|Cheetah rig for Maya by Vikram Verma|
The best rig we have found is the free Cheetah rig by Vikram Verma, available for download at Highend3D.com.
Free Cheetah Rig
The rig is a pretty old one, created way back in 2009, and though it can be useful for animating quadruped locomotion, it does have some big weaknesses.
You can download the Cheetah rig for free here. It won't do facial expressions but it's can be used for walks, trots and runs, and general behaviour work.
The rig was created by Vikram Verma; it comes with textures, and is on a freeware license.
The rig is very light and low poly, so you will get real-time playback in your viewport. It's also attractively modelled, and visually appealing.
Don't forget there is lots of excellent live action reference of cheetahs running. Check out the video below to see the slow-motion beauty of these extraordinary animals. Slow motion live action reference can be vital for making your animation believable and convincing.
The rig has no facial controls or even a jaw control, so you can't get any kind of character performance out of it. The biggest problem however is the deformations on the legs, which tend to create problematic shapes when you are trying to animate. You will have to use multiple controls on the feet controls to sculpt the legs, and even then the shapes are likely to deform in odd ways.
If you really want to animate a cheetah running, our advice is, if you want to use the cheetah rig, animate a run cycle (ie make it fast), and avoid a close-up or even a mid-shot. Pull the camera back, make it a wide shot, and turn on motion blur. That way the rig's weaknesses won't be so readily apparent.
And don't forget there are other good free cat rigs available these days. We recommend in particular the excellent Leopard rig by Truong.
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