Today was the commencement of one of the most important elements: The coral that would chase our fish through the canyon. Since the start of the production phase of the project the idea was the coral would grow in order to pursue the fish. For this reason, what we needed was something that could look like it was expanding during its pursuit. We agreed from the early stages to see what we could do about making this possible with blend-shapes. And there was talk of interpolating various bend-shape scales.
To do all this I ended up considering a few methods. The one I have currently settled on was suggested by Alan, where I create a blend-shape stage for each set of buds that would then be combined into one slider sequence. I have spent a healthy portion of the afternoon preparing all stages.
To make this work, I have grouped each budding into a set starting from the top, I have marked buddings using NURBS circles and grouped each budding that forms simultaneously into their own groups, using the NURBS circles as identifiers. These groups were then added to their own render layer for easy toggling so that I can work my way down. I then set about the long task of compressing the whole coral down to the base.
It is a painstaking process but currently I am a little under halfway through the process, which makes it worthwhile foresight to have created the anemone tendril yesterday. My hope is to have this structure complete by the end of the weekend and possibly rigged for flexibility. But rigging with a skeleton is on the 'maybe' pile as this might be able to work well enough on its own. I estimate that I will need perhaps twelve different models to create the blend sequence.
I had a few other ideas that worked in a similar fashion. These involved rigging the coral to expand sequentially, however as can be seen in the image above, previous attempts had a few visualisation issues. Attempts to rectify this with proper timing proved rather time-consuming in order to hide the visual errors and I I progressed I discovered that the meshes were folding themselves inside out..
I learned early on that when compressing a model, using the central square in the scale manipulator will quickly invert the model. So each compression to nothing was done by way of compressing the dimensions on each axis, which unlike the uniform manipulator, didn't invert the model.