After taking a 2048 x 2048 UV snapshot of a proxy tree object, I "painted" the color spread, frame-by-frame, for 24 frames. I imported the images into After Effects and compiled them into a video running essentially in half-time, so the video file ran for about two seconds.
Demo Animation in Maya
I then imported the video itself into Maya as a maps-based texture for the proxy "tree". The result was a demo on what a 2D-animated texture might look like:
This approach could be as time-consuming and tedious as we want it to be, but I think we could achieve a unique animated effect with this method. I also researched procedural animated masks in After Effects as an alternative method. Maybe we could use both methods on hero assets vs non-hero assets.
The "painted texture" will certainly be more time-consuming, but I think we'll achieve some striking effects. I'll advise the texture artists to take more shortcuts animating the textures on the non-hero tree objects in our environment.
Demo finished on 21st February, 2015