Rigging With Bendy Bones

Rigging With Bendy Bones

Whether you are new to rigging, or a seasoned veteran (perhaps seasoned with pumpkin spice?) the recent addition of Bendy Bones (a multi-segmented, flexible rigging system) means riggers now have a very powerful addition to their rigging toolbox.

Jason Schleifer recently used Bendy Bones extensively in the recent Animal Fact video. Since the Animal Fact centered around the idea that chickens keep their heads perfectly still, even while walking, the use of Bendy Bones in the chicken’s neck seemed like a natural fit. Jason even liked the Bendy Bones system so much that he used it on quite a few of the chicken parts. (mmmm. Chicken parts.)

Starting Out

Jason wanted to control the head and body separately, with some nice interpolation on the connecting neck, just as you see in chicken videos where people are testing their inverse kinematics. This means that moving the body allows the head to remain in place without canting or tilting. Jason first did his research and decided how best to tackle this rigging challenge and decided Bendy Bones would give him the IK effect he was looking for.
Bendy Bones

Problem – Unstable Bendy Bones

Unfortunately, in the initial Bendy Bones tests, the rigging would sometimes twist or perform oddly when moved beyond even the most basic of motions.

Solution

Jason determined a quick and easy workflow to allow the bones to move and twist by keeping all the axis of all the bones aligned. This means that instead of just slapping a B-Bones armature on a single bone, he has created a mini-rig consisting of a head and tail with a Bendy Bone center. Here is the process, step by step.

1. Create Armature – get the basic structure down

  • Shift A (armature tool)

2. Subdivide the Armature

  • Switch to EDIT mode
  • W>Subdivide – Tool Panel>Number of cuts = 3
  • Shrink top and bottom segment

3. Create Bendy Bones – assigning B-Bones to a segment

  • Armature>Properties>BBones = on

4. Name the Bones

  • Outliner>rename control segments (head, bone, tail)

5. Moving Control Structures – capping the end of the B-Bones

  • Select tail (on top) control
  • Switch to Edit mode
  • Alt P – clear the parent

6. Segmenting Bendy Bones – sub-divide your bendy part

  • Properties>Bendy Bones>Segments = adjust to the desired number of segments

7. Create Bone Constraints – ensure your bendy part is anchored to the handles

  • Select bendy bone>Bone Constraints>Stretch To>Target = armature and tail

8. Align Controls – axis alignment of the handles

  • Bone tab>Custom Handle References = On > In = head / Out = tail

Blender Bendy Bones in ChickenNow because you have a bendy rig, with a head and tail where all the axis align you can move your anchored points and get a beautiful IK flow between the two points. and you can even use Bendy Bones on other parts, big or small, to allow for a smooth flowing motion.

Have you tried Bendy Bones? If so, how do you like them? Have you found any interesting way to put them to use? Let us know in the comments below.

Jason Schleifer
Jason Schleifer
Jason and his mad scientist eyebrows have been pushing the boundaries of CG animation and sharing his knowledge for nearly 20 years. Widely recognized as an industry leader and mentor to hundreds of animators, Schleifer, formerly of Weta Digital and Head of Character Animation at DreamWorks, now works as Head of Content and is a co-founder of Nimble Collective.

1 Comment

  1. Nair Paarth says:

    Thank you for making this high quality article! It helped me out tons, and saved me time! Continue being awesome

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