Thursday, 30 November 2017

Leopard Rig by Truong

We're liking this Leopard Rig by Truong, available for free download at Gumroad. It is an attractive, well-structured rig with simple controls, and it's pretty easy to figure out how to use it.

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.

So, how do students get the most out of this rig?

Settings - Important!
Setting 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.

Real-time Playback
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
Facial expressions - but no eye direction controller
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.

Leopard animation
Below is some really nice animation using the Leopard rig by Francesco Nevi, a student who took the 12 week intensive animation short course at Escape Studios, which included access to the online materials at Animation Apprentice. Francesco worked hard on his jaguar walk (see below) and went on to get a job working at Framestore in London.

Note the super-simple greyshade render. Animation reels generally don't need fancy renders; in fact many studios (such as Blue Zoo) prefer to see animation in greyshade with simple sets, as this allows the person reviewing the animator's work to focus on the thing they really care about - the animation.

Below is an example of animation with the leopard rig by Daniel Amor, using the rig to match a piece of live action reference.

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.

Issues and bugs
If you have any rig issues or further questions/ requests, you can contact Truong at his Facebook page:
or email him at: or

To find out more about Animation Apprentice, click here for a link to Frequently Asked Questions. To sign up for our next classroom at Animation Apprentice, follow this link.

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