Join Jason Baskin for an in-depth discussion in this video Primary feathers overview, part of Rigging a Winged Animal in Maya.
The most challenging part of working with a bird rig is definitely managing the feathers. So, it's really important that the geometry be set up to accommodate rigging and that you take into consideration how the character is going to need to move to facilitate that process. So in this case the modeler had definitely addressed this issue by carefully placing the feathers so that they are not only, not intersecting, but also have, kind of, space to expand and compress. If I hide the body of the character, and we take a look at the feathers from the top view, you see there's a little bit of space, kind of a little bit of breathing room between each of these feathers, and they're also angled so that they're going to fold into each other really nicely.
So, you definitely want to make sure that there's not any intersection happening early on, before you actually get to the rigging process. Turn the body back on. So we're going to control all these feathers by adding some primary feather joints. I've already added one to our primary wing. I basically just appended a tip joint onto the wing. This is going to be the joint that controls the outer shape of the wing, the outer feather. So we'll add a couple additional feather joints, one at about the midpoint of the wind, this'll be our mid-feather joint, and one at the inner portion of the wing.
And ultimately we'll use these to distribute, sort of, the shape of all the intermediate feathers. So these primary feather joints will get parented to just the closest joint in the wing hierarchy. So in this case, wing three. You can see I've already done this for the right wing. And we'll also do the same for the inner feather. It'll go to the inner wing one joint. And so next, we'll create some FK controls to allow us to manipulate these primary feathers. And this is just exactly the same process that I used for the other FK controls.
This is just a control that has been positioned under an offset group. I just pick walked up the hierarchy and can see that there's an offset group that matches the orientation of the joint so that the feather itself is zeroed out and matches the orientation of that joint, the feather control. And that's connected either using a direct connection or a constraint. And so these FK controls are going to allow us to move our primary feather joints around. A lot of people also wonder how you get these more, kind of, advance looking controls, maybe multiple shape controls like these gyro shapes are ones that are involving multiple curves.
So I want to go over that quickly. If we go to our hypergraph, and you take a look at any of these controls, you'll see that even controls that seem to have multiple shapes associated with them, they show up as a single object in the hypergraph. And that's because the hypergraph does not display shape nodes by default. So, if we go to Options > Display > Shape Nodes, we'll see that this control is actually comprised of three separate circle shapes. So if you want to add something on to that, you can.
You can create an additional curve, and just parent it beneath this transform node, but you can't do it using traditional kind of parenting hot keys. Maya always assumes that when you're parenting something that you're dealing with transformed nodes not shape nodes. So, in order to parent this extra shape, which is just a kind of elongated cube that I created with the linear curve tool. In order to parent this shape to another transform. going to frame both these. I'm going to just use a mel command right down here in the command line.
So I select the shape node, which is under transform node. I select my target transform object and I type in parent, which is just the parent command, r which is the flag for relative to its current position, and dash shape. And that means that I am going to be parenting the shape node beneath this transform. And I'll hit the Ctrl+Enter to execute. And you can see that that shape node has gotten moved right under the transform node. I can delete the old transform node and I can also go to the Options and turn Shape Nodes off.
And now we can, sort of, simplify our hyper graph view, and you can see that this controller, which is carrying around multiple shape nodes, still shows up as a single element and it also gets selected as a single element. So, it just can make for more descriptive control types that are easier for the animator to make sense of. You can also modify the colors of joints or curves by just going to the attribute editor and looking for the drawing overrides drop down, enabling active overrides, and modifying the color.
So with our primary feathers rigged, with just our FK controls, then we can add the individual feather joints. And you can see that I've actually just created a whole series of these joints. Each of these is oriented to be consistent with the geometry that it's going to need to pull around. Now, I've simplified the feathers quite a bit on this. This is already a cartoony model. But I've only used a single joint to address both the upper and lower feathers. And, you could certainly add more joints to this if you were dealing with a more realistic character or you needed even more advanced behavior of the individual feathers.
But I'm trying to keep this on the simpler side, so just dealing with one joint per feather. And these joints also will just get appended to the closest joint on the wing. So, I'm selecting these intermediate joints and they're going to be parented under wing two. These two go under wing one. And these will all go under the last primary wing joint. So, when I activate my FK controls and move the wing around, those feather joints are going to travel along for the ride, but they're not going to distribute evenly the way that we need them to behave for a wing.
So that's going to be our next challenge is, addressing how these intermediate feathers respond to the movement of our primary feathers.
- Creating the skeleton
- Rigging wing joints
- Dealing with secondary appendages
- Shaping the feathers
- Addressing wing tuck
- Adding a squash/stretch/bend deformer to the head
- Tying the rig elements together
- Testing the rig