Monthly Archives: November 2019


Trees! Trees! Teresa Green! Or not as the case may be, sorry Tess. The above was something of a detour from my standard pixel practice; I tried to go wild with nature by creating a spooky tree with blocks of pixels, which I’d previously put together using a selection of shades. It seemed like a clever idea at the time. As you can see, it didn’t go that well, so that was something of a “one and done” exercise.

I started thinking back to old tree pieces I’d done and furthermore to artists who’d made interesting interpretations of them. Of course I found my way back to Piet Mondrian, my old GCSE Art bae. Always a joy. I went a step further with the reduction, however, sticking to my favoured black-and-white style to begin with.

pixeltree-2bThese were such fun, actually, and I like them all the more for their imperfections. I did attempt some later on using sharp lines, but they didn’t appeal nearly so much.

Branching back to my glitch stuff a couple of months back, I felt it was now time for Photoshop to take over. I drew a very rough impression of some leaves over the grid, and then pixellated it, resulting in a glitchy mess. Cue play, and we ended up with these intreeguing puppies:

And then I recoloured one to reflect autumn. Tis the season, after all, close bosom-friend of the maturing sun.

pixeltree-2fThe main take-aways from this post are: wasn’t Mondrian a legend, and; isn’t Photoshop also a legend? These are also uber-abstract for Mr. Literal over here, too, so I’m taking this as a victree one way or another.


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!


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.

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!