Rigging in Maya

Tentacled appendages have been around as long as weird creatures in movies and comic books have existed. But creating the proper movement, and getting the right look, is deceptively difficult. Mechanical tentacles such as the sentinels from the Matrix series are particularly challenging.

This tutorial walks you through setting up a character with tentacles, and should give you a good idea of the general approach to take. Part of working in CG is the ability to push the limits of reality - mechanised parts can be exaggerated to stretch and reach further than possible, or be squashed like a slinky - if set up properly, they can do anything you like.

  • Don't forget to check out this Maya 2013 review

Michael Ingrassia, from Escape Studios in London, has provided us with a cartoony character with tentacles to rig and animate. I'm assuming you're already familiar enough with Maya that you can rig a complete character without a problem, so we'll be focusing on the tentacles and claws - how they attach to the body, and how all the parts work together to help bring the character to life. The character rig is very basic, so if you're trying to do anything fancy, you'll probably need to add more to it.

We'll walk through a spline IK-type setup in Maya. Maya has a very intuitive and powerful IK solver and its spline abilities function well when set up properly. There are no FK controls for the tentacles, although I would usually provide that to the animator as an option with the ability to switch between the spline IK controls and the FK joints. If you're familiar with a three-chain FK to IK setup, then you could apply the same principles here. If you get stuck, take a look at the finished file.

Click here to download the PDF for free
Click here to dowload the support files and hi-res screenshots ( 17MB)