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The following is an excerpt from Stewart Jones’ Digital Creature Rigging. Digital Creature Rigging gives you the practical, hands-on approaches to rigging you need, with a theoretical look at 12 rigging principles, and plenty of tips, tricks and techniques to get you up and running quickly.

Quickly glancing over the creature’s features, it is easy to see that he shares a lot of similarities with various reptiles. His default pose, posture, and structure also confirm this as he stands strong and proud.

Taking a deeper look at the general attributes, this creature shows a lineage to prehistoric dinosaurs. This also fits with his reptilian-like features and can provide a good match for references. As humans, we are designed, or have evolved, to walk around on two legs. These leg muscles are usually bigger, stronger, and more developed than our arms. This creature, Belraus, seems the opposite, with bigger, stronger arms that carry most of its weight and smaller rear legs that are lean and muscular but underdeveloped in comparison.

FIG 3-5 Some quick reference annotations thinking about the pose, posture and anatomy of the creature.

Head and Face

In keeping with the reptile-like features, the head and facial features closely resemble a crocodile’s head. The jaw-area, in particular, is extremely similar, differences in the lower-jaw shape are apparent, and the “snout” is shorter.
The structure of the creature’s face and skull, as well as the teeth, lips, and jaw, hint at the fact that this creature must not be able to speak. That is not to say that he cannot make noises or express itself vocally. It just seems as though he would not be as articulate as a human. Again, this fits with its reptilian characteristics.

The eyes of this creature are very different, as having two eyes (four eyes in total) on either side of the skull is not usual for reptiles, at least I cannot seem to find any. Although the movement and behavior of the eyes may be left up to the animator, this is one area in which we have to think carefully about how to rig, as there is no specific reference available to work with.

FIG 3-6 The head.

Upper Torso

The creature’s upper torso is strong and bold. His muscular structure is more animal and humanistic than reptilian, and he seems to rely on this powerful section for both balance and general movement. The long thick arms resemble that of a gorilla or ape, and the imposing structure replicates that of a bear or an about-to-charge bull. As this section has a lot of muscle mass, we have to spend some time working with the flesh-surface deformations to create believable muscle simulation.

FIG 3-7 The upper torso section

Central Torso

The central torso is leaner than the upper torso, but, on examination, it looks as though there is some fat around the belly.
The overly large chest and rib-cage overlap into this section, but there is enough room for us to think about spinal compression for some squash and stretch during the creature’s movement. Small, more delicate velociraptor-like arms hang to the sides of this area. Because of their size and placement, it seems as though Belraus uses these to hold or examine objects, whereas the bigger more muscular arms in the upper torso are used for balance and movement.

FIG 3-8 The central torso also includes the smaller arms of this creature.

Lower Torso

The lower torso feels like it is going to be the most nimble and agile section. Both its position and posture lean toward the prehistoric dinosaur resemblance once again, and the muscles seem strong but very lean. As the upper torso and upper limbs seem to take the mammoth-share of the weight distribution, it feels as though the lower torso is used more for direction and additional balance.

FIG 3-9 The lower torso looks more nimble and athletic when compared to the larger upper torso.


With a thick upper section and thin lower section, the creature’s tail also resembles that of a lizard, or maybe a rat. No matter which, I do not feel as though the creature would have too much control over the tail and, because of his size and weight, would not be curling it around a tree branch, hanging around by it. To me, it seems as though the most logical reason this creature has a tail is for additional balance should he need to use his hind legs to stand or maneuver.

Excerpt from Digital Creature Rigging: The Art and Science of CG Creature Setup in 3ds Max by Stewart Jones.  © 2012 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved. Digital Creature Rigging can be purchased Amazon.com, BN.com, and wherever fine books can be found.

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