I have been an animator for over 20 years and “Yes!” I do have an opinion when it comes to rigs.

Working in production, I have had riggers say, “If you create a rig Angie likes to use, you become a better rigger.” As a teacher, I am subject to whatever tools and rigs I can get my students with limited budgets.  No rig goes through better testing than through instruction.  If a rig is broken or lacks functionality, an experienced animator can get around some of the issues but a newbie animator will drown.

What makes a solid rig for animation?

  • I take into account how much the rig costs.  If a rig is 12$ and gives you a great value, I will give it a much higher rating on that rig than one that costs 80$ and doesn’t have at least the most basic controls.
  • I HATE TSM (The Set-Up machine Rigging Tool). If you really care why, send me an email and I will explain it. Let’s just say TSM is very limited and the deformations are awful.  That said, the facial for TSM is impressive, but rarely do you just animate a face.
  • If you find other things right or wrong with the rigs, please email me.
  • If you have a rig you would like to make the list, please do email it to me. Before you do, make sure that the rig at least meets the basic rigging criteria listed, below.
  • If you disagree with my assessment, then go write your own review on your own blog.  I am not going to change my mind.  No amount of money or rants will change it either, so stop emailing me.  If you want the review changed, fix the rig.  I have decided to only put the rigs with 4-5 stars here on this page.  If you want to see all rig reviews go here.
  • For more rigs go to animation buffet. Keep in mind, this is just an archive and most of these rigs have major issues.

Rigging Criteria: In my opinion, the variable criteria for a rig that “Doesn’t Suck” is one that meets the basic list below, at the minimum.

Basic Requirements:

  • Robust (or at least minimal) body and facial controls.
  • Controls for individual fingers.
  • Controls directly on the face, NO GUIS!
  • Switches for IK and FK on neck, limbs and spine each controller.
  • Dynamic parenting switches for local, hip, chest and global spaces on all limbs IK and FK.
  • FK/IK Spine. At the minimum, FK spine.
  • Neck and head switch to FK space. No chicken heads.
  • Twist for pole vectors and you can turn pole vectors off.
  • Pins for elbows and the knees.
  • Smooth version can be “proxied down,” control on top node.
  • Control visibility switches.
  • Global scale.
  • Sub controls on limbs to handle constraining objects.

Extras that mean a lot to an animator:

  • Costume and gender changes.
  • Appealing design. Why does everyone cross the eyes!!!
  • Stretchy IK and S & S on the head.
  • Foot roll break value.
  • Deformations on basic controls don’t go off model like additional deformers. newbie animators will break a design fast if the controllers and too advanced. It’s good to have these level of detail controls, but they should have visibility tracks to turn them off.
  • Lots of deformers on the rig you can turn on to get shapes.  I know this sounds counter to the request above, but these are needed, just turn them off until they are needed.
  • Soft eye resolver you can turn off, on.
  • Control visibility switches
  • Teeth and tongue controls that on the outside of the head, easy to select.
  • Limb visibility switches for animating in layers!
  • Gimbal Lock Controllers.
  • Comes with a picker GUI.  You can make your own these days with many plugins, but this is a nice gesture on the part of the rigger.  The anim school picker is not my favorite, but whatever works.
  • Rotational order switches.

Spread Sheet Download

Spread Sheet of Rig Variables

The “take home” from this spreadsheet is bad deformations and poor character design can kill the rig.  Basic controls that work will also make a rig more attractive over too many controls that cannot be turned off and confuse.  Finally appealing characters with clean deformations that meet the entire criteria (example: Kayla/Kyle, Mathilda and Mery) are winning.