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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.

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?

Back to MagicaVoxel once more, and, this time, I set out to create a wooden shack or log cabin sort of dwelling. I think we can all agree that I nailed that.

But who’s to turn down a church build if your mind is just going that way? Divine intervention.

I wasn’t using any particular example as reference here, instead just riffing off my ingrained memories of the countless churches dotted around here (though avoiding the characteristic round tower yet again). I could see this overlooking a village green or hiding behind some trees down a quiet country lane.

It’s a bit on the lanky side, but never mind about that! I like how the tower came out – initially I wasn’t going to attempt the flint stonework and just leave the facade as solid colours, but I think the extrusion and the resulting texture has really lifted the model so I’m glad to have persevered (and boy did it take some time!). It’s nice to see that, even going way beyond the single block, MagicaVoxel holds up and still performs well, even on my ancient setup.

I would have liked to have added more greenery; it does look a little bare on that front but my voxel trees thus far have been, well, dreadful. Definitely something that warrants a focus all of its own.

But this is certainly a step up from my first church attempt, just before Christmas, and I’m happy to be tackling larger scenes with this fun program. I’m sure the log cabin will turn up some other time; when I want to build another church, most likely.

Remember The Sims? I’m talking about the original 2000 release with its isometric view, not the current game, whatever number in the series they are up to, because I haven’t played it and, by default, that means it isn’t as good. Do you remember when you’d blow all of your Simoleons constructing an obnoxiously large house for your Sims, furnish it and feel happy… then zoom out and realise it was a glorified stack of crates? I feel like that’s what happened here. I wasn’t going for something quite so brutal, but I think chickening out on the roof is the main reason for that, here. Still, the colours are appealing should you want your holiday home pained with strawberry ice cream. Choice words there for someone drinking strawberry milkshake.

This was a MagicaVoxel triumph for me, though, on a previously unmatched scale. Ever since I started exploring this software, a few years ago now, I’ve been looking at amazing creations online which appeared far larger than the 126x126x126 object limit. This perplexed me. Well, it turns out there’s a world editor where you can link objects together and position them pretty much however you desire, and apparently you can use as many as your computer can withstand. It’s a block editor that doesn’t make you want to scream and tear your hair out (although admittedly I was rather left to my own devices, as the only meaningful tutorial I could find on it was speaking French). But I got there in the end. This goes some way to explain the boxy nature of the piece, as it’s really made up of the same blocks: block with door and window, block with just window, balcony, etc.

After some time raising my eyebrow in befuddlement, I’ve unlocked something in MagicaVoxel with this exercise. I wonder how many others used it and gave up before they even knew of the world editor, as it’s quite well hidden. But it’s easy once you know how. I do still find myself wrestling with the camera quite a lot, but maybe at this stage it’s just me; it’s an intriguing twist on pixel art exploration and does what it does very well. Have a go if you like.

Round and round we go, for it’s something of a circular journey here in blog land. Is it? I’m not sure. But, here we have a Ferris wheel, which certainly does go round and round. I tried one way, way back in January 2016 which looked to be a whopper of a thing, but this time I’ve opted for a smaller, more rudimentary model, the likes of which you might have seen at the town fair years ago, or at a vintage fair today. At least there’s a bit more to the scene than five years ago, and, yes, I have worked out how make the chairs rotate in sync with the wheel without them going upside-down. Progress.

I went with the name Wonder Wheel, which I saw given to a real-life version somewhere but can’t place. Maybe it was a common name. It certainly seems fitting to me; few rides are as wondrous or iconic as the big wheel.

Vintage very much the word of the day here, hence these black-and-white renders, perhaps taken in those days of yore when the sun went gone down and the big bulbs started to light up the rotating wheel. It’s quite a magical sight and one which encapsulates so much of that atmosphere about the fairground which I love. Wonder wheel, indeed.