Bird Flight

November 30, 2010

Brendan Body has a fantastic tutorial post on his blog about bird flight and other observations, here’s an excerpt;

Swimming is the closest thing we experience to flying, and it is tempting to animate bird flight like an airborne swim-cycle. Because of the vast difference in density between air and water, this can often lead us astray in a number of ways.

As you can see the animator has positioned the wings in the first image up and forward, then they move backward and down, pushing the air down behind, propelling the bird forward. It makes sense, right?

In fact, the exact opposite is true. As the bird’s wings move downwards, they are pushed forward and then rotate back as they return to the up position. The reason for this is simple once you understand lift, and if you’d like an explanation click below. As a general rule the slower the bird is flying, the further forward it’ll push it’s wings to generate extra lift, the faster a bird is flying the less it’ll push it wings forward.

Another important way to show effort during flight is not through activity in the wings, it’s in the hips. The amount of vertical hip movement increases with the effort the bird is exerting. As you can see in the video above*, the eagle has a lot of vertical hip movement when it first takes off, but as it’s speed increases, and the flight requires less effort, the hip translation decreases.

His blog, is a goldmine.

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2 Responses to “Bird Flight”

  1. drewpan Says:

    Thanks! I’ll be sure to check this out at some point. I’ve taken a break from my animating while job hunting and working in my old industry… but I’m kinda psyched to get back into animating and your blog always helps!

    • maligor Says:

      Thanks for the kind comments! Jobs are definitely getting harder to come by these days, esp game related ones. The lucas jedi master program is starting in april though, you still have a few good months to prep your reel!


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