I can never stick to reading and working through manuals continuously for long periods of time. So, to continue my exploration of Blender I decided to try out something totally different. One of Blender’s greatest features is that it can be scripted with Python to add features that are not built in. The script that has always interested me the most is the Fiber script by RipSting, so I decided to try it out. Once I had installed Python 2.2 and downloaded the script files, it was only a matter of setting the Python path in Blender, and it worked like a charm.
The Fiber script is extremely powerful. The best way to get an idea of what it is capable off is to play around with the example blend file included in the archive. While the patch of grass example this file opens with by default is impressive, there is more to see on the other layers including some basic simulations of human hair. The long list of settings can be intimidating, but try generating fibres by changing one setting at a time, and you can quickly understand what all this means.
I started experimenting with the grass, and was trying to get it to look as true to life as possible. Playing around with the material settings helped a lot. I then found a close-up image of a blade of grass online and used that to create a greyscale bumpmap. Some more tweaking of the texture and bump map settings, and I was quite pleased with the results. The image above was produced after only 30 minutes of seriously playing around with settings, so a more in depth study of this script should produce wonders.
There are also some interesting alternatives to Fiber. Bantam 3D Grass is a free stand-alone program that can produce 3D models of grass and other similar structures. It allows you to design the geometry of individual fibres, so it can be much more powerful for more complex scenes. The models can be exported to standard formats to be used in a wide range of 3D software. For Blender, the Fiber script is just more convenient to play around with at the moment, since you don’t need to switch between programs and you can work in the same interface. Another option that is still in the works is the Beast script being worked on by ezual and Landis. This one looks very promising, but it is more likey to compliment the functionality of Fiber than replace it. My study of Fiber continues.