Because the creature is a quadruped, and I haven't really spent any time at all looking into animating them, I found this test rather tricky at first because I was trying to do everything at once, and everything looked too choppy. However once I sorted out a way to do the animation in sections, I found it easier to apply movement to the character. First I started out by getting the timing right in the front legs, then went on to animate the movement of the body (using both torso controls, shoulders and the hips control.) After getting this movement sorted I went and added movement into the back legs to finish the main movement off. When I was satisfied with the motion in the body and legs I would start the animation in the tail. (This process can be seen at the end of the post, next I'll show the key bits.)
In this clip below I had put in all the main movements I needed in the legs and the body:
The body still looked a little stiff, with not a lot of movement to imply the weight he is trying to shift from one side to other other. So I went back and emphasized this movement a bit more and to get this little swaying movement from side to side, showing us it takes a lot of effort to move his weight. After this I tweaked the snap of the feet, to make them move more smoothly onto the floor. Next I moved onto adding in the tail movement.
In the next video, while the tail is moving it feels and looks like it is rather stiff because of the lack of movement at the base of the tail:
After thinking about this and why this movement of the tail doesn't look right it is because I was taking the reference straight from the smaller monkey tail and the lion tail and because their weight is not shifting as much as the creature is their tail stays relatively still because it has no impact on the lion's/monkey's balance. Usually tails go from thick to thin from base to tip, but for our creature, he has been designed with a backwards tail. And this is why it wouldn't look right animating straight from the reference footage of the monkeys, because their tails are very light and are thick-to-thin, therefore they don't have movement in a tail to keep balance.
Going back to this scene, I deleted all the tail movement key-frames and started off by getting the movement into the base of the creature's tail first before adding anything else in. By doing this I've now got some flowing movement into the tail now, as if the base is influencing the movement occurring lower down in the tail. Whereas in the first tail test, there seemed to be no influencing movement for the big sweep being created at the end of the tail, and I felt no implication of weight. In the new tail test I needed to get this sense of weight back into the tail, and animate as if the base influences everything else.
For now, the final animation:
I like the way this has turned out, there's some nice, smooth upper body movement and tail now has some good movement to it, and has now got a sense of weight. I still feel as though the hands need tweaking slightly to to smoothen out the snap a bit more and the fingers and rotations need to be changed a bit on his right hand. For now I like this, and for next time I will animate the hands differently and keep the nice body and leg movement. While animating the back legs I think it would be great to have a bit of shoulder-like movement for the creature's bottom, to give a little bit more motion into his hips because from other angles (mainly the back and sides) his hips feel a little stiff. With this rig, I also felt a small limitation with his front fingers because I wanted to move them like back feet (a small amount of toe roll.) Due to the way he was designed he has arms and legs, therefore rigged as arms and legs, however he is a quadruped creature the size of a small monkey so needs different arms (more like legs). What I have to work with is good and if the hand movement he makes is good enough for the on-screen image then that's alright. It would be nice, if there is time for the rigger to add this control in, is a toe roll for the hands, so that the creature can walk on all fours like this monkey that you can start to see walking at 8-9 seconds in:
I think that adding the toe roll in the hands would give more sense of our creature being a real animal, but for what I have, I really like the walk I have created. Below are videos of the initial stages of the animation I did, just to show how I approached this quadruped walk cycle:
Adding in the body movement:
Adding in the back legs: