View Full Version : [WIP] Panther animation

12 December 2005, 05:12 PM
Hi guys,

I know some of you have heard this from me for quite some time now and somewhere else in this forum I promised to post this project. Finally I managed to get a bit of free time to post some stuff.

This is a project we are working on right now. The character is a panther (a black leopard) and is the mascot of an international surveillance company.

That's her real counterpart. She's named Ronja and lives in Potsdam-Babelsberg in Germany. :)
It was imperative that we modeled her as close to her real self as possible.

And here we have her first few days in the virtual world. ;)

That is a turnaround of a little more advanced stage of her model.

And this is the model we finally came up with.
As you can see, her overall form got a bit more defined and we decided to spread her legs apart, which would give us better deformations (similar to a human model) in the should and hip areas. Her toes and fingers got spread apart for pretty the same reason (cause we didn't know if will need them separately in the future). There is not too much detail, as this would be covered up with fur anyway.

So much for the modeling part. Any critics are welcome.

Next section: Rigging

12 December 2005, 06:37 PM
I rigged the whole beast in Messiah (of course). I am no professional rigger. I am a compositor, that also loves to do shading, lighting and rendering. So the process was quite slow and painful. But mostly not because of Messiah. I say mostly, because there was the occasional weirdness every program has. Once you learn the quirks you find a way around them. (Right now I struggle with Maya and Shave and a Haircut, so I don't point the finger at pmG. Just to make that clear.)

Anyway, this rig has become quite complex.

First of all it's a big cat. Cats are horrible beasts to rig! The anatomy of a cat is more like a bag of bones (which move as they wish), than a body that is recreateable with exact math and rules.
For example the shoulder. The upper arm doesn't sit in a socket like ours. It is just fixed by the cats musculature. So I tried to build it that way.

Here is a screenshot of the finished rig with armatures and box controllers.

And this is all that makes the panther move. Actually one effect that was planned is missing, cause it doesn't play well with the MorphBlender, but it will be incorporated with baking and a second scene for rendering (more on that later).

I had some bad experiences with Softbodies on an earlier rig and on this rig, so I opted for MotionDynamics, which worked very well for this rig (some fat jiggle on the belly and the throat). The rig has a Melt to simulate the ground contact.

I used two different BoneDeforms one for the body and another for the tongue. The FlexMotion effect gives me a nice flexible back, however I needed several tries to make it work the way we wanted it.

Finally the PuppetMaster is in there for lighter blendshapes. I chopped the head from the body and the shapes were only created for the head via MorphBlender. The deformed head and the headless body then control my main mesh via PuppetMaster. I hope that was clear. :)

The individual parts were then put into several groups. Either for animation purposes or for coloring them in the world view. Red for the left body parts, green for the right side and blue for the middle parts. The head got treated separately.

Here is a screen grab showing me deforming the bone structure to show our client how the panther is able to move. The German callouts say nothing interesting for someone knowing the Messiah interface or 3D in general. They are just some explanations for the customer.
This is an older version of the rig. I changed quite a lot. Not so much with the bone layout, but some bones were replaced, some effects were added (for example the MotionDynamics), the blendshapes were not in there at the time. But it should give you a general idea how our baby deforms. :)

Screengrab (Xvid codec - should play fine with all MPEG compatible devices) (

Look out for more in the next section were I tell a bit about the expressions.

Next Section: Expressions

12 December 2005, 11:32 PM
very informative man. great to see the skeleton like this for future reference.
cant wait to see some hair action.

12 December 2005, 02:11 AM
thanks for sharing, very nice stuff there.
and is that a few Silo screenshots i see there ;)
look forward to seeing the rest.

12 December 2005, 02:37 AM
Very nice, indeed. Thanks for sharing :thumbsup:

12 December 2005, 07:58 AM
Thanks for your nice words.
I might find the time to post about the expressions this evening.
If you have any questions at all or want to have something in more detail (from the sections above or still coming (expressions, fur, rendering, etc.). Let me know.

12 December 2005, 04:35 PM
very cool...would you mind explaining how you rigged that tail?

12 December 2005, 07:55 PM
I'll cover the tail in my expressions section. Unfortunately I didn't have any time today. With a little luck I might get to it tomorrow.

But as a teaser: The tail are two simple expressions. Very easy to implement. ;)

12 December 2005, 08:43 PM
Very nice to show us the WIP.
The model of the panther look great. Feline's animation are so hard to achieve, I'm really looking forward to seeing that. :D

Thanks for sharing and keep us informed !

12 December 2005, 09:07 PM
the tail is setup with inheritRoot and inheritEnd, we covered those in other posts so if you search for them you will find the info you need.

12 December 2005, 09:53 PM
the tail is setup with inheritRoot and inheritEnd, we covered those in other posts so if you search for them you will find the info you need.
Now you spoiled my big opening for the expressions section! :p

12 December 2005, 12:51 AM
If you have any questions at all or want to have something in more detail (from the sections above or still coming (expressions, fur, rendering, etc.). Let me know.

i have a question, this may seem really stupid, but see how you have the blue dot armatures and also the "hand" and "feet" icon ones. how do you change the blue dot to the custom icons?
as for the rest, i'd love to hear anything about all of them lol. the more info the better :D

12 December 2005, 11:57 AM
Finally I found some time to do this section. I am an avid reader of forums and have no problems posting replies to stuff, but preparing such "long" threads is clearly more time intensive.

Well now, expressions. Let's see. First an overall look at the areas I used expressions in.
As you can see I used expressions for about everything. :)
Messiah's expressions are a breeze to use and once you wrap your head around them there is really nothing that is not possible (well nearly).

Let's go from top down, shall we?

The slider expressions allow me to control several sliders at once with only one slider.
The second one (Bodenkontakt) is for ground control of the feet, together with Melt, they make a good ground touching effect
The arm expressions reroute some channels so the animator is able to control the complete arm with as little control objects as possible
Then we have of course some IK expressions. IK used as expressions give great control over the flow of a rig. I am able to control exactly after what my IK kicks in.
SupBones is a bit mislabeled cause it hold only expressions for the shoulder blade, which is quite complicated in a cat like anatomy. I did a poor mans approximation with the enclosed expressions, but for walking and stuff it works.
Now the tail. As stooch said above and as it is mentioned serval times in this forum, a tail is best animated with two expressions. InheritRoot and InheritEnd. Pick the last tail bone and some middle bone for the InheritEnd one and the tails root bone and one bone above the one used in the InheritEnd expressions for the InheritRoot expressions. (er, was that too confusing??) And you are good to go.
Cats focus on one object and then stay on it. That means that their head hardly moves. It is always fixated on the goal of the cats attention. The head align world expression allows that the panther can lower its head or turn it's neck without loosing it's goal.
Some econtrol over the ears next
at last the face geometry (eyes and gums) gets attach to the whole thing.

Finally I am just showing you what is under the hood of those general areas. I don't show the actual expressions. because we have been thinking to to a tutorial series on this. Showing how to make a cat/tiger/panther/whatever from scratch. So I can't show you all of the meat just yet. ;)
I hope you understand that.

12 December 2005, 12:23 PM
Great thread! Always intertesting to see different approaches for this kind of thing.

12 December 2005, 04:25 PM
The expressions didn't seems to make such a big impact on you, did they?

Today I will show you a WIP animation of the panther walking. It is far from perfect. She is limping and has no head animation yet, but it looks quite ok already in my opinion. But I am not an animator, so just take a look and you may post any critique you have.

Panther walktest (Quicktime Sorenson3) (

12 December 2005, 05:09 PM
Hey Alex :)

Great thread, it's really looking nice!

Regarding the animation I like the body sway, it's definitely got that nice lolloping 'big catness' to it. I haven't seen any reference recently but I feel that the front feet are a little too far apart and the chest/neck area looks a little stiff. I'm sure that once you get the head animated it'll loosen it up quite a bit. Do you have control over the shoulder blade sticking up? It might be worth trying to animate it so that it rises up as the weight is put onto the leg and drop as the leg is lifted, at the moment it rises and falls quite softly and you loose a sense of weight. I'm looking forward to seeing it progress :)

12 December 2005, 05:50 PM
Nice start for the animation. I agree with what Wes says about the feet being too far apart etc. Imagine it walking on a branch or something, and keeping those paws closer together :). What also might make the front legs look odd, is that they're making too large a strides forward and the chest area isnt really "falling" on them. I think the back legs are working pretty well, and it shows some nice weight :)

Here's a video of some fluffy kitties playing with sticks and stuff, 1/3rd into it, there's a good piece of reference that you could use:

Not animating in Messiah? ;)

12 December 2005, 06:10 PM
Not animating in Messiah? ;)
PointOven in action. :P

12 December 2005, 03:31 AM
yeah i have a cat...not that big..but a cat none the less, and the feet should be closer together, think sexy catwalk model (oooh maybe thats why they call it the cat walk, i'd never thought of that...)
also the feet seem to be snapping a bit, but its early days like you say.

12 December 2005, 08:04 PM
Here is some good reference for what you are looking for.

The shoulders aren't so scapula isn't so stiff. Remember they have the same muscles that we do and the exact same bones. Only difference is that they walk on their toes pratically (rear feet

12 December 2005, 01:20 PM
One Crit. It appears from the rig movie that your shoulder joint orientation is backwards. The shoulder blade should pivot from the middle and be the parent of the shoulder. Driving the shoulder joint too and fro. Much like you doing a shrug. That's your Scapula sliding across your ribcage.

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