Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Airship Rig - How to Use It

Airship by Kiel Figgins
Kiel Figgins' excellent airship is one of the free rigs we recommend for student use here at Animation Apprentice. 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 (an excellent site for free rigs); it forms part of Figgins's "Rig Set Five".

So what's so special about this airship, and how can student animators get the most out of it?

About the Airship Rig
The Airship 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. Check out the thumbnails below by way of a suggestion.

Opening the rig
When you first open Maya, you will need to import the rig into your shot, rather than opening it as a scene file. For some reason, if you open the file, the rig breaks. But if you import it into an existing shot in Maya, it works fine.

Turn on Locators
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.

Pod rotation
The pod will translate in X Y and Z but it won't rotate from side the side. To change this, select the AirshipKF:Armcirc control (the one that controls the pod) and open up the Attribute Editor. Select the AirshipKF:Armcirc tab and open up Limit Information. Find the rotates tab and uncheck all the rotation limits. You can now rotate the pod using AirshipKF:Armcirc control.

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.

The Airship does not have a scale control as such. If you need to scale the Airship up or down, select it in the Outliner, press Cntrl A to open the Attribute Editor, find the Transform Attributes tab, and change the values for Scale to whatever you need instead.

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.

Ultimate Pendulum
You can also check out the very useful "Ultimate Pendulum" which does pretty much the same kind of thing as the Airship; and is very useful for learning drag and follow-through.


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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