Group Based Rigging of Realistically Feathered Wings
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Digital birds are used in computer graphics to replace live animals both for the safety of the animal and to allow for more control over performance. The current treatment of avian wings in computer graphics is often over-simplified which results in a loss realism due to the incorrect form and motion of the feathers. This research attempts to address this problem by using the structure and motion of real bird anatomy to inform the creation of biologically accurate kinematic motion for wings. The hypothesis of this thesis is that a wing rig which follows biological accuracy will appear realistic in motion and facilitate efficient animation. This thesis describes the creation of a rig generation tool, called WingCreator, usable in 3D animation software to guide the construction of biologically accurate wings while maintaining a range of artistically-driven variability in form. The control system for the kinematic motion rig is designed to provide animators with intuitive control over wing behavior intended to result in efficient re-creation of realistic wing action including flapping and folding. WingCreator was tested by two riggers and one animator to gain feedback on the tools efficacy. The user feedback indicates that the resulting rig provides a control system that facilitates efficient animation while maintaining artistic control over the wing. Users reported that realism, however, could not be judged due to the numerous contributing outside factors, such as animation, lighting and texturing, that affect the perception of realism. WingCreator and its creation methodology is intended to be placed in the public domain for use by anyone and will add to the currently slim body of knowledge for creating realistic avian wings. Once placed in the public domain it is expected that this rig will be appropriated by animators who wish to create more accurate bird wing motion and by riggers who may use the biologically-driven methodology as a model for further exploration into depictions of other animals exhibiting complex form and structural motion behaviors.
Howard, Heather Vernette (2011). Group Based Rigging of Realistically Feathered Wings. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from