Reader's Question: I would to know a little bit more about having different layers with different timing. Can this workflow be applied to the wings of character?
Hello Javier! Thanks for stopping by!
I think for me, animating the wings as their own "layer," or their own entity, would depend mostly on the side of the creature. If I were animating a small insect or a hummingbird, I'd probably hide the wings completely, animate the bird zipping around, and once the bird is blocked in, only then would I turn on the wings and flap the heck out of them superfast, possibly even with little regard to what I animated the body doing.
However, if I were animating a dragon or another creature with big wings (a large bird, an angel, etc), I would be thinking more about those wings being integrated with the overall poses of the character, and the timing of the wings would be very integrated with the timing of the body. As the wings heave down, they are going to affect the body and be affected by whatever the body does, particularly near the connection points to the wings. Because they are so intertwined, I'd animate them together, which would work out better anyway because it presents a lot of great opportunities to get strong poses where the wing pose can accentuate the body pose.
Check out the great animation of the fell beasts (dragons) in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Study how the wings affect the body and vice-versa. This type of animation would be very difficult and time-consuming to tackle if you were attempting to animate the body and wings as completely separate passes. At the very least, you would have to go back and edit your original body animation after you added in the wings in order to refine the way they are working together, so it's probably best to do it all as one thing. One complete creature - that's the way to think about it.
So, I guess it all depends on the character or the creature, and there's no universal answer, in my opinion. Like pretty much every other aspect of animation, none of this stuff is hardcore etched in stone 100% of the time for 100% of the shots you will animate. Animation is an art, you can't nail it down with a mathematical formula. Every rule we talk about can be bent or even broken in the service of the style you are working in.
There really isn't a right or wrong for how you choose to animate the wings. All I can tell you is that from personal experience including the wings in your overall keys and breakdowns on a large creature will result in achieving stronger poses much easier and quicker than doing them on a separate pass, and that hiding the wings on a small creature and forgetting all about them until your little guy is all blocked in is a great workflow as well - but that's just my opinion. The more experience you get, the more you'll find workflows that make sense to you, and I'd encourage you to not be afraid to try new ways of working if you are finding any particular "workflow" idea to be difficult to deal with.
There's no right or wrong to this stuff - it's an art! Have fun with it, and see what works best for you, and what gives the best result!
Thanks again for reading.