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How DO you make those Animal Costumes? (Fursuits)
Kim Graham's Digileg Stilts- A New Update! 
2nd-Aug-2011 04:34 am

Hey all!

Remember those fantastic digitigrade leg extensions sculptor Kim Graham made? Remember how she landed a deal with Weta Studios to mass produce them affordably- and then after months of production and only a short while after its release, was suddenly scrapped?
Yeah, it sucked.

I had been looking forward to owning a pair for over 2 years since the project first began, so I'm sure have many of you shared this disappointment. Well you may have heard sometime after that the project was picked up by a UK company, Area 51... and then you never heard a word again?

I finally bring you the long awaited news about the silly things!

Whatever possibly could have been the reason to compel me to once again give the Area 51 company site another go, I was searching for any sort of hint that they were even attempting the digileg project. Kim said they would be ready by Spring 2011. Nevertheless I'm glad I checked again. And after more research, I've determined this is practically the soonest you could have even heard any sort of update about the project, as confirmed with a quote from Kim herself posted yesterday (Aug 01) on YouTube:

"Regrettably my leg extensions are in stasis, but my co-inventors are going ahead with their own design. Their leg extensions are being made by a company called Area 51 in the UK. This company just put up a web page this week announcing their own version. It is good to see that they have overcome the enormous difficulties in bringing any such invention to the market. Bravo, my hats off to them!"

Turns out both Kim and I just found out that Area 51 has indeed released the newly designed Digilegs THIS WEEK- possibly even as recently as yesterday. This news was so exciting, I knew I had to spread the word to all of you immediately as I drooled over my keyboard daydreaming... (as I then reminded myself of the fact that I have no money at the moment and it brought me back to reality a bit.)

Digilegs Logo

Digilegs stilt designDigilegs2Digilegs 3

So these are notably different than Kim's/Weta's design though of course heavily inspired by all their hard work. As stated on Area 51's site, "Much research and development has gone into this revolutionary product to ensure usability and functionality." And how right they are- digitigrade foot extenstions have made leaps and bounds in the past few years by professionals and amateurs alike. I'm just happy to see someone picking up the project again, though have my concerns that it won't live up to the expectations in quality I had placed so earnestly on the Weta version. They darn well have better got it right this time round. They'll need to be confident in their work if they expect to not face a flop like Weta did.

The most crucial thing however will be the overall performance- considering both the actor's level of comfort, ease of use, and of course the movement. I couldn't stress that enough. Area 51 states on their website that they are in the process of creating a demo video of the stilts in action, so the moment it's learn this has been done, expect this post to be updated along with an observational critique.

Small update: (08/22/11) Area 51 is aiming to have video up within the next 2 weeks from now. If you take a look at the original digilegs videos from Kim and Weta, the studio says that these stilts move just like that. So you can imagine it walking around in your head for now. Once again, an update from me coming shortly!

Big update! (03/20/12) Aera 51 finally got us a demo video... and it wasn't 2 weeks of waiting, nor 2 months, but the delay seems to be for a pretty good reason- because they finally have a costume to properly show it off with. Two actually.

So we got us a pair of Xenomorphs running around now! Some great features about the video is that is answers the big question- YES you can do everything with these that the Weta legs claimed to including a wide range of movements such as walking quickly (and limited running) and going down stairs/inclines. Balance is what you'd expect for them as well- honestly you'd only be most limited by your own physical strength and endurance. These of course do not have any sort of footpad/joint/hoof/whatever at the base that would make the toes feel more alive when walking, but that's an attachment that will be developed in the future. They've told us the hoof-style will be available April 2012.

The specs:

  • Main structure –Powder coated steel
  • Thigh and calf panels – ABS
  • Cabling and fixings –Stainless steel
  • Tread and cushioning –EVA profiled foam
  • Straps –Nylon Webbing
  • Paddings – Neoprene
  • Adjustable foot and cabling for personal preference

Interestingly they appear to have added a feature the Weta stilts did not have I'm excited to see: 3 adjustable height settings. Plus it comes in two overall stilts sizes and 3 calf sizes. One simply adjusts the cable to accommodate for the different height settings. This is something I had hoped to see in a future Weta upgrade and guess others had the same idea for improvement. Good job on that one guys! See all the details here: [link]

So getting down to business, how much can one expect to sacrifice towards owning a pair of these engineering marvels?

£718.80 or approx $1,170

This is without shipping of course, and it's actually still unknown what role that will play because, as stated by the website, "Please note that there is a temporary issue with the shipping calculation which will be addressed as soon as possible." So more updates to come there. I sure hope it's reasonable; it hurt seeing how much further I was from my purchasing goal learning that Weta was shipping them all the way from New Zealand.

Update: Site is now up and running and shipping costs announced, so prices have been altered.

 £599.00 ( £718.80 inc. VAT for UK customers) or approx $975

Shipping Costs

UK: £16.79
Europe (EU): £36.11
United States: £102.90 (approx $170)
Rest of the World: £110.05

Turns out legs+shipping= less than original realeased cost for us non-UK folk. That's pretty nice :) The original released price stays unaltered for UK + minimal shipping costs tacked on. I was surprised on the low shipping costs there for something like this for locals. Then again I haven't seen them in a storage/folded position and also no where can I find the total weight of the stilts so maybe the shipping's rather average. Still a hefty pricetag for many, but all the same became more afforable.

/end update

So you wanted Weta legs? You'll pay for Weta legs after all- the prices remains where the standard was set. Honestly I'm not surprised in the least by the final numbers Area 51 chose, though had my fingers crossed they strove for the same "professional quality, affordable for the average joe" ideal Kim and Weta were all about and that they would be a little on the lower side. No early-bird discounts Area 51? Ah well.

Start saving! Heres' the order page: [link] 

Updated: One last tidbit I want to throw at you guys, this is a very early use of the newly released Digilegs: Mr. Tumnas + Aslan.
Digilegs  Mr Tumnas

Neat as it is, the leg covering is obviously a last minute job- poorly fitted and rushed. We all know this LJ community of amateurs and hobbyists could make those leg coverings better ourselves ;)

Luckily this was not intended to be a demonstration of the work Area 51 can do with covers for the new stilts. The performer, Adam, was placed next to Aslan simply as a sense of scale for the newly constructed lion. Area 51 has said they plan to create a variety of properly fitted leg coverings and will also do custom work. In addition, they plan to create different attachments for the footplates to make them look and behave more realisticly- true to the original spring-hoof design idea Kim was including in her earlier work. (Please and thank you for this A51!)

Edit: (03/20/12) By the way, there is indeed a "revamped" version of the Mr. Tumnas fawn-style legs with sculpted leg padding posted to the website now. They obviously want to show that they are capable of building you fully finished creature legs and it won't suck as much as the photo I posted above. Also this is the protoype for the soon-to-be-released spring hoofs. So check it out:

Digileg Fawn Hoofed Legs

But of course, the bottom line behind the studio offering the "naked" stilts was to encourage the idea of letting people devlop their own characters and help bring them to life. They are more than excited to see what their clients will come up with on their own using the stilts. Question is... who will be the first?

I'm anxious to see.

(Thanks Matt [Director of Area 51] for providing more info about the stilts!)

A final note, one of our very own "Manojalpah" (manojalpa on LJ, zaland on FA) did receive her ordered pair and is the first one that I'm aware of to have done so posting a video of them in action. Of course this was after only 20 minutes of practice and she's sure to get a lot better, but this is more what you expect your average person's experience to be like instead of professional spandex alien men.

It'll be rockin' to see what she does with them. If I'm not mistaken, she's working with Qarrezel to make her Heaven's Beast character Zaland come to life.

From Zaland's FA journal:
This is after 20 minutes from standing up, with no previous experience whatsoever on stilts.

You'll notice I have a bit of a limp - that's thanks to be short. The thigh pads dug into my crotch and gave me a pretty nasty bruise, but it's an easy fix as soon as I can find someone who can drill through the material. Area51 (the makers) suggested moving the entire pad down an inch or two for increased comfort, so that's the plan.

Other than that - standing is incredibly difficult. You can watch me try at the end of the video. I think that the tension wires weren't quite appropriately adjusted, so I'll give a better update when I've finally got those tuned to my center of gravity.

Overall, I am having a blast playing with these things, have no idea how I would ever be able to be in a fursuit with them, and life is good.

By the way, Digilegs now has a Facebook Page that you can join if you like 'em and want to chat about them and share the projects you've created with them: facebook.com/digilegs


2nd-Aug-2011 10:43 am (UTC)
The most crucial thing will be the....?
2nd-Aug-2011 10:52 am (UTC)
Hang on.... LJ ate my post. Re-typing that part now ;)
2nd-Aug-2011 11:28 am (UTC)
Looks promising!
2nd-Aug-2011 01:12 pm (UTC) - for alternatives, consider ...
I updated my FAQ with these and other other alternatives:
2nd-Aug-2011 07:01 pm (UTC) - Re: for alternatives, consider ...
Good stuff! I've seen a live demo of Kangoo Jumps before, they're interesting. I like how much more streamlined they are as opposed to Powerisers. Didn't know anyone had attempted to put them into a costume until now :)

And thanks so much for the mention in the Digilegs update! <3
2nd-Aug-2011 05:29 pm (UTC)
i like the idea for the Weta legs but not many will want to pay that price for stilts sadly. my only concern with the design is the fact there is no flat base to the foot. you cant stand still, its like the first stilt model from underworld and that was a major isssue with the performers and my first stilt mistake ^^;
2nd-Aug-2011 06:41 pm (UTC)
Hm, that is a good point. There's definitely more of a rounded base on these guys than the Weta version- which I would assume makes it easier to walk but indeed more challenging to stand still.

*sits and waits for release of video demonstration*
2nd-Aug-2011 07:42 pm (UTC)
It is kind of funny. I know someone who does FX and is absolutely convinced that Kim found a old pair of his legs and copied them. Self important much?
2nd-Aug-2011 08:23 pm (UTC)
I would think something like adding foam to certain points would make it look more realistic. I agree that the feet being rounded would make it very difficult to stand still with.
3rd-Aug-2011 12:05 am (UTC)
maybe this is just me..but Im not all too impressed with them.

I mean, yes they do have a good design to them and im sure that with some costumes it would be quite helpful, but over all they just seem sorta..weird. It doesnt look like youd have very good balance, and as monoyasha pointed out, that you cant stand still wearing them. Not to mention that im sure that they arent very light to wear. For another I kinda feel like you wouldnt be able to interchange them with other costumes all too much, cause really at that price you wouldnt want to put a scratch on them- more or less add foam and fabric. Another reason is for someone like me, I dont like the height those things have, the foot just seems so far back that the position of the 'joints' would give the legs an extreme angle and not look as natural.
Again this is just me and personally I do like the over all design of the brace for the legs, but its just something about the actual stand of it that bothers me. I guess over all I wouldnt buy them, because I think for someone like myself they would just look awkward. Of course as stated this is just my personal opinion.
7th-Aug-2011 07:56 am (UTC)
I have to agree with you here on the height. It's the same reason I didn't get excited about the Weta legs: they're just so completely out of proportion. Judging by their pretty crappy faun mockup, they're better than Weta in that respect, but still not something I'd pay over a thousand dollars for. :|
3rd-Aug-2011 02:37 am (UTC)
They look quite promising. I agree that they really do need to get a better image. Looks like fabric loosely pinned together.

I do find the cost a bit steep though...wonder if they can lower it somehow.
(sorry engineer here...lol)
12th-Aug-2011 09:39 pm (UTC) - oops, bit of a cock-up!
Guys, you're absolutely right - and well spotted. I have no idea why this pic was added with reference to digilegs. Just to reassure you all, we are of course very capable of creating very desirable skins for the reverse legs, and have some in production right now. Reference to Digilegs has now been removed - Adam was stuck there to simply give a sense of scale, and as we were working on prototypes at the time it looks like somebody made the call to put him in hurriedly-wrapped furry legs. I'm hopping mad, and the workshop boys are squirming suitably. It's very embarrasing - but I do repeat that this shot was never intended to advertise digilegs!

There are plenty of comments here that we can address if anybody would like to contact us. The site is full of good pics, deliberately not costumed to show build and quality (http://area51.co//Digilegs/Welcome-to-Digilegs-the-Original-Reverse-Leg-Stilts.html). Digilegs.com will be working in the next few days. AREA 51 is vastly experienced in stiltwalking and creating stilt characters, and all of our knowledge has been put into getting the design right and as usable as possible. Believe me, we had tried / tweaked and revised - and the cost (less than Weta were proposing) is realistically as low as we can go at the present time.

On another note, we're a taken every precaution to get this product right. It's taken months of hard work, and I'm happy to say that we're very, very pleased with the results - and hope everybody else will be too. No corners have been cut, and we look forward to seeing what you guys can create around this truly revolutionary product. We hope we've finally realised the dream of the inventor in the best way possible - and people have been crying out for a company to bring to market professionally produced digitigrade leg extensions for ages now (us included). And finally we have. Please don't knock 'em till you've tried 'em - they're made for people like you, by people like you.

And very soon you'll see that we can do a little bit better than that tasty pic of Adam that you're understandably deriding. Now - any chance you can remove it?! ;) Matt - Director AREA 51 (area51.co)
18th-Aug-2011 09:19 pm (UTC) - Re: oops, bit of a cock-up!
Wow, this was an unexpected message to see and was great to hear from you! Thanks very much for your response; not everyday we hear back from professionals or creators of the products we review.

It amuses me that you agree with us in seeing the mock-up Mr. Tumnus as a poor representation of what can be done with a Digileg. I can completely understand your desire to discontinue this association as well because I've taken a look at the rest of your stuff- you've done some great work and I know this could have been done better.

Before I remove it however, I was wondering if you would be comfortable leaving the image up simply for archival purposes- as to show the new legs in a stage of extreme prototyping, and I will mention the fact that while the actor is using an early pair of Digilegs, the fur covering was an extremely temporary and quick mock-skin for a photo and is not an accurate representation of the potential or future skin coverings that Area 51 has plans to incorporate.

But just say the word I'd happily remove the image of Adam instead. My goal is to give the most detailed and accurate story behind the Digilegs development and to encourage discussion, I don't mean any harm by it.

As I expressed in the article, I'm actually very excited to see the legs in action and looking forward to seeing what can be done with a completed skinned version- either by your studio or a creative purchaser. I personally haven't knocked them down yet ;) Just anxious to see if you guys can meet expectations. Please get that video up and running soon; the insight from such a presentation will surely tell us the whole story of what has gone into its development and creation as well as potential better than anything. Glad the site seems to be up and running too- I'll have to edit the legs and shipping costs now in my article.

Thanks for your response!
28th-Aug-2011 04:51 pm (UTC)
Hey all! I went ahead and took the plunge and ordered a pair of these puppies about a week ago. When I get them, you can rest assured I will have PLENTY of video and feedback on them.

One thing to point out already is that the ordering process is INCREDIBLY shady. One of the receipt emails I received had a bunch of dummy company text in it (ABCompany and Lorem Ipsums everywhere) so I'm actually incredibly relieved to see Area51 presence here so that hopefully if anything goes terribly awry (uh oh) I'll have a few leads. I also haven't received any sort of information about when they'll be shipped/when I should be expecting them. I don't know if they're already made or this is more of a pre-order thing. I sent an email asking after it the day I ordered the legs, and still haven't gotten a reply (another thing I'm tacking under the 'shady' category). You'd hope for slightly better service after you give a company a thousand bucks...
28th-Aug-2011 04:53 pm (UTC)
Also for anyone interested, this is the suit concept the stilts will be used in: http://www.furaffinity.net/full/5491957/
11th-Sep-2011 04:48 pm (UTC)
Although I shy away simply because it looks like the balancing would be hell for me (round things on feet usually mean round things on head later if ya know what I mean.) I have to say kudos to at least offering to do something for people who weigh more. When I saw that they were willing to work with that I was impressed even if it means a more "custom" order. I will certainly be keeping an eye out for how they develop and I can't wait till they post the video showing how it moves. lol though with the rounded ends I don't think that they will have as easy a time going down a slope!
20th-Sep-2011 01:17 am (UTC) - Looks Good
The stilts do look good and the design concept is definately Kim's

Having made my own I might still buy a set as they are cheaper than the Weta versions. Spoke with Rich at Area 51. Very helpful fellow.

For anyone who has never used digigrade stilts and are worried about balacing - don't worrk. Its surprisingly easy to get the hang of. If you can balance walking on tip-toes then you can balance in these.

Comfort - Your weight is distributed around the ball of your foot - so think of walking up stairs. Most people only put the front part of their foot on the stairs to climb and the effect is the same here.

It's like riding a bike and Kim is right in saying that after 10 min's it feels very natural

Take Care
1st-Jul-2014 05:24 am (UTC) - Adjustability
I know it says it features adjustments based on personal preference and all, but I seriously want to ask someone who has a pair of these how adjustable the extended foot is. I have plans to buy these, but I really don't need so much space for the tarsal of my character's foot.

I know it sounds like a stupid question, but if someone can answer me, that would be fantastic!
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