BNU Master's degree student Alex Southcombe did this excellent piece of animation above, for Module DA703 "Animals and Creatures", in which our MA students tackle the art and craft of animal and creature locomotion. Alex used the Leopard Rig by Truong, available for free download at Gumroad, which we recommend for animal and creature animation at BNU.
Leopard Rig by Truong
|Leopard rig by Truong|
Leopard Rig Settings
FK/IK Spine switcher
When you first set up your shot, make sure you find the little blue cross on the side of the rig; it's the FK/IK Spine switcher. Under FKIKBlend, set this channel to 10. This will enable you to animate the up and down motion on the leopard's body more easily.
In order to get real-time playback in your viewport in Maya, you need to go into your Animation Preferences (bottom right hand corner of the screen) and then Under Settings/Animation/Evaluation change Evaluation Mode to Parallel. Also in settings, select Display, and make sure that Rendering Engine is set to DirectX 1.1 and Default Viewport is set to Viewport 2.0. If it's still lagging, stay in Preferences, look under Timeslider, and set Update View to "active", not "all". This will speed up the response time.
|Eye controller fix from Truong|
The leopard has some useful facial expressions, but watch out: it lacks an eye direction controller, which makes it hard to control the eye direction. When you move the leopard's head his eyes will move in the same direction, making it hard to create the illusion that (for example), the leopard is looking at a fixed point in space.
Fixing the eye direction controller
There is a fix for this, but it involves digging into the Outliner and changing some stuff. Open the Outliner and look for AimEye_M. Once you find it, ctrl+A to open up the Attributes. In the AimEye_MShape tab, scroll down, select the Object Display tab, and turn visibility on. Then do the same thing with AimEte_R and AimEye_L. You will see a locator in the Viewport for the eye controls. Select the locator, go to the Channel Box, change the Aim attribute to 10, and change the Follow attribute to 1. Now, when you animate the leopard's head, the eyes should remain focused on the eye controller locators.
Alternative cat rigs
Some alternative cat rigs which do allow real-time playback are the cheetah rig, and also the very low-poly Houdini cat rig.
To see some excellent animation done with Houdini, check out this cat leap by Animation Apprentice student Giuseppe Candido.
Animal & Creature Animation Resources
To see some more useful resources on how to learn the art of animal and creature animation, follow the links below:
- How to Plan an Animal or Creature shot
- How to use live action reference to plan animation
- Best horse rigs for Maya animators
- Stuart Sumida on Animal Locomotion
- DreamWorks and the making of "How to Train Your Dragon"
- Quadruped Locomotion with "Rusty" (just for fun)
- Animation Apprentice Animals & Creatures Reel
- How to Animate Quadruped Transitions
- Dragon in Flight Tutorial
For more on the experience of studying at Bucks New University, come and visit us at one of our Open Days, take a virtual tour of one of our animation studios, check out what our students think of our course, and see why we're ranked in the top 12 creative universities in the UK.