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An original orchid mantis (Hymenopus coronatus or H. bicornis) sculpted from scratch and animated into a turntable. The aim was to create an accurate scientific model of a biological subject, lit and rendered to professional standards to communicate the morphology.


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ZBrush, Cinema4D + Arnold Renderer


Nicholas Woolridge (Prof.), 2020


I decided to sculpt an insect because I wanted to experiment with modelling thin and segmented structures. I chose this particular species because of the unique lobe structures on its legs and its appealing colouration. While working on the sketch, I quickly noticed that there is a lot of genetic variation among this species. I chose to focus on the female orchid mantis, characterized by its larger lobes and less segments on its thorax.


I started modelling the basic form of the bug using ZSpheres. I used Dynamesh to sculpt most of the anatomy and details. I split the mesh into polygroups, and isolated them when sculpting the individual areas. After using ZRemesher, I subdivided and projected until the details were sufficient. Sculpting was done on symmetry mode. 


I used polypaint to paint the mantis colours on one layer over the sculpt. I made a separate layer for just transparency mapping. The thinner structures such as the arms and legs were kept more transparent.


I used Arnold Renderer to experiment with the final lighting and render settings. I tested transparency levels on subsurface scattering, transmission, and both. As there was no noticeable difference between both and just subsurface alone, I chose subsurface to save on render times. I used a nature HDRI for the lighting and also used two additional lights to mimic bright sunlight. The base was a default Cinema4D asset, which I plan to replace with a modelled orchid.

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