I’ve animated many, many, many, many, many bouncing balls in my life.
But so far they have always followed the same procedure of just animating with what I can work with, that is, the rig itself. I’ve animated simple spheres with a very simple squash and stretch constraint (so the Y axis decreases the X and Z axis when stretching, to keep the volume). The rest is plain understanding of timing, spacing and arcs. But Maya has a pretty good notion of how to achieve that in simple terms, so it was never a problem. The only bothersome part was to animate the ball rolling on the floor convincingly, or deal with the change in scale when stretching and so forth.
When I did the Blender tutorial on the car rig and found out a way to track the wheels to the floor and keep them rolling perfectly, no matter how fast or slow it went, or if it changed speed, I thought to myself: “man, this is a lot easier now! No more animating this type of realistic technical thing by eye, frame by frame even, to keep the surface of the wheel from slipping on the floor! What a feat!”
So just to keep things fun, I integrated what I knew about rigging and tracking wheels to make once again, a simple bouncing ball. Back to the basics, as they say.
Then, feeling a bit more comfortable with new knowledge about the why, how, who and huh? of Blender rigging, I followed another tutorial to integrate IK, eye tracking and drivers/sliders to make this pea looking character which I’ll just call Don Chicharito (Mr. Little Green Pea) who is always smiling, quite uncannily, by the way.
Time to go back to the good ol’ Alpha One. A couple of things will change in it though. I learned a couple of handy tricks that make it hard to not change them again in the final version, such as custom controllers for the bones (so off you go, landing gear rig) and simpler surface control rigs for the wings, which is a relief because the logistics of it were driving me mad. I’m also very interested in learning how to integrate animations into driver actions, which could be very helpful for the transformation process.