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My previous excursion to the fairground had me inspired to go back and revisit some of the other rides I looked at back in the day. There are few rides which encapsulate the old-fashioned fairground feel like the Rock-O-Plane, with its trusses, bulbs and cables strung around those huge arms. No surprise too, as the ride has been around for seventy years.

This ones’s a little different, though. Rather than the egg-shaped pods that so iconically house the passengers, this later variant ditches them in favour of front-facing chairs, meaning the ‘rocking’ is an altogether different experience. The common name for this version appears to be Sky Dancer.

The 2016 Rock-O-Plane model wasn’t actually that bad. The biggest issue was that it was about a third of the height it should have been. I did rebuild the wheel though, with some more detailed framework. The cars were transplanted from the Space Loop mostly.

To try and get the chairs to ‘rock’ authentically, I thought of using connectors and hard body simulation to actually have them swinging from the wheel but, fearing for my computer’s safety, chickened out. I instead added a step effector in two regions of the wheel – one at the top-left quadrant, the other at the bottom-right – with angular parameters of around 90 degrees.

That said, the rendered simulation actually looks and behaves quite a bit worse than it seemed to in the viewport, with some pretty sharp swings at points. It does at least seem to be the right kind of idea; I think the key is getting a balance between the strength of the effector region and the speed of the wheel itself. Below is the obligatory animation. I think that’s the fairground thirst quenched for now, but it’s been quite a fun ride!

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Is it early 2016 again? Alas, it is not. Sorry for getting your hopes up. However, we’re getting into the retro spirit here with a new fairground model to add to the collection from way back then – well, not entirely new. It’s another Top Spin, actually a very similar, slightly later (1993!) model by the same manufacturer, just with a cooler name: Space Loop. Seems a curious colour scheme for a space theme, but who am I to comment on such things?

This wasn’t really something I set out to do. It came about, actually, during the spring, when my spare time was almost non-existent and I desperately wanted to try and fit something in, so I took my 2016 Top Spin model and tried to glam it up a little, using what I’d learnt since then. It was going alright I suppose, but the old model’s clunkiness was starting to catch up with it. I thought it better to forget this build and start from scratch.

Skip ahead to a week or so ago, when I was afforded both some time and inspiration.

spaceloop-v5_0001I actually had some dimensions to work with this time, so not having to approximate height was a great help. Models do look better when they’re in proportion, I guess.

spaceloop-v5_0002The gondola is probably the biggest improvement of the ride itself, though more through greater patience than any shiny new tools. When tweaking my old model, I tried to apply some snazzy physics/simulation to a basic setup to see if I could replicate the brakes and achieve an authentic spin. I had little success with this, though, as Carol Vorderman might say, I’m sure it’s possible. Give me another few years.

Also the staging and lighting is much more involved than it was before – we have some  decoration and signage, actual lightbulbs rather than flat textures, and the strips on the supports are animated to flash on a loop – something I’ve only recently learnt how to do, after so long of manually animating entire sequences like a lemon.

With all this time to myself, I even went as far as rendering a sequence, attempting an evening setting to achieve a more sensible render time but actually losing rather a lot of its atmosphere. It might have been almost four years but damn, there’s still lots to learn when it comes to animation. But anyway, what’s old is new again. Kinda. Life truly is a Space Loop.

Yes, it’s that time of year, where outside sounds rather like a war zone thanks to fireworks screaming and banging all over the place. I don’t know, maybe I’m getting too old for this stuff. Well, as the saying goes, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. So I did, in a manner that won’t break the bank and terrify animals everywhere: I attempted to create some 3D animated fireworks.

They’re pretty simple, actually: an emitter producing planes, which are tagged with motion blur and highlights, giving them the coloured glow you see in the render. There’s also a gravity effector at play, pulling them downwards and, hopefully, achieving a more realistic effect.

firework04The above was done with tracers, giving a slightly more authentic trail, and I think the gravity effects are much clearer here, too. I rendered with no anti-aliasing whatsoever, in-keeping with this, the year of the pixel.

I also had a go at some sparkler effects; it’s a similar deal, but this time using some random ‘sparkly’ shapes and cloning them spherically, rather than having an animated emission. They did get better as I went along, which I suppose is good.

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And with the final GIF (I promise) we come to this obscene spinny firework thing – technical term, you understand. Just two emitters – albeit with much narrower range than previously – grouped together and rotated.

I have to say this year has been relatively quiet for fireworks, so perhaps I shouldn’t be so sour on the subject. If you are visiting a display, burning an effigy or any kind of festivity this evening, then do have fun. If you aren’t, well, who needs it when you have this?

Ooooh! Ahhhh!

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He’ll probably take a while to load.

Here we have a Spectrum-inspired pixel portrait of André the Giant, who is something of a regular on this blog. Inspiration came from two places: A generous helping of Skittles, and watching a review of the Spectrum’s typically awful adaptation of The Krypton Factor. Standard, I’m sure you’ll agree. I saw the portraits of the contestants in all their pixel glory and thought it’d be fun to try a similar thing with André.

Nostalgia Nerd is heartily recommended.

As it was, I ended up working on this for almost four hours, until after 4 o’clock this morning. I’m not going to complain. Motivation is not my strong point, so if the time flies by like that – which it most definitely did – then it can’t be that bad. It was really enjoyable, actually, and quite a happy result, similar to my stippling experiments from a few years ago. You can tell I started in the eye/nose T-zone and worked outwards, because it gets tidier the further we go from there. Some of the positioning and gradients could be better, particularly around the jawline, but I’ll take this as an impulse punt. Skittles or not, I will look into doing more of this.

At one point I just casually duplicated the marks layer and nudged it slightly, and was intrigued by the effect. Here are some alternates, positioned to the right, beneath, and another with a drop shadow effect; of course with nearest neighbour interpolation the aesthetic is locked to sharp pixels, so, even if less effective, they keep an authentic look.

I’ve probably shared this before, but it never gets old: here’s a clip of André at WrestleMania IV, mocking Hulk Hogan and showing Bob Uecker who’s boss.

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It’s time for another look at lettering, and high time too, as I haven’t been able to do nearly as much as I would’ve liked this year; I wanted to fit in another Twenty-Six Spins but that doesn’t look likely, sadly. It will happen, though. When you least expect it. Consider this a warning for shoddy Photoshops and even shoddier wheel puns.

I was looking at quick, flowing forms and somehow came to ropes. I thought it might be interesting to try and model a rope in 3D. So that’s what I did. (It wasn’t that interesting, really).

Surprisingly simple it was, actually, done in a couple of minutes by sweeping a flower shape along a spline and having it rotate along. It does seem to lose something on longer forms, as you might be able to tell. It’s a bit ropey. I also wasn’t entirely sure about the texture that I made, so I went back to black and white to try and mask that as much as possible. It’s quite unusual for me to start with colour or texture then work backwards, especially with lettering; I’ve learnt over the years that the gold is always to be found in the simplest forms, and that, unsurprisingly, seems to be true of this exercise too. That’s where the hallowed Threshold filter comes in. Even the textured renders look much punchier in simple monochrome, I think.

I did attempt some knots, as you can see here with a couple of alternate forms. I’ve never been good with tying even the most basic of knots, so maybe that’s why I largely steered clear of this. They’re even harder with splines! I imagine there are plugins out there which can model such a thing with just a click.

And for all my slamming colour earlier on, I did throw a few letters into Photoshop and give them a paint job; kind of fun, I guess, but I might be saying that to the happy colours themselves rather than the letters.

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Well, that ties it up for now. This experiment might knot be for everyone, but it was once again fun learning the ropes. Hopefully next year I’ll not be roped into other things, and shall be able to do a little more in this vein.

roadwarriors-01What a match-up this is!

It’s funny the things you happen across online. I’ve been editing audio with Audacity for many years, but never thought I’d be using it to make visual art. Turns out you can! If you’re able to convert images to Raw format, then you can load these into Audacity and be presented with the ‘sound’ of your art to bend and break in any way you should desire. Export it, and marvel at the glitchy results. There’s really not much more to it than that; the full walkthrough can be found here.

Wanting to jump right into such an experiment, I turned to a drawing of legendary wrestling tag team The Road Warriors that has been laying around for several months. It’s not very good – which explains why it was never posted until now – so I thought it a worthy candidate for ‘glitching up’. It might even improve along the way.

Here is just a selection of the results, purely made in Audacity. I actually ended up producing about seventy pieces in total, for it was quite addictive, and somehow felt more organic than Photoshop; perhaps it was because I wasn’t seeing the results before exporting. I’m sure someone paying more attention to the various tools and their corresponding visual effects could create something exciting with this.

And here’s a second batch, with a little help from dear old Photoshop, though really only for adjusting hues and contrast:

I daresay those are all more interesting than the original drawing. I actually quite like the texture of the pinkish one, it seems to suit them, so this process has already proven worthwhile.

The Road Warriors are featured characters in a brand new retro wrestling game, y’know. It’s coming out early next year. Should be good…

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The Joker has come a long way since Cesar Romero’s day, now over fifty years ago – and even his incarnation changed over the course of the TV series. While not my absolute favourite, it’s hard not to enjoy Cesar’s Joker. I note that neither Jack Nicholson nor Heath Ledger had the balls to challenge Batman to a surfing contest.

The new film, of course, gives Joaquin Phoenix the luxury of no Caped Crusader to steal his airtime (though, having re-watched the 1989 film recently, you could argue Nicholson was almost there himself). The characters are so inter-twined, it’ll be interesting just to see what exactly he gets up to and where the film goes with no yang to his yin. One thing is for sure, though: Joker is the Bat villain who should be able to pull such an exploration off, and Phoenix’s interpretation of the character certainly piques interest from the trailer, even if I do still wish someone would give the classic comic book/1989 Joker another serious shot.

This portrait was a something of a botched experiment, really – as well as a desperate attempt to shut out the unholy row of Strictly Come Dancing. I was going for a glitch effect between the two Jokers, but my attempts at the effect really did not work, so I separated the two and gave them a clean relief. That’s why I love digital: easy re-purposing. Maybe it should be grittier and maybe I should have spent some time planning the composition instead of rushing in. I suppose there are a few more Jokers to choose, should I want a second go.