So I’m back, and as promised, I try to give some hints how to start.
The first thing that I think is important to understand is the idea that you have about character animation and what your target is with it. Think of the early PIXAR animation clips, where they “blew” life in to mechanical things, without bending and stretching anything. This is certainly a test how much one understands emotions and their representation of it. Call it body-language.In my movie short “JET” which is explained in detail here on Cineversity, I used a little box with a nose (a sphere) and animated this first, so I was able to see if the body-language can convey my “directing” and the idea of the “actors” intentions, etc. I certainly think that this is based on what I saw in the early ‘90s from PIXAR. Bringing things to life with motion is for me character animation. Something that can be done with position and rotation and of course with camera and light as the supporting actor.
All of that, has a lot to do with timing. It also relates in a extreme way to the animators ability to observe and to study characters interaction with others or the world in general. I hope you noticed by now that I haven’t really said anything about rigging or technical stuff at all. This is the very first challenge that a character animator needs to master. No rigging in the world nor anything can take place for that. So, explore your ideas, targets and perhaps dreams about what you like to achieve. If you don’t know that, work on it. It is essential and like the newest and greatest gear doesn’t make a good photographer or animator, so does not make the best knowledge about all the tools will deliver what you miss otherwise. There is a reason why I point this out with so many lines, as the world of character animation is wide, so are their tools. There is an advantage of course to learn them all, but to keep the motivation up during that time, you should focus first on what you like to do first.
Secondly, and perhaps the most boring and dry part of this filed: Hierarchies and Priorities. Here again, as I might have mentioned it in the past decades often, the best way to stop one’s progress is the illusion to own knowledge already. There is always something more to learn. For advanced character animation, I think these are the two basic fields that can elevate or stop your progress.
Finally, the simplest way of creating a rig is the Character Object, more effort is in the “all from scratch” approach. My best tip here. Put “Bret Bays” in the tutorial search field filter. Watch everything he has to say. Check out his presentations as well (e.g.: Siggraph). When you have finished this you might know already how to search for more or post specific questions here of if related to the tutorials via the “Help with this Tutorial”, button.
In any way, the biggest mistake I can think of is to start with very advanced material first. How about a cylinder and a few joints only, to explore for example the rigging, binding and weighting “pipeline”, if joint based character animation is your target. It might feel slow and low, but to master this field needs a good foundation, and not an step by step co-pilot assisted “do-this-do-that approach. It might take a while, that is just the nature of it, of course depending on the target. I mention this to ease the pressure what could be accomplished in a short time. Character animation has a colorful mixture of skills as standard requirement. Each can break it or lead to an synergy effect.
All in all, it is a wonderful option in 3D and I hope you will find a lot of pleasure in it.
All the best