Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Meet The Airship!

Airship by Kiel Figgins
Kiel Figgins' excellent airship is one of the free rigs we recommend for student use here at Animation Apprentice. Why? Because it's a great rig for learning the principles of drag, follow-through and overlapping action - a crucial part of the animator's skill set.

You can download the airship here at Animation Buffet (a great site for free rigs); it forms part of Figgins's "Rig Set Five".

So what's so special about this airship?

What's so great about this rig?
It's a great rig for learning the principles of drag, follow-through and overlapping action. The main rotor at the top powers the animation, but the pod underneath drags, follows-through and overlaps the main action.  The trick is to bring the airship to a stop, and have the pod overshoot and settle.

Does the rig have any bugs?
Not really. It works pretty well, with no obvious problems. One thing you will have to do is turn on Locators in your viewport, since the direction control that allows you to "point" the pod is a locator - which acts like a pole vector. Move the locator around and the pod will point in the direction you want.

However the pod won't rotate from side the side. The rig does not allow for this, though you can use the locator look control to rock it back and forth.

How do the rotors work?
There is a slider called Toprotation in the Channel Box in the main rotor control that allows you to adjust the speed of the rotors. Try a very high setting, such as 1,000, to get a really nice, fast spin.

Also set Set Lowspin to around 300 to get a slower counter rotation from the lower blades.

Where can I see some examples of airship animation?
Check out the examples below - and note the use of flexibility and overlapping action in the animation.

Airship Animation by Greg Gordon

To produce the glowing effect on the airship's "eyes" above, go ahead and select the "eye" geometry, and right click and assign a new Lambert material. Name it eyeLambert (always name things clearly) and in the special effects tab in the Attribute editor you can give it a glow intensity of 1. This will make the eye glow. You can also create a point light and embed it inside the "eye" - giving the airship a glowing headlight.

Airship chasing a car down a city street by Nick Dimitriadis

Airship title animation by David Davis


Each one of the videos above shows a strong mastery of the principles of drag, follow-through and overlapping action. If there is a better rig to learn these principles, we haven't seen it yet.

That said, there are some pretty nice training rigs here at CGMeetUp, including the very useful "Ultimate Pendulum" which does pretty much the same kind of thing as the Airship. But it's not nearly as cool!


To find out more about Animation Apprentice, click here for a link to Frequently Asked Questions. To sign up for our next classroom at Animation Apprentice, follow this link

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