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[Maya] Animal ear rig suggestions

polycounter lvl 6
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BTDarmstad polycounter lvl 6
Hi there!

I have been looking everywhere for the best way to rig the ears of characters with big pointy ears, such as canines like wolves, coyotes, foxes and spitz type dogs, or various other fantasy creatures. Every example I have found so far is just a basic single FK chain going up the middle of the ear. The problem I have with this approach is that it doesn't seem to allow any kind of specific poses that show the character's real emotional state in a convincing way, and just acts as a bendy, dead looking appendage - not to mention this approach makes the base of the ear collapse when animating.

Especially for stylized characters of this kind, I would say the ears play a crucial part to sell such characters with proper ear animations.

There aren't that many good examples to show online unless I go screen grabbing movies and video games, but look at the "back" pose in this image. Being able to achieve that, I would say is very important on such a character, but a single FK joint chain may only achieve an unconvincing twist instead of a neat fold back.

Any suggestions on how to rig ears as well as possible are welcome.


  • Alex_J
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    Alex_J grand marshal polycounter
    Since the movements are kind of linear blendshapes might do the trick. depending on where the model ends up maybe a simulation can be used to add bobbiness like they do with hair. But just to achieve these poses I think blendshapes would work fine and they allow direct artistic control.

    for a dog ear folding back it doesnt really twist a lot. kind of folds over itself. Thats why i think the linear way blendshapes animate would be okay.

    you can also mix the two. drive the main movement with joints and use corrective blendshapes to fix the final posture. 

    Google corrective blendshapes in maya and there is a good video where they are using the Witcher character model as a demonstration.
  • oglu
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    oglu polycount lvl 666
    I would go with blendshapes. 

    Or use a chain or two. You could use mGear for prototypeing and do your own later. 

  • BTDarmstad
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    BTDarmstad polycounter lvl 6
    Thanks, will give blendshapes a shot. The concern is that it may deform in a way in which it loses volume when half way in between normal orientation and "back" orientation for example, and that the geometry will end up away from the inevitable joint chain for the ear, for offsetting animations, either losing the ability to offset during blendshape dependent poses, or inaccurate deformation outside the blendshape, but I could be wrong.
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