As an intern at SideFX I created a series of tools for doing feather FX, the toolset includes a feather generator, a feather groom tool and wing tool.
I'll continue to update this project as I continue to develop it. Download v1 of Feather Tools below!
Tool Design Challenge
Feathers are a unique fx challenge in that they call for large datasets to be manipulated at speeds that provide fast feedback for artist, rendering and animation control input.
The approach generates feathers first, derives accurate low res representations for animation, grooming and lookdev and at render time replaces the low res with the hi res feathers saved to disk. This pipeline is meant to optimize rendering and lookdev, as feathers no longer have to be generated at render time, they only have to be deformed.
Feather Generator allows you to create unique feather structures and shading, by allowing the artist to have a high degree of control (independent controls per side of feather for assymetry, ruffling, tip shape, etc.)
Here, I created a wing that was rigged to open and close, and had a variety of feather shapes and pattern.
Only the Feather Generator which includes the shader is to be released with version 1 of Feather Tools; the wing and grooming tools are to be released with version 2 at a later date.
When creating feathers with the Feather Generator, I would advise to first set the stem parameters. After that the length of the barbs, the bending, the clumping, the noise, the secondaries if needed, the shader, the bake geometry settings, then initialize the bake UV map, then bake the hi res to the low res. The geometry is packed by default so make sure to change Declare Materials parameter in the Rendering->Render tab of the mantra node to Save All Materials.
Please feel free to comment here or contact me at email@example.com to report bugs or request enhancements.
And special thanks to Paul Hollingworth, for letting me use his photographs for reference!