path to help the animation team. This meant the snake could still have FK and IK animation on top on the path constrained animation that was applied.

The snake was created with a new path constraining tool that saved the animators and job hours and possibly days of time. The tool just needed a nurbs curve selecting that was shaped to the path desired and then my tool added the snake's 4th additive joint layer to this path.

This gave the animators the ability to move the path animated curve, but without Maya's software bugs and crashing issues that come with path constraints and anim nodes. They could also then control the speed along the path of the snake and add more layers of animation on top of the path.

Crocodile Rig

The crocodile rig was made using my quadruped system. This included the default FK / IK limbs, which include bendy controls, squash and stretch controllers as standard for deformation tweaking. The model was beautiful and the texturing matched as you can see with the renders here. This meant that the rig had to bend and deform as realistically as possible.


The tail setup was similar to the snakes in that it had a flexible FK / IK system. There were twelve joints added down the tail and the weighting was projected to it from a tube to get the smoothest shape possible.


Muscle System

The muscle system that was built onto the rig was never going to be shown in the show, so some flexibility was therefore a given with how photo real the setup was required to be.


As you can see here the tail, legs and arms especially are very close to a real muscular setup for a crocodile, almost 90%. The body muscles were less strict and placed around the body systems to simulate their weighting and effect, while moving around, giving a perfect look to the creature when posed.


The muscle dynamics were set to quite stiff as crocodiles are strong beefy creatures and give very little muscle jiggle when walking. This stiff dynamic wobble did look amazing in walk cycles that were made, really bringing the creature to life. This setup took under a week for the base rig and another week for the hundred or so muscles that were added.


This was by far one of the most beautiful rigs made yet.

Here is a basic walk cycle animation I made to show the muscle system working. We can see the muscles stretch and flex across the body. The bounce and weighting in the muscles is mainly visible on the abrupt stops in the animation, where the muscles have to come to a resting pose and so the slight jiggle is visible with the weight of the muscle through the skinning and weighting.

The tail and limb areas here are massively visually improved with a muscle system. The tail maintains volume incredibly well when deformed at the base or at least more so than without the muscle system. The arms show great muscle deformation and definition through the triceps and biceps when the crocodile's hand moves from front to back though the walk cycle. When the crocodile slams his arm down in the walk cycle the weight can be felt with the dynamics of the muscle impacting, which really brings this crocodile to life.

Crocodile Muscle Setup
Crocodile Muscle Setup 45
Crocodile Muscle Setup 45
Crocodile Muscle Setup Top
Crocodile Muscle Setup Side
Crocodile Muscle Setup Front