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Fairground Attraction

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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.

ENT1C0004We’re being taken for a spin at the fairground, with another new ride rolling in. What enterprise this is, seeing all these scary new attractions rolling in. Did someone say enterprise?

Enterprise is indeed one heck of a spin. The circle of twenty pods begins to turn with gradually increasing speed, such that centrifugal force pins passengers to their chairs, which must really be quite some feeling. On this, the other eye-opener; there are no safety belts or bars, only the cage around the pod. You will stay in your seat. Hmm…!

ENT1C0006Once whirling at full pelt, the ominous looking arm beneath the wheel kicks into life, raising to a peak of eighty-seven degrees and, with that constant high speed, making the ride appear more stomach-turning than most others I can think of. I’m told it’s much more fun and not nearly so terrible as a passenger; I’m quite happy to take their word for it.

As you probably guessed, the name comes from Star Trek. For a contraption so ahead of its time – Enterprise first landed in theme parks in 1972 – perhaps such a connection wasn’t without merit. It still puts on quite the show.

ENT1C0001ENT1C0002Primary colours probably isn’t the pallette most synonymous with space nor Trekkies, but never mind – who wants to conform?

This process was something of a mish-mash of a couple of my previous rides, really. The wheel was reminiscent of the Rock-O-Plane – virtually identical, only slightly larger and with vastly more spokes to it; the pods themselves echoed the Dodgems, and the lessons learnt there in constructing the bumper car helped no end here – my Enterprise pod was rustled up in nowhere near the amount of time that took. The axis of the pod is set in correspondence with the circumference of the wheel, meaning the rotation can give the desired effect.

It was nice to do an exercise that built on some of the techniques learnt previously – good to flex those muscles again, I’m sure – use it or lose it, and all that!

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terminator1We are spoilt – another new ride has turned up at the fairground! It looks dangerous, and indeed, it’s called Terminator. The attraction has been around since the early nineties. In appearance, it’s not unlike the Top Spin, which arrived several months ago. However, it only has to kick into operation for its distinction to become clear.

terminator2While perfectly capable of performing the same routine as a Top Spin, the Terminator has one key difference – the arms do not have to rotate in sync with each other. They can be programmed to move independently, twisting and turning the gondola in one heck of a dance.

This was an interesting mechanic to try and translate into Cinema 4D. I wanted to try and get the gondola to react smartly to two spinning arms. With the similarities mentioned, common sense suggested a redress of my Top Spin model – even so, it took an awfully long time to update and change to what you see here!

terminator8To begin with, I looked at Connectors, with the belief that they would, well, connect the gondola to the bottom of the arms. Initially there was great promise, with some even allowing the gondola to spin during vanilla revolutions, but frustration eventually won over perseverance, especially when things like this kept happening:

terminator7That’s probably the closest I came, too. There are so many settings for the Connectors relating to physics and configurations about which I’ve no idea whatsoever, so it was just a case of randomly putting numbers in and seeing what happens. I think that image in itself suggests that, with some brainpower applied, it could probably be done that way. Sadly, it eluded me.

I then thought about Targets, which ensure that one object permanently looks at another. It sounded like a behaviour that could be turned to my advantage here; I grouped the tilting lower left arm and the gondola, while putting a target at the bottom of the straight arm. Astonishingly, this seemed to work relatively well! It’s far from perfect; it strays occasionally, again, probably due to my lack of knowledge, but it’s come out significantly better than all of the Connector experiments, and has at least come closer to solving the problem posed by the ride, and project.

I’ve only animated the arms in this render snippet – the gondola is bound by its left arm ‘parent’ and the right-hand target. Fun!

If you’d like to see the Terminator in real-life action, here we are. One resided at Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach for several years, but with a far less elaborate diorama. It looked a far more intense ride, though!

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!

Teacups0034Finally that swirling staple of any decent theme park, the tea cups, has founds its way into my 3D design. What could possibly be more exciting than slowly revolving while sitting in a big cup of tea? Tea-riffic!

The teacups are a whimsical variant of a ’tilt-a-whirl’, which has been gracing amusement parks for ninety years. They have the power to go really quite fast, so despite appearances and reputations, it’s not a machine to be underestimated – or should that be, the temperament of the operator pushing the buttons is not to be underestimated. Do size them up beforehand. A neat new spin, if you will, came in the later addition of a central steering wheel, much like the Rock-O-Plane, so you are able to send your little tea cup into a frenzy should you so desire.

This was, in truth, an exercise I’d put off for some time as I was unsure how on earth I was going to make a believable or respectable teacup. However, I was in the mood for learning, so I found myself a tutorial which happily discussed the problem; to be honest, I only really needed to watch the first few minutes and then it was just a question of refining. One flat description of a cup was created using splines and then the Lathe tool did the rest, essentially doing all the hard work for me:

I had used this Lathe tool before, a long time ago, but for some reason it never jumped out as an ally when pondering previously. I then cut out a section for the doorway and added the interior. Simple enough – if anything, the paint job was more arduous; I ultimately settled on suitably twee coloured stripes:

I went heavy on the reflections but toned these down when placing them on the ride stage. Hmm, they looked a little too tea cup for my liking! At this point I also rushed a teapot centrepiece using the same technique as the cups. It looks a bit half-hearted and could do with company, but it’s better than nothing.

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And just because I didn’t think it was gaudy enough, I overindulged rather on nighttime lighting. I’m sure only the coolest kids would go on that. This is often the part that is the most fun – theme parks, moreover the rides themselves, are to me all about the bright lights and that atmosphere.

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So, there we have it – any storms in my teacup were sufficiently weathered. Cinema 4D made it pleasingly simple, and this accomplishment should be reassuring when confronting future 3D fears. That carousel will happen. It might be 2020 by the time it’s finished, but it will come!

teacup-test0009As an aside, I thought it worthwhile rendering as an actual cup of tea aswell. I was going to say it’s time for a cuppa, but as it’s 3:30 in the morning here, I’ll probably abandon that plan and consider my morning (by which I mean early afternoon) slurp my reward. I’ve been a bit lax in my blogging duties lately, but I hope to catch up with you over the next day or two. Right now though, I need bed. Keep on rockin’.

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Back to the fairground! We’ve not paid a visit for some time, so there’s bound to be a new ride for us all to refuse to go on. Actually, this one might not be too bad; here we have the wheel ride widely referred to as the Rock-O-Plane, although our local counterpart was known by the far less fun American Eggs. It has been a mainstay of fairgrounds since the late 1940s. Similar to a Ferris wheel but with more gusto, the caged seats will rock with the momentum of the main frame’s spin. Neatly, most models are said to come with a wheel and brake system inside the cages, so the passengers can ‘steer’ and really dictate just how wild their ride is.

There’s not really much to say about this in terms of the exercise; the most fun part – besides the paint and light job which is always the best part – was probably using a random effector to get the cages to be seen as behaving correctly for stills – it’s not actually animated at present but I’m sure it could be relatively simply. A basic structure, it was primarily a refresher exercise as it’s really been a while since I did any 3D – I enjoy it but seem to have to be very much in the right mood. I seemed to be in that mood this evening – hopefully more to come soon! Maybe you can think of a fun fairground ride that might be worth a punt?

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