while weight painting the manta ray, i learned that i hadn't modeled it in an optimum way for animation. the muscle spline system i created for it's spine and tail was working, but distorted the mesh too much. i decided to just use a simple FK set up for the back and spine, as i am on a deadline. next time, i will definitely learn how to exploit blend shapes to get the animation i want. for now, this will do.
after wrestling with the rig, i finally got it into animation. the poor modeling on my part creates some nasty distortion so i resorted to moving the rig as little as possible.
it took an evening to troubleshoot the rig, redo parts of that rig, and animate the manta ray flying around a tree trunk:
manta ray comp animation pass 1 from towncg on Vimeo.