Bird Tutorial


Although it's just a toon bird, with toon eyes, they still should look very alive. It's very important to have good shape and texture, as well as any detail which would help to convey character emotions - in our case eyelids will help us to get all necessary expressions. Remember, this bird don't have any real face for expressions, it lacks eyebrows and other things, so we will have to do the best with what we have.

Create NURBS sphere in a side view approximately in the middle of your sketch eye. Rotate sphere around X axis -80� and freeze transformations..

Now it's time to assign shader to this eye. We will use for eye just procedural shaders, which are not only easy and powerful in Maya, but also gives opportunity to animate them easy. This way we can add animatable detail with shaders instead of modeling it.

Open Hypershade window and create Phong material with the default settings. Then click on Map button for the Color value and from Create Render Node popup window select ramp. Repeat the same steps for bump mapping. And for Reflected Color choose Environment Textures > Env Sky. We will leave Env Sky on default settings, but both ramps has to be tweaked.

The ramp which we assigned for color should represent iris and eye white. So change the color of the bottom part of the ramp to white, top to black and add 3 different shades of brown like shown in the picture. Additional black and white bands are used to get sharper transition of the color.

Bump ramp is made the same way as color, just that it consist of black and white colors. One more thing which you will have to do when you're finished making bump ramp - you will have to click on output button on the top of ramp Attribute Editor's window, and it will lead you to bump 2d placement node, where you will have to change Bump Depth value to 1.5 - 1.6 to get right effect from this texture. Now from Panels menu select Saved Layouts > Hypershade/Perspective, in perspective view select eyeball and then in hypershade window right click on your eye shader and choose "Assign material to selection"

So here you have eyeball ready and if you will switch on Shading > Hardware texturing on you will see how it looks in your workspace. To see bums and reflection you will have to do test rendering, which is not bad thing to do - you can - you can see how it will look and maybe will decide to do some tweaks for color and bump depth.

Now we are ready to make eyelids. Create another sphere, just this time in Create Sphere options dialog make radius slightly bigger and choose X axis for direction. Whis sphere still selected in the channel box on your right side you will see line "makeNurbsSphere2", click on it and some options will open. Click on text "End sweep" and when it gets marked in black, with the middle mouth button pressed drag mouse anywhere in the workspace to the left and to the right. PRESTO - eye is blinking, cool. Later we will make a special control for that, but for now leave eyelids little bit open, go to shading menu and choose Smooth shade selected items, so that just eyelid is shaded and eyeball is just wireframe. Now we will need to add some isoparms at the edges of the eyelids to create nice rims like in the picture. Two - three additional isoparms are more then enough, all you have to do now is to pull some CV's to get something similar as in the picture.

Select both eyeball and eyelid and move away from central plane to the correct position - where it matches best the beak. When position is right in Modify menu choose freeze transformations.
Now it's time to create a locator for eye control. Go to Create menu > create locator, then move it to the position away from eye and center it in front view. Freeze locator transformations too (it's not necessary step, but after freezing you getting nice 0 transformation values in channel box, which afterwards can make your life much easier while animating). Select both locator and eyeball, go to Animate > Constrain > Aim, this will create aim constrain between locator and eye, so when you will move locator, eye will keep looking at it. Don't get scared if eye suddenly start to look somewhere else when you will assign aim constrain - just edit constrain properties for correct axis.

Now select both eyeball and eyelid and create latice reformer for them. Again 3 subdivisions in both directions should do the job. Before starting to pull latice points, we have to scale latice cage, otherwise after extreme deformations which we need to apply to the eye if you will move aim locator, eye might get out of latice cage and loose the shape which you intended for it. So open outliner window, and there you will find two latice nodes "ffd2Lattice" and "ffd2Base". Click on "ffd2Base" node and now you can use normal scale manipulator to make it larger.

Now you can select lattice in perspective view and pull it's points around to get correct shape for the eye. Keep on trying to move ail locator to check how eye looks in action, and when you are happy with the result, create an empty group called Eye_Left and in outliner drag eyeball, eyelid, locator and both latice nodes into that group. What's left is just to make another eye.

Wings, tail and long feathers

Our bird starts to take shape, but it still lacks wings, tail and some long feathers. We will use NURBS surfaces for that. In the front view draw EP curve outlining left side of the feather starting from the top. Then click on "Snap to curves" button and start drawing another curve for the right side, clicking first point on existing curve and dragging it to the very top, so you are sure that it snapped to the end. Then using the same snapping technique draw third curve at the bottom.

From Surfaces menu pick Birail > Birail 1 tool, it will ask you to select profile curve - that's the last curve we created, then select two rail curves (outlines of the feather) and here you go - NURBS feather. Click now on "Insert" key on your keyboard and move pivot point of your feather to the bottom part of it. Select your NURBS feather and duplicate it making some 20 or so copies of it.

Now you will have to disperse your new feathers on the body, especially around the eyes and chest. Do it just for one side, you always can mirror it to another side later. You will also have to pull CV's of the feathers to give them some shape and individuality.
Use wan of those feathers to make wing feather template, it should be slightly curved, and then duplicate it again making 10-12 copies for the wing. Locate them at the side of the body in nice bunch representing wing, just pay attention that base of all feathers would be close to each other. Later on we will parent them to locator for animation.

Tail is made the same way, feathers are scaled and pulled to form nice looking tail for our bird, don't hesitate to use some 30 or more feathers there and disperse them not only in width but in high too, placing smaller feathers on top. So, at this point modeling is finished, now we will go to the pleasant part of texturing it.

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