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Xindi-Insectoid

A Xindi-Insectoid

Xindi-Insectoid hatchling

A dead hatchling

Xindi-Insectoids were members of the multi-species Xindi race.

Physiology Edit

The Insectoids, like all Xindi species, had distinctive ridges on their cheeks. They were, as their name suggests, insect-like in appearance. Their average life expectancy was estimated to be twelve years. It was easy to find, on their ships, individuals about ten years old, who were probably considered "elders."

They were genderless and reproduced asexually. Also, because of their insectoid nature and the shortness of their life span, they were strongly concerned over the survival of their offspring. They protected their young by making a hatchery brig attached to their ships and shielded it in case of danger, even at the expense of the ship's life support system. Each individual was able to produce large clusters of eggs.

The eggs could not survive out of the ship and were equipped with a gland capable of producing a powerful and subtle neurotoxin. If an unexpected presence was detected in the vicinity of the eggs, the clusters would spray the substance on the intruder, causing (in the latter) an instinctive, obsessive interest in protecting and nurturing the hatchling. (ENT: "Hatchery")

Language Edit

The Insectoid language was a clicking dialog that was the most unusual and complex of all Xindi, save that of the Aquatics. In fact, there were 67 dialects of the Insectoid language. Insectoid had names that grew longer and more difficult to pronounce as they grew older. (ENT: "The Council")

Philosophy and external affairs Edit

Insectoids interpreted raised voices as a sign of hostility. They were quick to make decisions and were often in alliance with the Reptilians. Both species used to trade their technology between each other and usually agreed on all decisions. (ENT: "The Council")

Appendices Edit

Appearances Edit

Background Edit

Physical design Edit

The notion of there being an insect-like race of Xindi was devised by Executive Producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga, who also decided that the Insectoids, in common with the Xindi-Aquatics, would be created with CGI. (Star Trek: Communicator issue 149, p. 50) This choice having been made, the process of designing the Insectoids began with sketches done by Visual Effects Producer Dan Curry. ("Visual Effects Magic", ENT Season 4 DVD special features; [X]wbm) The brief for the Insectoids was that they should be generally humanoid, rather than creatures which crawled around on the ground. "We wanted a creature that was about the size of a human being so people could look into its face," said Curry. "I looked at macro shots of various insects and then did kind of an amalgam of a fly and an ant." (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection issue 24, p. 15)

A particular consideration was exactly how many arms and legs the Insectoids were going to have. Dan Curry revealed, "My first thoughts were they would have six appendages like insects on Earth, but Rick [Berman] felt that they evolved to a higher life-form. So the middle two became vestigial and actually went away." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 149, p. 51) The thinking behind this was that, as the Insectoids had become bipedal, they had no longer needed their third pair of appendages. In practical terms, omitting them also minimized the time it would take to animate the creatures. (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection issue 24, p. 15)

One requirement was that the Xindi-Insectoid seem visually compatible with the other Xindi, so the design for the Xindi-Reptilians proved to be a significant influence. Noted Curry, "The scaling pattern on the head of the insectoid is not dissimilar." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 149, p. 51)

While crafting the design of the Insectoids, Dan Curry paid much attention to working out precisely how the Insectoids functioned. He decided their method of speaking was by making a series of clicking noises with their mandibles, rather than using a conventional voice box powered by air from their lungs. (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection issue 24, p. 15) Despite designing the Insectoids to have only four appendages, Curry still kept them obviously based on real-life insects. He recalled, "I kept a lot of insect attributes like the compound eyes and breathing tubes through the side. So the creature we have now is basically inspired by a variety of different insect species that I put together–the head's kind of fly-like, with a little ant-ness." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 149, p. 51) Wanting to make the Insectoids look intelligent, though, Curry made the foreheads slightly larger than normal. One of his concept drawings of the species was dated 30th June 2003. (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection issue 24, p. 15)

When the script for "Hatchery" called for Insectoid infants, Dan Curry returned to his original design concept for the Insectoids and sketched a young-looking member of the species. He later described this as a "Bambi-fied" version of the Insectoids. (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection issue 24, p. 17)

Executing the CGI Edit

Visualizing the Xindi-Insectoids involved a team of people from actors to animators. (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection issue 24, p. 14) Dan Curry's concept artwork was provided to Eden FX, who were tasked with building the CGI model for the Insectoids. Recalling the illustrations, one of Eden's CG artists, Digital Effects Supervisor John Teska, stated, "That was a sketch of the character, and a couple of revisions for the head close-up and things like that. I had a pretty good idea of what they looked like before we started building." ("Visual Effects Magic", ENT Season 4 DVD special features) Because designs for Insectoid chairs and clothing were also produced, Teska was impressed by how much thought the design team were spending on the Insectoids. He related, "When I got that [sketch], I realized, 'OK, they are taking these guys seriously! They've got wardrobe, they've got chairs!'" (Star Trek: Communicator issue 149, p. 51)

Xindi-Insectoids (wireframe)

Wireframe versions of two Insectoid characters

John Teska created the digital model for the Insectoids. ("Visual Effects Magic", ENT Season 4 DVD special features; [X]wbm) It was built as a full 3D model. In early renders of at least an Insectoid head (if not also a full Insectoid body), Teska arranged the basic textures in place. (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection issue 24, pp. 15 & 14) He recalled, "I dug out all my insect reference–great books with scanning electron micro-photography–where I got a lot of the ideas for the smaller details, like little hairs around the eyes, the things that didn't show up in the pencil sketches." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 149, p. 50) Teska elaborated, "It was several weeks of first working up the geometry, building this basic polygonal, you know, polygon cage, sort of like low [resolution] at first, just to work out proportions and what they looked like. Then, building this elaborate skeleton that would basically allow us to move them like a character, like a puppet on the screen." ("Visual Effects Magic", ENT Season 4 DVD special features) John Teska not only digitally built the Insectoids but also determined how they would move. In addition, he created a CG version of the baby Insectoid, working out how it would move. The final step in the creation of these infants was to create a fully rendered version of them, which could be shown moving. (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection issue 24, pp. 16 & 17)

Having a CG model was, however, merely the beginning of the process, which required the input of multiple collaborators. Dan Curry pointed out, "The Insectoids had to convey emotion, they had to give a performance, they had to have body language." (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection issue 24, p. 16)

Capturing performances Edit

Unlike with the Xindi-Aquatics, stand-ins were used for the Xindi-Insectoids, to give the directors and animators references for CGI placement. [X]wbm The decision to use this procedure was inspired by the success of the CG character Gollum from The Lord of the Rings films, he having commonly been "played" by actor Andy Serkis. "I decided, I want to go into this with the same idea," explained Visual Effects Supervisor Ronald B. Moore.

The stand-ins wore special suits, which helped to track their movements for such episodes as the season 3 premiere "The Xindi" – the only episode wherein Moore used motion-control because the production staffers wanted to digitally replicate even the minutest actions of the performers. "So, Dan [Curry] came up [...] as only Dan can do, with roles of tape and started putting grids all over these guys," Moore continued. "We got black suits made for them. And put the grids on, so we could follow them [....] [We] didn't exactly know what we were up against, with these guys." As it turned out, the animators did so well at replacing the stand-ins with the CGI that it was evident motion-control was not required. ("Visual Effects Magic", ENT Season 4 DVD special features)

Whenever the Insectoids were to appear on screen, the creation of the footage began with one or more of the stand-ins on stage, each dressed in one of the grid-covered suits which gave the artists at Eden FX reference for all the different movements.(Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection issue 24, p. 16) Each set of clothing primarily consisted of a form-fitting pair of cotton trousers, a long-sleeved shirt with a hood that had an eye opening, a pair of gloves and a pair of black Reebok shoes. The grids were white and stitched into all the clothing apart from the shoes. Except for the grids, each entire outfit was black. Both pairs of shoes were inscribed "D. Mandalone". Similarly, even during (and after) being used for the Insectoid stand-in work, one of the shirts was branded with a Star Trek: Voyager tag inscribed "Ethan Phillips", a name tag which had been written over. The fingers in the gloves were taped together, which gave each hand a three-fingered alien appearance. Each partitioning of the fingers was attached to a thin replication claw. [1] The claws were made out of foam core by Dan Curry, who crafted them with the intention of providing the stand-ins the feeling of having insectoid claws. (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection issue 24, p. 17) "The stand-ins [were] just on regular boxes, though; they don't have a butt like that [of the Insectoids]!" exclaimed Curry. (Star Trek: Communicator issue 149, p. 51)

The stand-ins who "played" the role of the Insectoids were Evan English and Tarik Ergin. ("Visual Effects Magic", ENT Season 4 DVD special features) It was Ergin's clothing which featured the written-over "Ethan Phillips" name tag, although Ergin's clothing featured multiple other sewn-in tags showing his own first name. [2] Dan Curry remembered, "Ron Moore [...] was very strong in using the stand-ins for performance; that way they could read dialog and participate in the scene, so the other actors knew where to look." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 149, p. 51) Regarding how much enthusiasm the stand-ins put into their portrayals, Curry offered, "[They] were really into playing the Insectoids [....] They really gave a performance and didn't just walk through it." (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection issue 24, p. 17)

Typically, after footage of one of the stand-ins was recorded, the process continued with him stepping out of the frame, followed by the action being re-staged and re-filmed without him in shot. The absence of the actor allowed space for the animators to digitally add the Insectoid, later. Doing so was far from easy. Even though the shot of the actor gave the animators a reference for positioning the Insectoid's head and arms, the CG creature still had to be blended seamlessly into the background, which meant the animators needed to recreate 3D space. Where he could, Dan Curry used a considerably low-tech technique to provide them with some useful reference. "A lot of times I would use a little bounding box I made out of chopsticks hotglued together," he remembered. "By looking at that the animators could see the changes in perspective as the camera moved around." Animating each Insectoid was done by moving a wireframe skeleton under the CG flesh. Thereafter, basic animation of the CG Insectoid was created to match the movements of the stand-ins, visually replacing them in the pre-recorded footage. The final step of the process was to create the creature in full resolution, carefully matching the CG lighting with the lighting on the set. (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection issue 24, pp. 17 & 16) Thus, the live-action footage gave the CG animators reference of not only what the stand-ins' performances were like but also how light had affected those performers. (Star Trek: Communicator issue 149, p. 51) It was somewhat difficult for the animators to match the on-set lighting, as the sets were dark, with many different sources of light. (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection issue 24, p. 17) Eventually, the editors ensured the CGI Insectoids fit convincingly into the appropriate shots. (Star Trek: Communicator issue 149, p. 51)

John Teska regularly animated the Insectoids. Robert Bonchune, effects supervisor at Eden FX, commented, "The Xindi insects are kind of his baby, so when they come along we usually give them to him, 90 per cent of the time, at least on the shows I supervise." (Star Trek Magazine issue 118, p. 30)

Ultimately, Ron Moore was impressed with the use of stand-ins. Although aware that the actors were intentionally playing different characters, he believed viewers can also see behavioral differences in the roles. ("Visual Effects Magic", ENT Season 4 DVD special features) Dan Curry was also pleased with how life-like the Insectoids ultimately became, pointing out, "The Insectoids are effectively there, they interact." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 149, p. 50) He also approved of how the animators matched the CG lighting with the real on-stage lighting, remarking, "They were really great at matching that." He was keen to acknowledge the collaborative means in which the Insectoids were brought to life, saying, "The success of the Insectoids is really a testament to the artistry of our team." (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection issue 24, p. 17)

Props and costumes Edit

Having designed the Xindi-Insectoids to be incapable of sitting on a regular chair, Dan Curry designed a special type of chair for the ambassadors of the species, and their "Insectoid butts." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 149, p. 51; Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection issue 24, p. 16) John Teska digitally modeled a version of the Insectoid chair. "We got a sample from the real chair," he reflected, "and I matched the wood grain, and everything; we actually had the prop chair here for a day." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 149, p. 51)

Dan Curry additionally designed the weapon and armor with which the Insectoid warriors were equipped. (Star Trek: Communicator issue 149, p. 50) The Insectoid weaponry involved special guns, built in CGI by Pierre Drolet, which could be fired by Insectoid rather than Human hands. (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection issue 24, pp. 15-16) Curry also invested thorough thinking in the Insectoid clothing. Bearing in mind that insects breath through tubes in their sides, he made sure the sides of their clothing were open. "It looks like the kind of thing Medieval knights would drape over their coats of mail," Curry observed. (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection issue 24, pp. 15-16) On the other hand, the medieval robes worn by the Insectoid ambassadors were designed by Bob Blackman, who usually designed costumes for live-action usage. "Since he designed all the other Xindi garments," said Curry, "I felt it was best if Bob gave us some direction." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 149, p. 51)

The Insectoid costumes were very popular with the creative team. Production illustrator John Eaves exclaimed, "I so loved the costumes that Bob Blackman came up with for these nasty space demons!!!" [3] Of course, the designs for the Insectoid chair and clothing likewise impressed John Teska. (Star Trek: Communicator issue 149, p. 51)

The suits used by Tarik Ergin and Evan English as stand-ins for the CGI Insectoids were sold off on the It's A Wrap! sale and auction. [4]

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