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Way of the Windmill

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The idea that I’m playing with windmills on a regular basis probably won’t surprise any friend of this blog.

This week it was reported that £4million is being pumped into the Water, Mills and Marshes project. Among other pursuits afforded by the grant, twelve derelict mills are set to be cleaned up, restored with the assistance of mind-bending 3D laser technology and, most importantly, preserved for the future.

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So, in response to such happy news, here’s an assortment of old mill and pump studies, 2D and 3D, given a splash of colour and some Photoshop filters. They might not have found a place in my postings over the last couple of months, but they certainly come together here, in celebration of these beautiful structures.

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I’m not sure quite how far the grant money will stretch, but perhaps, in years to come, there will be a few more sights like this about the Broads. Here’s hoping!

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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.

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!

molen1_0002I’ve always looked with curiosity at the plentiful mills of The Netherlands; they take quaint to another level, to the extent that leaves many of our broadland counterparts feeling positively functional. What’s more, they appear so well preserved; countless sails turn across the skyline, a stark contrast to the Broads, bringing so much to the view and capitalising on the tourist pull. While the aesthetic and sheer familiarity of those nearby will always have my heart, the differences of the European models are to behold, and it’s great to see them standing so defiantly in the shadow of their gigantic, cool successor, the wind turbine.

With the temperatures soaring and thoughts of holiday setting in, it seemed time to move in that direction. Resplendent in sumptuous lemon yellow and beaming of summer against the blue sky, Huizermolen stands today as an exhibit in Arnhem’s Netherlands Open Air Museum, and has done since 1919. Originally working as a grinding mill in the village of Huizen, pieces date as far back as the 1660s – clearly, she’s an old girl. Thankfully, in the good hands of the museum, she undergoes regular maintenance and makeover, so there’s never the risk of looking her age.

molen1_0003I’m not certain, but I think I might have unwittingly solved the issue of trees – a love/hate relationship that has been the narrative of these windmill renders! It came in a fit of frustration after having to turn off the computer, thanks to C4D freezing the machine entirely. It seems so obvious now, though – turning off the Alpha channel renders the ‘leaves’ as nothing but solid polygons. This reduces their overall quality rather a lot, as they’re now just clumps of shapes rather than an intricate cut of leaves, but rarely do I show them so close up for it to much matter; I certainly hope the compromise isn’t obvious! After this, rendering went without a hitch, and so much quicker than with the Alpha channel active. This made me very happy. I’ll have to think of something else to complain about from now on!

molen1_0007And, with our going Dutch for this one – perhaps in subsequent builds, too! – the Photoshop work below seemed obvious. When it’s spring again…

They’re not from Amsterdam, though.

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stolaves0059It’s National Mills Weekend, don’t you know? That this passed me by until now is, frankly, shameful. So, if you’ve got nothing to do with you Sunday, why not go see a wind or watermill? Many will be open and, weather permitting, working!

To honour the festivities, here are some half-finished models and scenes of St Olaves Mill, a cute little smock pump standing beside the River Waveney, and not the sea as envisioned here. Essentially this is the same structure as Boardman’s Mill; indeed it may have been exactly the same in infancy, and later encased in weatherboarding.

Built on the site of a former mill, it came relatively late to the party, erected in 1915 and working through to the sixties. Following a brief spell on its own, the mill was restored in 1980 and given a thick coat of paint. It’s still in good shape, and in a perfectly reachable spot, so is ready and waiting should you want to capitalise on the occasion.

The main reason these never came sooner is because of experimentation with using hair dynamics for ‘real’ grass. While it performed better than expected, I’m afraid I found myself becoming frustrated with the configurations after a while, sometimes going backwards rather than forwards. There’s potential there, though.

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For extra pertinent fun, here’s a look at all the mills I’ve built so far. Honestly, I was sure I’d made more than this! But it does me good seeing some progress.

clayrack3-20bBack to resplendence for a moment, as this model has been sitting around for about a month now, waiting to say hello. Here is Clayrack Drainage Mill, a small but very impressive hollow-post pump which dates back to the early 19th century, with its career ending in 1903. Though it spends retirement beside the River Ant in How Hill, Ludham – just a short walk north of Boardman’s Mill and Turf Fen Mill – it was situated in the village of Ranworth until 1981, when it was moved and fully restored.

With three different mills so close together, it’ll come of no surprise to anybody reading this that I loved How Hill as a child, and indeed still do. It’s a really lovely place; you not only have these on a nice riverside walk, but also the Edwardian How Hill House and the Toad Hole Cottage, a tiny museum set in what was a marshman’s house.

These are the fruits of my playing around with Vue. It’s been something of a mixed bag. While the skies and vegetation look incredible, integration of my Cinema 4D models has proven harder than expected, with a couple of crashes here and there, though I’m quite sure that’s down to my machine not getting any younger. What’s more, the free program stamps even more watermarks over you once you’ve used it for thirty days, as you can see in the above renders. That’s totally to be expected, but they are bothering me, and I have a viable alternative in C4D, so I’m probably going to revert to that. Vue is a great looking programme, though, and comes much recommended.

clayrack3-3The sun sets on Vue, for now at least. It’s been fun!

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