Creating an animated character sounds exciting, and interesting, but there is a lot of technical work that goes behind it, and there are several aspects involved in creating a complete 3D model. One of the main aspects of creating a 3D version of a model is the process of creating animation rigs or 3D rigs.
Animation Rigs and Functions They Serve
‘What are 3D rigs?’ Animation rigs or 3D rigs are the skeletal systems or the bone structures that the 3D model artists add to their models before they hand over the models to the animation artists for the next steps. 3D rigging is the process of adding the skeleton framework to the 3D model that will enable the animation artist to render movements to the model during the process of animation.
Why Are Animation Rigs and Rigging Processes Important?
Rigging is a crucial and complex step in the animation process because when the modelers create a character model, it is just a simple set of mesh or the skin. You cannot make it move unless the 3D rigs are made for the character. Just like the human skeleton, the rigs consist of different digital bones or joints and these joints are controlled by a controller system called ‘Nulls’. These nulls, which act as cartilage, make the movement of the skeleton easy and also enable a variety of different movements that the animation artists can render.
Almost everything in the animation needs rigging to be motion enabled, be a hard-bodied object like a vehicle (whose wheels, steering wheel, the door needs movement), a window, a door (that can be opened or shut), or a human or an animal character.
Rigging makes the work of the animation or the CGI team very easy as they can control the movement of the object very easily. In other words, animate or maneuver it comfortably in the way they want to. This way it also saves a lot of time and speeds up the production process. When graphic artists create rigs for their models, their main aim is to make sure that the finished product looks as realistic as possible.
The rigging process works in the same way as that of real body movements, which means, if one parent bone moves, all the other ancillary bones will also move simultaneously giving it a natural look.
3D animation rigs are commonly used for the characters that are created for animated movies, 3D shows, cartoon TV shows, video games, motion graphics, etc.
Some Common Software That People Use to Render 3D Graphics
There are some software commonly used by the computer graphic team or the modelers for 2D as well as 3D riggings like Autodesk Maya, Blender, 3Ds Max, Rhinoceros 3D, Cheetah3D, and more. This software comes in a complete bundle that facilitates modeling as well as has an animation rigging tool that allows virtual simulation, increases workflow efficiency, and gives you complete control over the animation or that you are working on.
Autodesk Maya is a powerful three-dimensional graphic designing software that is predominantly used by animators worldwide across different commercial industries like the computer graphics industry, game development companies, film making studios, automobile industry, real estate companies where simulation and rendering are an essential part of 3D modeling. The characters and graphics of many popular films like Spider-Man, Frozen, Hugo, Finding Nemo, Up have been created with the help of Maya. Many big production houses use Maya for their character modeling and rendering to make it suitable for the big screen.
Features of Maya
There are various uses and features that Autodesk Maya has to offer:
- It is a great software for 3D rendering and animation that brings characters to life using its powerful graphic tools.
- You can create various 3D models and shape objects using this software as per your preference.
- You can create various characters, and create animation rigs for them; it also facilitates parallel rig evaluation, which means you can review your work simultaneously and manipulate it quicker and faster.
- Maya offers you high-level editing tools that enable you to edit your animations easily without damaging the work and is hassle-free.
- It offers solid color control, and color management features that will help you make your work look colorful and interesting.
- The 3D modeling feature of Maya includes re-mesh technology in which you can add any fine details on your model anywhere you want to by altering the topology of the mesh, polygon modeling that allows easy modeling of your character.
- Its highly advanced sculpting toolset allows you to skillfully and professionally sculpt your models with ease.
- Its motion graphics toolset can create complex effects and animations that can make your work look visually appealing.
- Furthermore, it has powerful texturing tools that allow you to add realistic textures to your model, making your model look natural.
- Maya has an interesting hair refining tool that is very useful when you want to add texture or realistic effect to your animated characters’ hair or groom the hair, giving it the look of your choice.
- Autodesk Maya is compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems.
Free Maya Rigs: List of Maya Quadruped Rig Free Models:
Now, if you have just entered the animation industry and do not know where to start when it comes to 3D rigging, there are several free Maya rigs or animation rigs available on the internet. There are some premiums 3D rigs as well as free Maya rigs available that you can use for your animation movie, short films or graphics, cartoon shows, and more when you want to speed up your production process. The price range for premium 3D rigs can vary from USD 12.00 for a single rig to USD 960.00 for a whole pack of 50. The next section of this article will have more details on free Maya rigs, including Maya quadruped rig free samples.
When it comes to creating a character, the graphic artists have to perform a lot of technical processes and details at various stages that involve designing and sculpting a model, editing, adding features, rigging models, reviewing, fine-tuning, animation rigs, and more which may at times take a long time. To cut down the production time and speed up the total process, oftentimes the animators or the computer graphic artists look for animation rigs that have already been created and available for use. This is so they can match with their character model, and they can directly use it.
Counting down our top picks for some free Maya rigs / Maya quadruped rig free models which are amazingly designed and created for your animation work while you fine-tune the other aspects of the animation process.
Among the free Maya rigs collection, Bunny Eater by Truong CG Artist is a well-designed Maya quadruped rig available free of cost. The artist has created it based on the “Big Bad Bunny Eater” that had been designed by Bobby Chiu. The skeletal system for Bunny Eater was created using the Advanced Skeleton feature of the Maya rigging tool that enables you to create any type of body configurations that you want to, be it two heads, four legs, 7 fingers, or anything you can imagine.
The Maya quadruped rig-free models have a particular texture, however, you can change it to any other texture you want. It also allows you to control facial features like the eyes, the mouth, and the head.
You can switch to “Fit Skeleton” and make changes as per your preference. Check out this Maya 3D rig here.
This one is a fierce-looking reptile (a lizard) that is compatible with Maya version 12 and above. This rig comes with several controls, and you can tweak them based on your preference.
The rig features advanced animation techniques like the forward and inverse kinematics including spine, legs, tail, legs, arms, toes, and more. It also includes state switching and a pulse control that you can play with. This rig has a pretty detailed yet easy user interface when it comes to eye-rolling and face control.
A super cool 3D rig model that can be a great asset for a video game character. You can get this Maya quadruped rig free from incurred costs by clicking here.
This quadruped is rigged by Truong CG Artist, the creator of Bunny Eater. Another interesting Maya quadruped rig free of charge, this one is a four-legged robot that can transform into an egg-shaped structure by folding its legs inside.
The creator has utilized “Advanced Skeleton” for rigging this one. This unique model has eyes that can transform into shooting guns. It also allows good control over the limbs, which will enable you to animate this one effortlessly. Click here to know more details about this rig.
This is one of the excellent 3D rigs for amateur animators who want to practice animation at a basic level. This cute rig is a great transition from the very basics to the next level. The animators can focus on various movements like the tail for overlapping action, the squash and stretch actions, the mouth movement, etc.
Pretty strong in the looks of this character rig, Cartoon Ox is the appropriate rig when you want to practice your animation and focus on the facial controls, forward and Inverse Kinematics for limbs, and more. This is a non-commercial rig that comes with a default texture, but you can alter it as per your preference.
If you are up for some good practice sessions, you can get this here.
Chameleon Cartoony Rig:
A bright cartoon rig, this one’s another rig work done by CG Artist Truong. The features of this rig include basic face and body level control which means you need to work on the controls more than what is usually needed, hip swinger, tail control, FK and IK functionalities of the limbs, joints that can be stretched.
You can get this Maya quadruped rig free of cost for non-commercial use here by using the discount code “free” on this website.
This Maya Kit Rig is an absolute cuteness. This has been designed for educational or exercise purposes but offers a variety of detailed dynamics that you can use. It is a great asset to keep in your collection of 3D rigs if you want to fine-tune your animation skills.
The rigging model features advanced level IK and FK front and hind limbs, stretchy joints, facial movements, ear movements, eye-rolling, and more. Click here to watch the detailed demo of Kit Rig and to get this.
Nico is a fantasy character which makes it pretty unique in looks and features with horns on the head, long and pointy ears, and its mouth which looks like a beak. This Maya quadruped rig-free model can be used by both beginners and professional-level animators. It has all the basic controls that can be found in an animal rig including FK and IK limb and spine, facial control, etc. Click here to download this one. You can also check out the potential of this rig in Taming the Dragon video.
Wolfdog 0.0.1 for Maya:
The Wolfdog rig can make your animation look awesome with its multiple different advanced controls. Apart from the different controls associated with the limbs, this rig has been given some flexible facial controls that will enable you to manipulate it as per your requirement. The interesting thing about the Wolfdog rig is, you can give it many expressions and the controls are quite user-friendly.
This Maya quadruped rig-free model is mainly for professionals who have got good hands-on experience with animation and can make use of the controls effectively. Experimenting with the animal locomotion with this rig is a bit complex if for is a beginner, however, give it a shot. Download this amazing piece here.
This is a Maya quadruped rig free for commercial usage. This adorable rig features a lot of detailed controls apart from the general ones that you can normally expect from a quadruped. The intricate controls include the stretchy spine, FK and IK for Finger and Toe, mirroring of the limbs, eye rig, blinking control, eyelid tracking, etc. The body of this model has been created using The Setup Machine 2.
It has been given basic texturing, but if you want to give it a more realistic texture, you can go ahead and do it. You will get this rig on this website.
Leopard Maya Rig:
An interesting quadruped rig, Leopard has been created with two different leg set-ups to cater to different needs. This is a great character rig whose structure is made using the ‘Advanced Skeleton’ tool with high-quality 3D rendering. You can get this rig for a demo or non-commercial purposes using the discount code “free”. Click here to get it.
Online Courses and Tutorials on 3D Animation and Rigging:
Maya is a high-end 3D animation, rigging, and rendering software that can be a bit complex or rather challenging when you are trying to learn this as a beginner. There are some online courses and tutorials that offer character rigging and animal locomotion that you may be interested to take a look at:
- AnimationMentor– The online animation school- this includes courses like the basics of animation, body mechanics, advanced body mechanics, acting courses, workshops, and more.
- Schoolofmotion.com– This website offers different types of courses related to animation, motion design, workshops, tutorials, and more. You can also register for its special rigging academy that will train you on every detail you need to know to rig a character.
- Rigging Dojo– this is a web school specialized in providing customized training for rigging and more. You can request them what you want to learn, and then they will assign you a guide accordingly. There are different training materials available on this website that facilitates better learning.
Autodesk Maya Alternatives:
There are some other popular 3D and 4D animation software that are alternatives to Autodesk Maya, which you may want to explore as a beginner:
- Blender– this one is free and open-source software and is at par with Maya when it comes to functionality. Being a free software makes it very convenient for beginners to try their hands on and practice animation.
- Unity– this is a great game engine that offers a huge library of advanced tools for the beginner to benefit out from it. It is pretty user-friendly, making it ideal for newbies.
- Cinema 4D– another great software with a simple user interface. Designers love this because it gives you a far better result than you can expect. This offers a platform to learn and grow. Its easy navigation and 8 hours of dedicated learning per week for 3 months can make you perfect with animation.
- LightWave3D– this is a versatile software great for beginners as well as professionals. There are various tutorials available online to give you an easy learning experience.
As mentioned earlier in this article, rigging is a complex stage in the animation process and when it comes to creating quadruped rigs it can be even more time-consuming because to rig a four-legged animal you need to understand the anatomy of an animal in general. Now, while you can gradually do that, if you want to play around and experiment with your animation skills, you can go grab a Maya quadruped rig free of availed costs from the list given above.
Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ’s):
You can download Autodesk Maya from the Autodesk official website.
There is a free 30 days trial version available if you want to experience Maya before purchasing it. You can get a hang of 3D animation, modeling, rigging, simulation, and rendering during these 30 days. Get the trial version here.
Well, to learn how to rig four-legged characters or animals, you need to understand the anatomy of the animals and learn about animal locomotion. With that said, every technical process in animation needs practice if you want to get to the expert level.