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ZXSpectrumplus2_0042A

At the risk of developing square eyes, another attempt at computing modelling using a computer, and moving into the eighties we have the legendary ZX Spectrum, developed by one Clive Sinclair. Released in the spring of 1982 to enormous demand, the Spectrum championed rubber-keyed home computing, and at an affordable price; the launch model sold for £125, significantly cheaper than virtually any competitor of the day. It quickly became Britain’s best-selling computer and would go on to perform just as well across Europe.

I believe the +2, a 128k revision released in 1986 which I’ve attempted to model here, was our first home computer – though, sadly, I don’t think things got off to a great start. It can’t have had a particularly impressive lifespan, as my only recollection of it was broken in a container gathering dust, while the later +2A model was wowing the family with the likes of Trap Door, OutRun and Blockbusters. This successor seemed to power on valiantly until it was thought obsolete circa 2000 and, criminally, disposed of.

I wasn’t ever allowed near it that much – I barely knew how to use it anyway – but I do have vivid memories of sitting and watching others play these games; games that weren’t on a par with visual quality to our snazzy 16-bit consoles that I could play, but were still engaging, and in some ways felt more fun. The bright colours surely helped, and perhaps being branded unworthy of touching the thing alone did, too… but I’m sure there was more to it than that, for its impact hasn’t lessened in twenty years of my time, nor thirty-five years of technological progress.

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One of the Spectrum’s biggest triumphs was melding the computing and gaming offering, going one step further and encouraging enthusiasts to create their own games, aided by bespoke software and publications. Magazines would print reams of code on a regular basis. I daresay a large number of today’s programmers cut their teeth on the Speccy, and that introductory element, tapping into the creativity of its audience in such a way surely goes some way to explain why its users remember it so fondly.

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With such enduring features on its side, the Spectrum had a long life and saw off most of its contemporaries from the early eighties. It was discontinued in 1992, after multiple refreshes and revisions, though games would continue to trickle out in some regions for a couple of years. This being said, the machine is far from dead; the community thrives, and excitingly you will find homebrew games are still being put together to this day. Proof, if ever it were needed, that there is something magic about the ZX Spectrum.

ZXSpectrumplus2_0049AI do hope you can see some visual improvements in these renders. I’ve finally figured out how to operate the depth of field tools and capabilities! It’s something I was a little daunted by, blindly changing configurations and hoping for the best, but already it’s throwing out some promising aesthetics, giving scenes a far greater physicality. The keys may be way off, but the effect is nice, so that’s okay! It’s a great tool to have at my disposal as I continue ambling through this modelling lark.

One of the games I remember very clearly from back in the day is Batman The Movie, based on Tim Burton’s first outing with the Caped Crusader. I still love its soundtrack. It’s still bloody hard!

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atari2600-1Now we can play Pong at home!

With another veritable brainwave, I decided to have a look at some home computers and consoles for 3D inspiration. There isn’t really a better starting point than the Atari VCS, or, as it was later known, the Atari 2600.

A response to the increasing popularity of arcade games like the aforementioned table tennis simulation, Atari invested $100 million into the development of this home system prior to its eventual release in September 1977. It was introduced at a price of $199.99, which sounds relatively reasonable, until you factor in forty years of inflation. This is equivalent to almost eight hundred dollars today! Such might explain why sales were decidedly modest to begin with. Eventually, though, the console gained momentum, and at its peak in 1982 sold over eight million units, the first machine to do such impressive business and prove demand for home gaming beyond any doubt.

atari2600-2Though there were many highlights, with a string of arcade hits improved for making the jump to cartridge and colour, complicated hardware coupled with the increasing demand and saturation of the video game market in the early eighties saw individual titles suffer, with many being rushed if not scrapped altogether. Perhaps the most notable example of such a rush job is E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, a colossal failure and regarded by many as the worst game ever made. While I’m not sure I’d go quite that far, I have played it, and can confirm it is indeed quite the experience.

All of this being said, the 2600 was incredibly resilient. It comfortably outlived many of its technically superior contemporaries – games were still being made in the early nineties, well into the 16-bit era, and of course nostalgia prevails to this day. A fitting tenure and legacy for the console that, however rough around the edges, surely started it all. Pretty fun to model, too.

atari2600-3Fancy a game? Here’s some footage of E.T. for you. You’re welcome.

WWF-RING0021In one of those ‘why didn’t I try this years ago?’ moments, I thought I’d have a go at modelling a WWF wrestling ring, replete with the classic blue bar steel cage of the eighties and nineties.

Back in those days, this was as risky as the product got; the scores of ring technicians scuttling around the ring slowly setting up the structure meant something big was coming up. The denouement. Its relative low frequency coupled with the old routine of longer, slow-burn storylines made the confines of the cage a perfectly powerful climax. Even as the show grew edgier, its legacy maintained a presence.

WWF-RING0018Naturally, the ring itself came first. The WWF’s ‘squared circle’ was and still is larger than your average ring, at 20ft x 20ft. Having the dimensions available online made this a lot less daunting.

Texturing here, specifically the placement of logos, took longer than it probably should have at this stage, but once I’d figured it out, it was fun putting multiple candidates onto the ring apron, and the overhanging flag. Some worked better than others…

Rage in the Cage was not a title of a legitimate WWF event – at least, not to my knowledge – but a wrestling game for the ill-fated MegaCD. Indeed, it might have been the only wrestling game on the platform. (It wasn’t very good!)

I did have a go at some lighting rigs, mostly for the Cloth flag, but also to try and replicate that classic effect of the long streaks from the dizzy heights which seem to add so much to the spectacle (along with the relentless camera flashes, which are much missed whenever I catch newer clips). I did think better of trying to build and render an entire stadium. Perhaps this particular match up just hasn’t drawn as hoped? Or maybe it’s an Empty Arena Cage match?

WWF-RING0019It looks a little toylike and plastic in places, no doubt because of my texturing. I suppose such an aesthetic is not necessarily a bad thing; nine-year old me would have loved a blue cage for my wrestling ring play-set!

WWF-RING0020Several options from the blue bars era that spring to mind, but I’m choosing this 1988 clash pitting André the Giant against Hulk Hogan; not only because it was the culmination of their legendary feud of eighteen months, but it also features one of my favourite commentators’ lines, from the ever-reliable Lord Alfred Hayes as The Giant starts his climb to victory:

“Gosh, look at André!! He’s like some huge prehistoric creature up there!”

Classic.

stream-1Ah, the stream.

It’s one of those natural spots where you could happily wile away hours at a time, watching the water trickle along. As transpired with the piece above, the setting is just as meditative to draw, which was just as well, really. I loosely referenced a shot of the rocky stream beneath Ashness Bridge of the Lake District, taken by my friend Mark. Not to peddle an ulterior motive, of course, but he’s a fantastic photographer – do take a look at his gallery!

bamill-3Obviously, another inspirational landmark is the windmill. Have I ever said that before? It’s enough of a link to justify bundling this in here as an extra! It’s just a little experimentation, really; I’d been tinkering with some environmental lighting and attempting to create a foggy view – the impressive Berney Arms Mill rising above the morning mist with her brand new sails.

BAmill0012Quite handily, it meant that I didn’t actually have to render that troublesome terrain! This could breathe a bit of life into the landscapes I’ve been modelling, so it appears both of these streams are flowing.

tctk0017As a child, I was always fascinated with clocks. Back then, of course, the satisfying ticks signalled all the good stuff – home time, TV shows – like Bernard’s Watch  and dinner. Later on, of course, those hands brought about things like the dreaded school bus and homework, but still, the appreciation and wonder of such a device has remained. I could tell the time at quite a young age, and am often reminded of the time in the supermarket when an old man, spotting me enjoying my new watch, approached my buggy and asked for the time. When I told him it was thirty-seven minutes past ten, he was, well, rather shocked!

Before long, I had acquired quite an array of watches and clocks from car boot sales and junk shops, but occasionally brand new; most notably for me, a Thomas the Tank Engine musical watch and some snazzy back-to-front clock cuff-links. I’m not sure what became of my collection. I had a habit of taking them apart to look at the mechanisms, so perhaps they were broken. Perhaps my parents just got rid when it seemed I was no longer interested.

So, in another bid to turn the clock back, here are some random and speedy attempts at clock modelling – one more traditional and the other rather more modern. Once the clock face had been put together, it was a relatively easy job making the modifications; this being said, I’m not sure the refraction levels of the glass are all that:

I originally went without the Batman-esque decorative pillars on the case, and tinkered with the finials somewhat:

These are more than a little basic, aren’t they – I’m hoping that this will allow for a more satisfying progression; at least, that’s my excuse for posting these quick models! It would be fun to, one day, try and model a clock from front to back, coding it to actually work. There are certainly lots of interesting and intricate timepiece designs out there, so inspiration abounds even out of the realm of memory. I do have some things in mind. Time will tell!

thurne-motorI’ve put my windmill models into action before, using keyframes to bookend the motion of the sails. This time around, however, I’m playing with some of the software’s simulation tools and sticking the sails onto a Motor object. As you’d expect, this works rather like a continuous supply of energy, allowing objects to move or spin, depending on your configuration. It seems silly that I’ve not thought to use this before now, but then, I never have been one for the simple route!

With that constant power, the controls simply allow you to moderate and determine how much it provides, making a smooth start and fluctuating revolution speeds a breeze to animate. Not a ground-breaker, perhaps, but satisfying, and a very useful thing to have discovered.

Our subject for this experiment is Thurne, which stands on the outskirts of the village of the same name and beside the river of the same name. It was built in 1820 and worked for over a century, shutting down for the last time in 1936. By 1950, and like many of its peers at the time, the mill was lying derelict and under threat of demolition, but fortunately rescue came at the hands of Bob Morse, a windmill fanatic, and soon the Windmill Trust took it on. Since then, it has been kept in good condition and, with its splendid white coat and pretty vicinity, enjoys a reputation as one of the most popular on the Broads – I believe recently it has even been restored to full working order, an accolade that can’t be boasted by many broadland mills and one which makes it even more worth a visit.

A short time ago, I posted a clip of the motor power on my Instagram gallery.

 

Last night I set out with the intention of building yet another windmill, but that ended up on ice, for something lazier a little simpler took my fancy. Nothing brand new, but I thought I’d have a crack at a follow-up of the windmill figurines I made last year, drafting in the models I’d made since. Perhaps I missed the opportunity to experiment with redressing them in some fashion, but I rather like them as they are. They look like they belong with one another.

More shelf space required for this next batch – we’ll have to throw out another load of books!

windmill-ornament-clyrck1windmill-ornament-stolaves1windmill-ornament-horning1windmill-ornament-cottage1For bonus fun, I included the adjacent cottage I made last autumn. I’m now wondering if I could take the Chrismassy version and give the concept a bit of snow, perhaps of a globular nature? Now that could be interesting…

It was nice to revisit this format as I had planned. It may take thirteen months, but I am a man of my word!