Saturday, 26 June 2021

Leopard Walk Tutorial at Vimeo

We've uploaded a new series of video tutorials on animating quadrupeds, a "Leopard Walk Tutorial" using the free Leopard Rig by Truong CG, which is available for free download at Gumroad

The leopard is an attractive, well-structured rig with simple controls. 

The tutorial is password-protected but available to all our current students.

Quadruped Walk Tutorial
The tutorial is broken into two parts, and is based on a highly simplified breakdown of a quadruped walk, using basic techniques to get a fast and accurate result.  The tutorial is a distillation of many years of classroom teaching, optimising the technique to make the tutorial as straightforward and effective as possible. 

Tutorial Part 1
In Part One of the Tutorial I explain how to set up the rig, and optimise the settings. Then, we start to animate the walk. 

Tutorial Part 2
In Part 2 of the Tutorial, I show how to get the feet moving, using as few keyframes as possible to make the motion work effectively, adding the extreme positions on the shoulders and rear of the animal.


The tutorial uses the free Leopard Rig by Truong CG. You can download it for free at Gumroad. Like all rigs, it has some quirks, so make sure to read the notes below, which will help you optimise the rig for the best animation experience.

Step 1 - Settings
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.

Real-time Playback
You will want to get real-time playback in your Viewport in Maya. In order to get real-time playback first  go into your Animation Preferences (bottom right hand corner of the screen). 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 the rig is 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.

Fix the eye direction controller
It is important that the eye direction controller works, so that when you turn the Leopard's head, his eyes remain fixed on whatever he is looking at (so you don't get "zombie eyes", with the eyeballs wandering around the screen).  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 AimEye_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.

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.

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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