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Monthly Archives: May 2016

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Well, it’s a Bank Holiday, and it wouldn’t be a decent use of the day without a wander around the countryside – this means we’re going to the Norfolk Broads, which in turn – ha – means an encounter with a windmill is unavoidable.

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Yep, another one! What we have this time around is a trestle mill, though it’s more commonly referred to as a ‘skeleton’ mill, for obvious reasons. A timber open-frame structure – rather like a small smock mill without the cladding – these structures came considerably cheaper than a brick construction. As such, these were once plentiful around the Broads, though perhaps as is to be expected, only a couple remain.

My reference for this was Boardman’s Mill, or Vorderman’s Mill, as I used to believe it to be called. It’s a drainage pump standing on the bank of the River Ant, a short walk away from Ludham’s How Hill (and indeed just to the south of another of similar design). Built in 1897, it retired in 1938 after being knocked off its rather precarious brick chamber by high winds (not a hugely surprising fate!)

A less attractive prospective abode, maybe, but it was certainly interesting as a curious child to observe the innards of a windmill so immediately. I never dared scale that wobbly ladder to take a closer look, though! It has been periodically restored, but the last time I saw it up close it was looking rather worse for wear, which is a shame – it’s a delicate structure and one which surely requires greater care.

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The main challenge for me here was that timber framework. I cloned the four outer corners and applied a slight inward tendency to give a taper. This trick didn’t work so well with the supporting beams, however; I ended up placing them manually, which might explain why some are a tad uneven. I realised after the build that constructing a perfectly vertical tower and then using the Taper tool on it might have done what I wanted much quicker; hey ho!

Another howler might have been my cloning of a reed several thousand times. The beds of reeds you see are touched up and duplicated in Photoshop post, but there were many in the original rendered scene. This reduced my computer to such a crawl that I feared I might have killed it. Oops! Well I know not to try that again.

I also thought I’d try playing with the nighttime Physical Sky settings in Cinema 4D, to perhaps exploit the open tower with a fiery sunset beaming through. Hmm! It looks pretty, and I enjoy very much the near-silhouette landscape, but I think it’s evident that the whole sunlight and sky element is something I need to revisit in greater depth; it’ll only benefit my models once I finally get it cracked.

bordermans_1dFor now though, let’s just imagine a pleasant and real sunset ride down the River Ant.

I need to get me a boat.

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Crikey, how I used to loathe Sundays as a child. I’m sure I’m not alone in that. The battle against bathtime, the suffocation of five argumentative siblings, the spectre of The Antiques Roadshow, whose deceptively upbeat signature tune always seemed to bring the homework diary with it, and then the early night. Eurgh! Bar the occasional fun trip, it was just a stressful mess.

I feel I may have my British citizenship revoked when I say that the traditional Sunday dinner was no reprieve, and indeed, I’m still not much of a fan. Only really when there were mountains of Yorkshire puddings thrown in, or I found myself bribed by promises of apple crumble for afters, did the roast become anything close to pleasant.

Or indeed, when it was turned on its head and presented differently. Toad-in-the-hole, for instance, or shepherd’s pie. These struck more as more fun, and so were tolerable… just. Lesser evils. I used to keep my fingers crossed that they were coming instead – well, it was always quite transparent; if things were looking up, mum would tell me outright; if not, “wait and see” or “you’ll get what you’re given!” How harrowing those words were at teatime.

It’s been a little while since I brought anything to the table for the Doodlewash Dinner, and though the festivities are probably all the better for less of my cooking, I don’t want to look impolite. Hence, I’ve given you a hunk of a rather gooey-looking shepherd’s pie, in the hope that it’ll make your Sunday a touch more Funday (even if The Antiques Roadshow is bound to be on later, still doling out the heebie-jeebies). I’ve not made one of these for real since the age of about fourteen, back when I was at loggerheads with my Food Tech teacher (we didn’t get along), so don’t get your hopes up. Still, it may taste better than it looks – dig in if you dare!

And.. (taps glass)

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…now comes an after-dinner announcement, as it appears I’ve been nominated for my second Liebster Award. My thanks to the lovely Sissh at Sissh Art Journal for thinking me worthy of such an accolade – do go and explore her wonderful and fun blog.

I hope you’ll forgive Sissh, that, having been nominated before for this, I shall forego the full proceedings this time, and instead use the publicity purely for nominating those more deserving. Perhaps if any of the following would like to participate, they could respond to the questions posed by Sissh in her post? Of course, this comes with no obligation.

Now, go and take a look at all these champion chaps. With Who Wants To Be A Millionaire still coursing, I’ll expect you to wave awkwardly to us all as I announce you one-by-one:

Now, who’s got the fastest finger?

Congratulations to all nominees!

Having been in discussion with an old friend possibly even more enamoured with the game show than myself, I’d a feeling – as indeed I do on every conversation – that his unabashed delight in cheesy presenters, sparkly sets and strobe lights would rub off on me. And I was right. He’s a terrible influence.

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire launched on ITV in September 1998, coming after years of developing and tweaking the format of both the quiz and the show itself. Stripped in half-hour bursts across two weeks, the show was an instant success – in subsequent series, it would boast audiences of almost twenty million, even with the rapid increase of satellite alternatives, and soon it’d have travelled the world. The computer game was the best-selling of the year 2000. It left its rivals, offering cars and a couple of grand, in the dark. Millionaire was perhaps the last ‘event’ game show, and in its favour was its universal accessibility. People used to be talking about it in the playground at first school – we simply couldn’t fathom such monstrous sums of money. I expect we weren’t alone in that view.

It was the cleverness of its construction that allowed even we, aged only six and seven when it started, to engage in the programme. Pitching the questions as multiple-choice and presenting them for the duration not only cajoled bullish contenders into chancing their arm, but it also meant that everyone at home could have a go, with a decent chance of indeed being correct whether you had the foggiest idea what the question was asking or not. Instantly, there was a connection – you were active viewers, and your thought process informed the narrative between yourself and the contestant, which might have already been dictated by their outwardly laddish tendencies or crippling nerves. Superiority or regret was amply topped up. Only fuelling this – one way or another! – was the stewardship of Chris Tarrant; invariably incensing in his lengthy pauses and stalls, he was also very good at making you care about what was going on. You couldn’t imagine anyone else doing the job.

I was most powerfully fascinated, though, by the show’s set as a child (weird kid). Designed with the show’s capacity for theatre very much in mind, the round, stepped-up nature exacerbated the isolation aspect, while also offering potential to be unitive in atmosphere. True to the game show, it had its share of shine and strobe, but they were used in a very different way, again only adding to the tension of the thing. I was fascinated by the way the lights would go up and down, the house lights dropping darker the further the player ventured, until it was just them and Chris visible.

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire was not only a historic game show, but really is the reason for much of the television that has followed. The dark, spotlit sets. The dramatic music scores. The focus on emotion. Big viewing figures. Indeed, the bar was only going to go up (or down, depending on what you might think!) and it wasn’t long before Millionaire‘s playbook was stolen. Once the jackpot had been bagged, though, the moment had passed rather, and interest began to wane, big wins became less of a story, certainly compared to cheating ehe-NO!-m Majors trying to con their way to the cash.

In the subsequent years, the show slipped steadily into irrelevance – shifting from stripped five days a week to early Tuesday night, and subject to several last-ditch format reversions, none of which worked. Tarrant quit in 2013, with the final show going out quietly the next year. Something of a shame really, though I won’t pretend it shouldn’t have gone many years earlier. Much better off remembered as the unstoppable force it was in its pomp.

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But we don’t want to give you that! Into the next dimension – 27 June 2012

The Who Wants To Be A Millionaire set was, I believe, the very first thing I tried to build in 3D nearly half a decade ago now – mainly because I thought it looked simple. I soon realised it was far from such, but nevertheless, the way that shapes actually seemed to be, and the ease in which colours and textures were falling into the view-port, made me want to explore the subject in greater depth.

With my confidence increasing recently, and with this quizzy shot in the arm, I thought I’d give Millionaire another go, to see if I could master the whole lighting business, a practice in which I’m lagging slightly. The floor would also be a challenge.

millionaire03aThe build was refreshingly simple, if laborious at times. Lots and lots of radial cloning. As I thought, replicating the glass-and-dish construct of the floor was tough; all about achieving the right texture – namely, that crooked, shard motif. It didn’t turn out quite as I hoped, but I think it’s at least on the right lines.

millionaire01The lights were rather more difficult than expected. I did not know how to get the snazzy pattern to show on the floor, nor could I find anywhere that told me; this suggests that either I’m insane in wanting to do this, or it’s so blindingly simple that no advice is necessary. In the end, I put a disc with the pattern cut out of it, directly in front of the spotlight falloff, and grouped it. It worked a charm, and once I’d started setting them properly, the stage began to really look Millionaire-ish in appearance.

millionaire02aI even rendered a quick video of the lights going down – as mentioned earlier, one of the most vivid draws of the show for me when I was little. There’s something rather stilted about the animation compared to the routine on TV, and I’m not quite sure why that is, but it was nice to try and the descent into darkness is very satisfying. In that hobbled-together effort, I intertwined my 3D with some graphics I made back in 2012, which were created with a view to actually recording a couple of ‘academic’ Millionaire episodes for a sixth form. Purple was their colour, so purple was what they got! Sadly it never happened – perhaps they realised it was out of their budget? – but I still have the visuals, I suppose now merely fan art:

So that’s Millionaire. Given that I’ve only spent a couple of days on this, and it took me three years to complete the Countdown set, I think I fared rather well. I at least learnt a lot in setting up and animating spot lights. Now I just need to explore glassy stuff in more detail, and try and preferably come up with a solution that doesn’t take three-quarters of an hour to render one frame.

Constructing the set did give me greater appreciation for the efforts of the old games, which generally were well done, especially looking back after fifteen years. The PlayStation 2 version, which came complete with a CGI Chris Tarrant was, quite naturally, hilarious.

jeremywade-3Here we have Jeremy Wade, biologist, angler, explorer and host of River Monsters, which has recently been doing the rounds on ITV. Having never gone fishing in my life, such a programme would not be considered standard fare for me at all – I can’t even remember how I discovered it, but it’s surely testament to Wade’s unbridled passion, and skill as presenter and teacher, that I’ve found myself returning many times. His decades of adventures and research, undertaken long before the cameras started rolling, are the bedrock of the show; there’s much to listen to and learn from, in many aspects.

With this unexpected pleasure, and noting our man’s piercing blue eyes and striking appearance (which certainly is an additional pull… I shan’t make any crude comments about rods or tackle, though) I thought he’d make a fine portrait, and noting that I’ve not done one for a few weeks now, why ever not?

This is the third (serious) attempt, across as many days, at trying to capture Jeremy. There were many hurdles – actually, I think just about every area was troublesome this time. Curse Jezza for having such a distinctive mug! I think the biggest challenges were the lines, and nailing the surrounding values – the features look great on Jeremy, but I was having a very difficult time keeping him from looking twice his sixty years. This sort of thing often (always) happens, suggesting I need to focus on it more than I am… in the end, I not only went over crazily with highlights but also had to rely on adjustments, tweaking values to try and remedy the contrast as much as I could, to throw less of an insult at the poor man. It worked a wonder of a rescue, really; though he’s still not as handsome as the real deal, I can see a lot more of Jeremy Wade and not Alan Sugar, who to my horror I feared was coming through at one early stage.

While in confession mode, I also cheated a bit more, utilising Photoshop’s ever amusing Liquify tool to move bits and basically give Jeremy a nose and chin job; his facial shape was slightly but off-puttingly out, and so needed fixing, lest it drove me bonkers. In summing up all this wittering: thank goodness for Photoshop. And Jeremy Wade is charming.

I shall retire in the hope that my drawing has satisfied the alumni of the Jeremy Wade Is Sexy Facebook group.

dodgems00At last! After wandering the length of the entire park, trundling past the sedate to the downright insane and being thoroughly unmoved, we have finally arrived at the best darn fairground attraction ever. It’s perfect, which incidentally also means that Fairground Attraction would surely be satisfied. How tidy.

We are of course at the Dodgems, or Bumper Cars, whichever you prefer. These bumpy beasts have been creating havoc since the 1920s. It’s really the only place where I’m acceptable behind a wheel; you drive stylish cars and crash into everyone, with hilarity ensuing as you inevitably all get into a big pile-up in a corner and nobody can move.

This was my go-to ride at the fair, theme park or anywhere else they might be. I used to enjoy surveying the competition and singling people out, basically going after them for the duration. If you happened to look even slightly like one of my school teachers, my, you were doomed, or at least you would have been, were I a decent driver.

I was so into the ride that, on one occasion, my sister and I were in fact the only people on it. And we were in the same car. Noting the slight dip in turnout and us sitting there like lemons, the operator himself ventured out of his cubicle and joined us. However, he decided to try and look super cool by standing on the back, rather than sitting in the car like any normal person would. Surely this was short-sighted; I mean, what if we hit him? Perhaps he looked at us and made some estimations on our driving skill. He’d have been right – but we still hit him, and he still went flying! Needless to say, that was the end of our ride. Still makes me laugh twenty or so years later.

He did get his own back a bit later on, though, for there was another time when, as soon as the bell rang and the vehicles powered up, I zoomed backwards, uncontrollably, until crashing into (and breaking) the arena railings. Oops! This is also hilarious. So many fun memories of this ride – now I want another go, and right now!

The 3D model. Thank goodness for splines and LoftNURBS, as the latter is basically responsible for everything you see here, bar a few of the outer details on the vehicle, and the steering wheel. I essentially made the outer shell by constructing a chain of rectangles – the tool bridges the gaps with polygons. The smoothness of the model wasn’t actually what I was going for; I was looking for a more square look of the 80s/90s kind I’ve the most vivid memories of – never mind. As I seem to say every time, there was probably a much easier way of doing this, but, again, never mind! It was hugely frustrating at times, but I’m dead chuffed to have finally come out with something resembling a dodgem. I wouldn’t have believed that at teatime…

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The car has working headlights installed, too:

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The arena itself probably could do with some work – well, there’s no probably about it. I think I got so excited by the progress of the vehicle that I rather sped through this. I certainly hope no cars go between those front-central pillars…

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The speckled finish I ultimately ran with wasn’t my only design. Cinema 4D makes patterning and texturing so easy, it’d have been remiss not to experiment with some fancy styles. Here are a few variations:

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So desperate for a ride on the dodgems now. Ah well. Until I bump into you next, cheerio!

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On a pleasant Sunday evening, we head not to the amusements but to the adjacent seaside, abundant with cheap and cheerful souvenir shops and stalls. Well, my eyes just lit up; what have we here?

The pinwheel was a pretty seductive toy to my infant self. They had all the pull of my beloved windmills, except these whirling wonders were resplendent in sweet, sparkling colour and could be held in the hand. And they span uncontrollably with even the slightest breeze.

pinwheel01They’re much simpler in structure than a windmill, of course, but boy, that didn’t translate into the modeling process. I thought the Bend tool would produce a fold easily – it didn’t. Coming out of Cinema 4D, I couldn’t even find a tutorial for assistance, which leads me to believe there’s a blindingly simple way of achieving this… I must have missed it!

I cut a square into triangles, isolated one, then broke that into several vertical sectors. I then took each of those sectors and lifted or rotated as needed to give the impression of a fold. That sounds elementary enough, but it took forever, and almost cost me (what’s left of) my hair. Still! We got there in the end.

pinwheel02I used Hyper NURBS on the polygon to soften the edges, which gave it more a ‘folded paper’ feel. Turning this up even more rounded the edges to almost a completely different style, so I took this and indeed created a separate toy, this time with eight fins:

pinwheel03Oh to be beside the seaside! Now, who’s for skinny-dipping?

postmill-1dWith someone apparently turning the temperature up to ‘inferno’ over the past couple of days, my practice tweaked accordingly, veering toward something that hopefully would be a bit more picturesque than a fairground ride or Dale’s inflatable banana. It’s National Mills Weekend coming up too, so there’s further pertinence for you!

postmill-3Though, actually, I’d long been trying to put a post mill together, to go with my earlier tower mill, and in turn build my own counterpart to Jack and Jill, the Clayton windmills. The post mill comes with its own unique charm, to the extent at which I’m not sure which structure makes the better subject. In my earlier attempts, I struggled with the shapes and curves required for the main body – both at the top for the cap and at the bottom for rotating smoothly upon the roundhouse. Buoyed by momentum from my last 3D excursion, I decided to have another go.

Incidentally, I mostly used shots of Suffolk’s Stanton Mill for reference while building the model. How very pretty it is, and indeed pleasing to hear that the mill still works, even continuing to produce flour.

postmill-4The tricks learnt from the teacups came in very handy. I’d, for some reason, been reluctant to use Cinema 4D’s splines, instead pining for importing Illustrator artwork, but now I realise how much easier it can be with a bit more patience than I presumably had when trying it the first time. The rest of the structure was a rather similar exercise to the tower mill, but with hopefully a touch more polish to the finished item.

I then started playing with hair – Hair in Cinema, of course, could be used to make trees and shrubs! This is something I’ve not tried before – it was simple to implement but a terror to refine. I dropped hair onto some splines, and realised it was a bit of a terror on my processor aswell. After a more than thirty minute render, the featured image shows how well that went. Hmm! I don’t know what species they are, but they’re fun. I should say the willow trees were taken from the content browser – which I typically found lurking after all this. With render times only going up for their planting and impatience setting in, I ran with what I had and took to Photoshop to make just a few modifications. They look a bit rickety in places, but it does good to see the mill as part of a scene, rather than just plonked on a surface.

I’d certainly move in! Well, provided Weybourne isn’t for sale.

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