Jo Plaete

Visual Effects – 3D – Interactive Design

XSI wing feather tool

with 13 comments

New version:


Lately I was looking at rigging feathers on a wing in XSI and I decided to develop a small prototype tool for dealing with this.

Basically it started out as a procedural feather system which enables you to draw out a curve and attach it to your bone system (or extract from a mesh) and generate a desired amount of feathers onto that curve. For the generation you can provide your own feather you model up. On generation you can adjust a set of parameters the script will take into account as for example add in some randomness in scale variation or some offsets. After generation you have a set of custom controls to adjust your feathers as well as a flash interface that pops up to manage your feather distribution and individual placement. The idea is that you animate your bone chain and afterwards you can go in and adjust the exact feather placement and bake that in as animation too. This gives you a lot of control in tweaking your feathers.

The system is still a prototype having some pros and cons and probably still some bugs in there but it definitely was a very good exercise in scripting for rigging and putting the flash-xsi bridge I developed (more info soon) to a more advanced use. I will keep developing this as I think it might be useful for people who quickly want a wing feather setup for their character.

To see it in action you can take a look at this screencap where I briefly go over it:

Feel free to leave any comments or ideas or drop me a line if you fancy to give it a try. I will upload the tool at a later stage.



Written by Jo Plaete

July 16, 2008 at 5:07 pm

Posted in Varia

13 Responses

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  1. nice tool !

    it can be very useful.
    We try to make some tool like this for maya. But not with very good result.
    (if you’re curious
    I’ve some shot to do with the basic crow… xsi can be a option! (funny one but… can be !:) …all of the prod was done with maya)

    Can we test your tool !?

    best regards.


    July 24, 2008 at 3:05 pm

  2. @Guillaume:
    thanks for the comment!
    The tool can idd be usefull.
    Still doing some more testing though, mostly I want to improve how the system handles the feather behaviour automatically so that the sculpt/correct tool should not have to be used to often..

    As you’re talkin about maya, I wrote this for xsi as an exercice in xsi scripting but I want to port this to maya too. At the moment I have a tool that bakes the whole system out an rebuilds it in maya with animation. I then apply nCloth simulation to the feathers for intercollisions, etc. This is still in test phase though..

    I’ll keep you posted about the progress.

    btw. You’re project looks interesting! Curious to see more!



    July 24, 2008 at 6:43 pm

  3. Jo,

    nice work. I like the ease of selecting specific feathers and modifying orientation. As well, the automation in feather placement and in using a curve deform saves the time to path constrain and setting percentages on a per feather basis…or even instancing in this kind of setup.

    I’d be curious to know if the main bone setup (the wing bone) is something that is generated through this tool or if that is created once you setup the curve and feather placement in your tool. As well I am curious regarding the wing generation or if you rely solely on the instanced feather object to contain a rig or if you only require the geo in this setup and the rig is something that your tool generates. Just curious.

    Either way, does this setup give the animator the ability to hand animate each feather AND have an overall control of the feathers (in the form of a slider or something) for orientation or scale or whatever for quick initial posing that can be tweaked out on an individual feather basis? Just curious.

    I look forward to seeing more thoughts. I am working on rigging a crane right now…and would love to give this a whirl if you would be down…if not, that’s alright as well…just keep showing your progress…:)



    August 5, 2008 at 12:05 am

  4. @Ryan:
    thx! Soon I’ll post about the new version of the tool which has hugely improved in terms of usability using a new approach towards the feather behaviour. This one gives the animator the possibility to animate a guide system and/or every single feather.

    The bone setup is not (yet) included in the tool as that would be different for every other project I suppose.. Also, you can try to derive the distrubution curve from you mesh and keep it live on the envelope. Finding a good way of attaching the curve to the rig is still a challenge though! Have to do some more testing on that too.




    August 5, 2008 at 3:56 am

  5. Hi,
    Very interesting script and workflow.
    I was rather intrigued by the UI you used for your script. We’re trying to create some user-friendly UIs for our tools and we’re looking into different methods.
    Could you please give me some info on what technologies you have used eg. Flash, etc.
    Thank you

    Reza Ghobady

    September 27, 2008 at 9:53 am

  6. @reza:
    Hi thanks for the comment!
    Just did a post about flash and xsi ! 🙂



    September 27, 2008 at 11:11 pm

  7. Hi Jo,

    astonishing tool! I really like it! Rigging wings is quite a tedious task…your tool is quite something to help in this process. I would like to give it a try if this is still possible.

    Best Regards,



    February 17, 2009 at 4:43 pm

  8. very good idea… good tool.

    i see this Feather tool movie…

    good job.

    thank you.

    in korea, ohgan.


    February 23, 2009 at 2:46 am

  9. @gans:
    gomawuyo! 😉

    Will get a beta to you asap, sorry for the delay.


    February 23, 2009 at 2:57 am

  10. its amazing can you give us a chance to test it?


    July 22, 2009 at 6:04 am

  11. awesome work !



    August 7, 2009 at 2:02 am

  12. Hello Jo. Your feather tool looks amazing. It’s great to see someone developing this tool for Softimage/XSI. I wonder if there’s still available for testing? Thank you.


    October 6, 2009 at 12:34 pm

  13. Hello Jo,

    I am working on an animation short movie, and I wood like to test your tool ! how can I get a version of your tool ? It is amazing !


    November 15, 2012 at 11:23 am

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