Join Jason Baskin for an in-depth discussion in this video Shaping the feathers with wire deformers, part of Rigging a Winged Animal in Maya.
We've got a nice distributed rotation of the feathers on the wing now, but an additional control set that I'd like to add to this character is one that would give the animators the opportunity to shape the feathers. Maybe to suggest that the wind is hitting them and there's some drag or flutter as the character flies through the air, or even to help shape the way that the wings wrap around the character's body when it isn't flying. So, to address this functionality, we're going to make use of a deformer called a wire deformer. And I've got a simple example right here as a separate display layer.
The wire deformer, basically, will just deform a surface using a curve. So it's really handy for a lot of different functions. To set up a wire deformer. Let's see I'm first going to turn on the wire frame on shaded display. And we'll go to Create Deformers > Wire Tool. And Maya will prompt you to select a shape to deform, and press enter. And then to select a curve or curves to uses the deformer and press enter again. So, the wire deformer is set up. If we right click and chose control vertex in component mode, I can actually grab these control vertices and pull them around to shape this surface.
And the wire deformer has various different attributes as well to designate fall off. So, again, this can be a really great tool just for even modeling, terrain modeling. It certainly comes in handy for facial rigging and other rigging processes as well. So let's use that idea to influence the shape of the feathers for the wing for this character. I've actually got a curve that I've created already. And this is one that I've placed toward the tip of the feathers for the wing. And the reason I've done this is because I want to influence the tip more than the base of the wing, and I also want to make sure that the feathers don't detach themselves from the base of the wing as we manipulate this deformer.
So, to set this up, once again we're going to go to Create Deformers > Wire Tool. And I'm going to click on a feather, and rather than applying this individually to each feather, I'm actually going to hit the up arrow on the keyboard which will select the entire group hierarchy for the left feathers of the character, and then I'll hit enter. Next, I'll select the curve and hit enter again. And the wire deformer is in place. I'm going to hide the joints, and right-click over the curve and choose control vertex.
And as I pull the control vertices around, you will see some influence but it's very, very localized, and this is just because we need to boost the drop-off distance of the wire deformer. So I'll set this to a higher value, maybe about nine. And we'll try it again. And there we go. That looks like that's creating the effect that we want. So, we can't have an animator controlling vertices like this. This is the same issue that we came across when we were setting up the Eye Case flying back. So we're going to create controllers that will adjust these control vertices, and those controllers are going to rely on clusters to move the vertices around.
So select each one of the control vertices one by one, and then go to Create Deformers > Cluster. This time I'm going to go to the Cluster Options and I'm going to make sure that Relative is check on. I believe this is set off by default, but we definitely want it on in this case. So I'll click Apply. Leaving the relative function on will make it easier for us to synchronize the behavior of the controllers with the behavior of the clusters. I'm going to do that for each one of these CV's. So, I'll just hit the G key to activate the last used function.
Then you can see I've got now four clusters created. So, each one of these clusters moves the control vertex which is associated with the wire deformer and shapes the wing. So the next step is to connect the clusters to controls. I've actually already created some simple controls here. And these are set up just like any of my other FK controls. I have an offset node. I didn't really need to worry about orientation for these, but I positioned the offset node at the location of the cluster and the control vertex. And then I'm going to connect the translation values of my controller to the translation values of the cluster.
So I'll go to the connection editor. Window > General Editors > Connection Editor. I'm going to load the shaper control on the left. Make sure I select the cluster. And load that on the right. And I'll just connect the translation values. And because these are in sync, as I move the controller around it's going to feed values into the cluster and it's going to create the deformation I want. And finally we'll just want to make sure that the shaper controls follow with the rest of the wing behavior. So, to do that I'm going to find those offset nodes and I'm going to constrain these offset nodes to whatever is the closest, sort of, the most reasonable wing control.
So, I'll bring up the outliner to do this and expand my hierarchy a little bit. Okay. So, I've got the left wing shaper control, and I'm going to parent constrain its offset to the left feather outer control. Just select them both and do Constrain > Parent, making sure that Maintain Offset is on. So now, as I modify this part of the wing, it's going to pull that controller along. And I'll do the same thing with these other offset nodes. In this case, I'll also use the left feather outer control for the second offset.
So let's find that. Offset, it's right here, so select the control, select the offset, constrain parent. Do the same with this one, this is the cluster two offset. I'll select the wing three control this time. Cluster two offset. Constrain parent, and then for the cluster one offset I'll use the first wing control. Constrain parent. There we go. So now the controls are traveling correctly with the wing.
And, they are going to affect the shaping of the wire deformer. I do need to make connections for each of these controls to the wire deformer. But as I make those connections in the connection editor I'm going to have a finished shaper for this wing. So, I'll go ahead and make these other connections between the controls and the clusters and then we'll pick up in a minute. So, I've gone ahead and made those connections between the controls and all the different clusters. And the shaper controls are essentially finished. One thing to keep in mind is that I've temporarily bound the feathers to the skeleton for demonstration purposes, but we're actually going to tackle the attachment of the geometry to the joints in a later lesson.
And it's important that the feathers actually be attached after this operation so that the definition will order properly in the final character rig. So we'll get into dealing with the wing tuck in the next lesson.
- 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