Introduction. I studied biology and always had a specific interest in arthropods (spiders, millipedes, crustaceans and insects). In an organism that is todo be studied extensively, a few general rules apply for selecting it as a specimen. One is availability. The desert locust can be purchased anywhere and i was determined that in this Project i do everything myself and in open source programs. So i bought two grasshoppers, and dissected one of them, taquíng pictures of the outer body parts for reference and texture painting, dont be shy about using point and shot cameras for the texture pictures, their small Focal length is perfecto for avoiding Depth of Field blur. Just make sure your object doesnt fill the entire frame, because of the vignetting effect, it is always a god idea todo take the pictures yourself and take them from the same specimen (object). I was really happy todo se that the top view aligned perfectly with the side and bottom view in the texture Paint, y didnt have todo correct any offsets or seam. This is something you can control beforehand if you take the pictures yourself.
The actual modelling part.
Starting the object was pretty straight forward, y loaded my reference images and started with my method of choice: box modelling. So i tok a Cube and kept adding Edge Loops along the side as well as transversally until i had enough detail todo carve the groves along the body. I found that in arthropods 6 - 8 vértices around the legs is a god number depending on the Polycount youre going for.
Saving yourself some work.
Of course i used a mirror modifier for the start, but there is more work you can save yourself if you think ahead and do a Little planning before the actual modelling. I had todo learn that the hard way, by starting over quite a few times with past projects, but i did learn from the failures as well, so if you analyze the locust body parts youll se it has - more or less - 2 kinds of legs, the shorter two pairs at the front and the long jumping legs. So the short leg only neds todo be modelled once, then you can rig it and afterwards join both the legs with the body and the rig with the main armature. I found this todo be a very elegant method. Before you do that make sure todo give the Bones - and with that the vertex groups - distinguishable names, y just used the biológical terms for the segments of the legs. E.g. Femur of the first left leg would be fe_i. L. The. L is another important thing. If you name your Bones with. L or. R at the end, Blender Will be able todo flip the names (in Edit Mode: w -> flip names), if you duplicate and mirror yourbones, the duplicates Will be named e. Fe_i. L.001. If you choose w -> flip names Blender Will automátically replace the. L.001 with. R in the bone names, this bien you can quickly mirror your armature without having todo rename allthe Bones yourself. This is especially handy for characters with more than 4 extremities, so before i joined the legs and the armatures with the main objects (Crtl +) i did the entire rig, including IK and weight painting for one leg, duplicated it and saved myself a big.
Temporarily use modifiers in the modelling process.
While looking at the legs i noticed a lot of spikes along the tibia, especially on the jumping legs. I couldnt solver that problem with normal maps, because the spikes actually stand out from the topology of the leg, but i didnt fel like modelling every Spike. Luckily i was already doing the legs separately, so i added a circle of eight vértices (shift + a -> add Mesh -> circle, f6 todo edit the vértices count), extruded it and modelled two spikes, extruding two of the side Faces. I added an array (fig. 2) todo that. Make sure you enable merge and that your top and bottom vértices actually do merge. Once youre happy, apply the modifier and enable the add-on loop-tools in the user preferencias (Crtl + al + u) then you can bridge (w -> loop tools -> bridge) when you have two loops with the same amount of vértices selected. This bien you can easily connect the spikes todo the beginning of the leg.
There are a couple of great tutorialesout there for UV unwrapping and texture painting in Blender, so all i am going todo say is make sure todo use Gimp or a similar software todo remove any specularities from your pictures. Otherwise they Will interfere with the lighting of your renders.
Finishing the model: materiales.
When youre using Scanline renderers as opposed todo physically correct renderers translucency is not very accurate. Y ou can faq it by manipulating the bak value of the s but that afects your entire model and i found it todo ignore where the light is coming from. Of course there is a slider for translucency, but After playing around with it for a while all i found it todo do is show shadows that get cast on the backside of the model todo be sen by the Camera, so i used material nodes. You dont se Many tutorialesabout material nodes, Even though they are incredibly useful.
They are básically the same as render nodes, just remember todo take into account that every node you add Will react according todo the lighting, the shadow and the Camera position etc, of your object. So by using the original UV Layout of my locust i Painted the áreas where i wanted the s material todo appear (fig. 3) between gray and black depending on how hola i wanted the legs todo be in that particular área. I assigned this grayscale map todo a Shadeless material and used it as a factor todo mix the two materiales together.
The particle simulation.
For the Swarm i joined all my objects (head, thorax, body with legs, inner and outer Wings) together so that the particle simulation would only have todo calculate the positions of one object per particle. I used thre offset flight Cycles so the locusts flying wouldnt be uniform (Crtl + g with the thre locusts selected).
In the particles settings under rendering select: group and pik random. Then i used 3 curve guides (fig. 4) todo make the locusts fly around the Camera. The final shot had 500 locusts swarning the Camera.