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Animation

I got the bug again after my last Countdown effort. It seemed like the obvious choice to pick my most dated model and give it a refresh. My model of this short-lived (1989-1991) set hasn’t really been touched since my blog post on it which, scarily enough, was more than six years ago. Pre-Brexit, even!

Since that 2016 attempt, I’ve learnt that the letters and numbers boards were the wrong way around, so that’s been fixed, and the boards in general are much improved, having been flown in from my more recent models. I believe they used pretty much the same boards until 1999, so that’s handy, really.

Elswhere, a newer clock is dropped in; weird arch over said clock redone; desks reworked; lighting completely redone.

It does look a lot better, despite the unusually dark lighting; perhaps, by this point, they had decided that darkness was the best thing for this set, or maybe it was an attempt to create mood for the Champion of Champions mini-series. We’ll never know.

Remember when I tried to rework the titles of this era? They’ve been updated now – well, in February anyway – hopefully free of (glaring) errors like the double NOD.

Now, I’m off to Do the Bartman listen to some Metallica. Definitely Metallica.

Recently, I gave my model of the Countdown clock a revisit to meddle with its animation. With that, I thought it rude not to give the whole set an overhaul.

It wasn’t really much in the way of reshaping or remodelling elements; the vast majority of it was achieved by modifying textures – some of which hung around for years, much longer than they should have – and lighting. I referred, quite slavishly, to screenshots from a recent episode to create a more authentic setup.

It does rather reinforce just how much a model (or set, for that matter) depends on lighting. The build is mostly the same, yet it’s night and day. I suppose braving the higher resolutions – and resigning myself to the longer render times – helps in the long run. Thank god for Muckluck and his Broken Sword playthroughs, is all I can say.

And here’s the impetus for the whole thing, a render of everyone’s favourite clock running:

Apparently, the new clock (in place since 2013) runs at 29.5 seconds, not 30, so I reworked it accordingly to see if it made a visible difference. I’ll let you decide…

If you were to take a look back at my first attempt from January last year, I hope you’d agree that there’s a significant improvement. I’m pleased with this particular upgrade. Onward, and upward.

Countdown, and indeed Channel 4 itself, will celebrate its fortieth birthday on 2nd November. Not long now – the countdown has started!

Back into the realm of PowerPoint game shows we go, with a mock-up of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? in its classic, Tarrant-led incarnation. This is something I’ve attempted several times over several years, but this is definitely the best yet. Some extra sparkle is provided by renders of my now rather old 3D model of the 2001 set. I would ideally have gone for the original 1998 set, but my model of that is inferior and, frankly, the motivation to redo it isn’t there.

Hopefully it’s not too hard to see how it works from the video, but in any case: the options appear by clicking anywhere. The quizmaster then clicks on the letter at the bottom of the screen corresponding to the contestant’s final answer. Clicking on said letter a second time reveals the correct answer. Lifelines function for every question; it’s just a case of remembering to input the information beforehand. I have yet to find a way of carrying over the usage of lifelines; it might not even be possible, so as it is the contestant has all three available for every question.

Question setups for each correct answer are ready-made, and can be copied and pasted in any order to create a full stack.

It’s quite a convoluted animation setup, as anyone who’s worked with PowerPoint beyond spinning and bouncing text can probably imagine, but it works rather well and isn’t overly hard to edit. It’s implementing the sound effects which is likely to be the phone a friend moment.

It’s that Countdown sequence remake I mentioned back in January, when I reworked the 1989 titles. You have doubtless been on the edge of your seats since then, and for that I can only apologise.

And yes, there are some errors in there, but hopefully none so shamefully glaring as previously. It’s an extended cut this time around too, as, for some reason, the original Countdown theme tune was edited down to twenty seconds, despite predecessor Calendar Countdown using a perfectly serviceable thirty second version. I’m using that uncut theme here.

These snazzy CGI titles were introduced in 1987 for the 500th episode special (for the record, we’re fast approaching 8,000 episodes and forty years on air) and lasted just over two years. I’m wondering if they were perhaps saw the teatime game show on the other side – Blockbusters, of course – and decided they too would like a futuristic 7-segment style logotype? While we’re at it, how on earth did Bob manage to get away without a single appearance in Dictionary Corner? He’d probably have been a brilliant host aswell. Perhaps he was just too cool for Countdown.

Though obviously a big visual update back in the day, I was somewhat indifferent to the titles prior to working on this. I can imagine the animation process in the eighties was rather more challenging and laborious than today, and still I found it a pain to get those letters and numbers to fly around into the box. That’s partly why I hit the wall months ago – I just didn’t have a clue how to do it properly! Eventually, after resolving to get it out of the way by hook or by crook, I found a way using a spline and offsetting each letter. But it still doesn’t look quite as elegant as the original, so hats off to YTV and whoever animated this sequence.

Busting creative blocks that is, or at least attempting to, for here we have another game show title sort-of-recreation-but-not-good-enough-to-be-exact-so-let’s-call-it-a-redux. And that’s Blockbusters. I’ve gone with the original, lesser-remembered sequence, used from 1983 until around 1986, when the more famous metropolis with flying hexagons came in.

Aside from adding some extra pink glow and turning the “stream of knowledge” into some trippy tunnel – and with different nuggets of said knowledge – not a huge amount has changed. This one was good fun – frustrating in places, but it seems like every 3D project goes that way to a degree. I’ve learnt some nifty new shortcuts on this and the Countdown attempt, so they’re not completely pointless (now there’s a game show you’ll never have to put up with here!)

As far as I can tell, there aren’t any screw-ups in this one, either, so that’s something to hand jive about. I did have to pull the original version from YouTube because of some horrible flicker on the aforementioned glow, but that seems to have been fixed.

For reference, comparison or just sheer nostalgia, here’s the first ever episode of (UK) Blockbusters, from almost forty years ago.

Happy New Year to you. You crazy fool, sticking around for all this time.

So. A new year. A bit battered, a bit tired, but a fresh start apparently. So let’s go back to the late eighties while also throwing back to last year. In a semi-response to a post from a few months back, here we have a complete Countdown title redux.

The real thing here is, can you spot the cock-up in my recreation?

It’s relatively minor, such that it took me a few watches to notice so, if you do catch it, a nod to you for being awake and bothered. There are lots of TV and game show enthusiasts among my YouTube subscribers, many of whom beyond eagle-eyed. I’m frankly surprised that none of them pointed it out straight away.

Anyway, this is based on the titles introduced in summer of 1989. I have upscaled to widescreen and applied a few tweaks here and there, chiefly a more faithful representation of the clock (without losing the aesthetic) and using the familiar white and blue colour scheme for the words, not the red and white which proved problematic to say the least. It’s a rather simple sequence; creation was more time-consuming than difficult. It does look primitive now, but I still think it’s a neat title concept, probably the strongest the show has had.

I’m warning you now that, partly due to the kind reaction to this on YouTube, a similar treatment of the preceding Countdown sequence is underway, so watch out for that. If it’s good, it might end up here. If there’s an error, it might too end up here!

Spotted it yet?

Wheel of Fortune!

Yes, it’s a bit of a throwback for me, but then what isn’t at this point of dragging Jaywalks along? People who have been here for a while may recall an old wheel model being the star of more than one art series, most prominently so in Twenty-Six Spins, where it determined the prompts for each day. That was three and half years ago now. Let that sink in. Three and a half years. And still I haven’t got around to doing it again.

This project was nothing more than me taking the old girl for another spin and giving her a fresh coat of paint, in line with the first series of Wheel of Fortune on ITV, back in 1988. The decadence of the tubes surrounding the wheel, flashing in sync with each spin felt like a fun aesthetic to try and recreate. Felt like. Inspiration also came from YouTube recommending me videos of people showing off their home-made wheels – actual, physical wheels which are much more impressive than this. See here.

Incidentally, Wheel at the time offered some of the largest major prizes on television (£4,000 or a cool eighties car) and it would hold its own in that regard for ten years or so; only when Who Wants To Be A Millionaire came along did Wheel start to look somewhat naff and, sure enough, by 2000 it was hidden away in daytime. By 2002 it was all over, bar the odd filler repeat. Though not exactly a huge favourite of mine – I enjoyed playing the Nintendo game with my sister more than the actual show – I remain surprised that it hasn’t been brought back at some point in the last twenty years. What’s stopping them? Everything else has come back.

However, if we’re seriously talking American game shows that deserve another shot here… Jeopardy please please please, but do it properly for heaven’s sake.

If you were wondering what the answer is, here you go and you’re welcome.

A few weeks ago, I was approached on YouTube by Pacdude Games, who suggested collaborating to update his Countdown presentation package, for streams and such. This sounded exciting and I’ve always liked his work, so I said yes.

Thankfully, the majority of visual work had already been done, as I tackled the current Countdown set way back in January. This project was mostly tidying the set up, and placing cameras for rendering the clock sequence in a fashion that is somewhat faithful to the programme – making sure there is space in the lower third for the different puzzles which, helpfully, are not uniform. Also added was a retexturing for the crucial conundrum, which can now adopt mood lighting resembling that seen on the show.

This was good fun, and Cory’s coding has turned these elements into something I could only dream of creating. It’s always satisfying to see graphics actually being used.

Here’s the first Countdown Throwdown stream. It’s a good laugh! Hopefully there will be more. You can also find Pacdude Games here.

I was asked to take one of my Countdown set models and animate the classic opening camera shot, where it would pan from the audience around to the set. Always one to give the people what they want, I went ahead and did it, with the 1994 model. And, always one to go overboard, I included an old attempt at reimagining the show’s opening titles from the same era. The fact that they aren’t finished, I fear, tells you all you need know. Title sequences are harder than they look! But I thought I’d just include the last few seconds to feed into this new render.

Countdown used to get new titles every few years, but the current set have been around for almost ten years, likely for budget reasons. I would say they’re due a refresh, so if anyone out there is adept with animation and fancies a project, why not have a go?

Who thinks academia is a blood condition?

If ignorance is bliss, who’s in heaven?

Who should blog off?

It’s time to vote off… the weakest link!

The Weakest Link. It’s that show from 2000, where the host was really mean to the contestants, and even encouraged them to be mean to their so-called teammates!

Well, apparently that wasn’t even meant to be the case; the original intention was for the host to play it straight. However, Anne Robinson found herself getting so frustrated with the players’ poor performance and questionable voting that she just started “telling it like it is”, and that became the format’s unique selling point, imitated by others all over the world.

The nostalgia for Weakest Link, actually, doesn’t really come from the programme, which I rarely saw as everybody else wanted to watch Neighbours instead. As it was, the most I normally saw of it was the last few minutes before The Simpsons. No, the memories here are in the merchandise; fond memories of dark Christmas afternoons with the board game, which was good enough to come not only with several cards full of those pre-voting barbs, but also an Anne Robinson mask for the host to wear. The PlayStation game was a good laugh too, offering a good representation of the game with the added bonus of voice actors, who really hammed up their portrayal of the show’s contestants.

Initial success petered out naturally over time, but the show trucked along on BBC Two for several years, with the odd celebrity special at the weekend on BBC One. Link would see a belated full-time promotion to One in 2008 after they lost Neighbours to Channel 5. It would remain there for a few years before returning to its original channel, making way for the burgeoning Pointless, which has held the slot seemingly ever since. It was around this time that Anne decided she’d had enough of insulting strangers, and the show met a fairly quiet end in April 2012.

There were rumours of a comeback in 2017, in a bid to bolster lacklustre Saturday night schedules on BBC One. Alas, besides a one-off for Children in Need that year, this did not come true; if it was on the table then evidently Robinson didn’t want to do it, which is fair enough. She’s taking the helm of Countdown shortly, a choice I absolutely was not expecting. I would say the chances of her returning to Link any time soon are slim, but that’s not to say it couldn’t return with a new host – it might even help break in the inevitable shift in tone (there were instances where Robinson got a bit full of herself and went way too far). Robert Rinder’s Weakest Link, anyone?

I thought this would be fun in a “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire set, play with lights” kind of way. It turned out that the animations and lighting sequences in this show are much more complex than just dropping them like Millionaire. I had some peculiar hiccups too, with cloned lights deciding to fade out by themselves, but I managed to work around that, sort of, by taking them out of the cloner and making them follow moving targets. As usual, I suspect there was a much easier solution staring me in the face. So, really it wasn’t a huge amount of fun, but it’s productivity in what has been a most unproductive year thus far, so you can’t vote me off for that.

BANK!” – five seconds out of time, as usual.

I think the weakest link for me is this block editor… ugh!