Yay! My first animation that doesn't involve bouncing balls! [Which reminds me, we did some animation exercises about a month ago; things like bouncing balls, bowling balls, balloons, pendulums, etc. I will post those soon].
Alright, so this was part of RIGGING class [at first I thought rigging was going to be boring and too technical for me to understand. However, once you get the basics down it's actually not that complicated at all!] We had to model any sea creature, rig it and animate it.
Approximately a week...
How It Was Made:
For those of you who don't know what Rigging is, it's basically the process of "Preparing a Character for Animation..." In other words, "Making a Character Animatable/Movable."
After the model was made [using polys], several "Joints" or "Bones" were added underneath the mesh [like a skeleton]. Then, the joints were applied to the mesh and the mesh was SKINNED [the process of defining movement and influence on a particular area of the mesh from a particular joint]. Skinning basically tells the mesh how to react to the bones underneath. After the skinning, control curves were created [simple shapes that replace joints] solely to make the workflow easier and more professional [as opposed to going inside the mesh and selected each individual joint every time you need to move it... which can be annoying!] Finally, the control curves are "parented" to the joints and restriction values are added to them [so that the dolphins head doesn't snap backwards and go inside its body!] Keep in mind that this is a "Swim Cycle," and therefore the movement is just repeated over and over again as if the dolphin was swimming in one place.
If you've got a good rig, then animation is a breeze...in this case, my rig turned out pretty well, and the animation was very easy to do. I watched several videos of dolphins swimming, and analyzed their skeletal structure, muscles, etc. So if you are asking: "Do dolphins really swim like that?" The answer is..."Yes!"