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Way of the Windmill

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Ho Ho Ho.

Having come to a few dead-ends, I was starting to panic about the annual Christmas card. Friends began sending their own, heightening the pressure. It was then when I stumbled upon a photograph of a windmill in America, all glammed up with fairy lights to celebrate the holiday. The deal was done, and one lucky model of mine got its own set. What a sight this would be for real – well, for me, anyway! I’m not convinced the wildlife would be too happy – our chickens refused to sleep when my parents strung some blinking blue lights along the garden fence – but it would look quite magical on the skyline. Two or three would be even more so, of course.

Thankfully, with that, the greeting cards have all been sent, and the Christmas rush is through. Or so I think. I’m going to collapse into a comfy chair, listen to the radio (hey, the Carpenters are on!!!) and do as little as possible – at least until I remember the other dozen or so things that currently escape me. That’s the Christmas spirit.

Wherever you are, and whatever you’re celebrating, I wish you a very cosy and happy holiday.

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horsey4Is it 2016 again? No, thank goodness. But it is National Mills Weekend, and I feel like, in my time here, I’ve bestowed a reputation on myself such that it’d be remiss to not recognise/freely advertise the event in some way. So, here we go again. For old times’ sake.

This is Horsey Windpump, a mill participating in the weekend’s festivities. It was one of the last tower mills to be constructed on the Broads, replacing an older structure in 1912. Relatively young though it is, it’s had a bit of a tumultuous time of it – struck by lightning in 1943, the stocks were split in two and that was pretty much the end of its career. Picked up by the National Trust, it was cleaned up and restored in the early sixties, but the October 1987 hurricane dealt it more damage, blowing off the fantail and cap. Quite the sob story.

Currently, the mill is in the final stages of being returned to working order. Just a couple of months ago, a brand new cap and sails were fitted, and that’s what I’ve tried to model here. I don’t know if it’s going to be turning this weekend but as I understand it’s due to be up and running soon. This is nice – there really aren’t enough working mills on the Broads.

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Note the ‘strategic’ camera angles. Long-standing readers of this blog will recall with heady nostalgia my constant complaining and frantic battles with ancient hardware on these renders, especially as vegetation came into play. Rather than put myself through the torment again, I thought I’d try something else: photato manipulation. Having visited countless times over the years, I have plenty of my own terrible photatos of this mill, and wondered if I could convincingly sew my model into them.

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It was a fiddly job and didn’t turn out especially well, possibly because the DPI of my renders was low, making scaling and cutting a bit of a pixelated mess. I did attempt to render the mill on a green background to make the ‘keying’ easier, but with physical sky lighting it only discoloured the thing. Naturally, the results were slightly better when taking colour (and proximity) out of the equation:

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But there we are, anyway. Why not mill around if you’re free at the weekend? As for Horsey, it looks like it’ll be open from 10 to 16:30 on both days. There are seals on the beach (a short walk from the mill) and if I’m feeling brave I might even make the trip myself. What more incentive could you need?

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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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