page 12345 - wing animation - MAYA TUTORAL 1 
Whilst the sculpt deformers provided a basic start, more emphatic deformation was brought about by using 2 wire deformers across the face of each wing. A lot of experimenting was needed to get them in the right place so that they would deform evenly across all feathers and their initial flat shape followed the curve of the wing from body to outer tip. One of them on its own was not sufficient in effecting the whole wing and rotation was set to zero. 
As opposed to the sculpts, the cv positions were animated via set driven keys  rather than deformer intensity. Increased complexity of deformation also required that several keys were set during one wing cycle (see graph editor below), with the curve shapes radically flicking their ends up at the end of each stroke. Again, intersection problems had to be addressed carefully.
With the sculpts and the wires resononably fine tuned, the wing started to take on a very effective starting point for a realistic cycle. Additional work was needed to also add a bit of the wing fanning animation to the flight cycle as well. As the wing flaps, the outer large feathers attached to the wrist scoop back and also fan out independently. 
Also, a lattice was used to deform the feather layer that blends to the body. As stated earlier, these feathers were attached above the shoulder joint so they stay level. Their outermost edges therefore had to deform with the rest of the wing. A simple lattice was constructed for the group and set driven keys were again used, controlled by my wing cycle attribute. Careful adjustment made for a smooth blend across the join.
Below, we see the wing in its uppermost position - the lattice creates a nice transition. 
The story of my wing does in fact go further but for the purposes of this site, appropriately ends here. The skeleton also had to house an arm and large fingers across its leading edge and the whole wing had to be duplicated with duplicate input connections and reversed in the z axis to create an underside. This way the other face of the wing could be given different, lighter textures and also, the whole wing looked meaty instead of just a thin arrangement of planes. 
The double wing along with more set driven keys for the arm and the fingers and complex texturing issues made for a pretty serious challenge - never mind the rest of  the bird. One bird's body was created for close up shots, with some 1600 planes for feathers, all pivoted properly so that they could be animated to simulate wind effects. Check out the gallery in late September to get the bigger picture. You can download a playblast of the wing cycle and wing fan below - please note that work is in progress at time of writing so you'll have to wait for the polished product.


(02 july 2001) the following links now work: 

click here for 1mb avi download of wing cycle

click here for 1.1mb quicktime download of the wing fanning