Let us take a trip back to 2017, the days when I used to post… well, not actually that regularly… with a couple of random windmill drawings from those days that weren’t quite good enough to meet my exacting standards. Apparently they are now, five-and-a-half years later. Actually, they might have ended up on my short-lived Instagram, so if you were one of the dozen or so who followed me there, you may recognise them. But you probably weren’t and don’t.
I’ve photoshopped them beyond all recognition today; lots of big, textured brushes and coloured overlays to try and make them in some way worthy, and produce something similar to my pylon studies from earlier this year. In the landscape piece, layering a negative replica slightly offset appeared to create something reminiscent of VHS artifact, so that was a rather interesting development, even if I wasn’t necessarily going for anything like it.
Indeed, the whole exercise consisted of throwing stuff around and seeing what sticks to these poor old works, but at least we got some nice colours in the end.
Just a selection of oldies and (some not so) goodies from the pixel art archive here. It’s a bit of a weird selection of treats, kind of like raiding your grandparents’ pantry or sweet jar. Speaking from experience of that situation, I do have some advice: in the midst of your temptation, always ensure that those treats aren’t fifteen years out of date.
Some of these studies might be a bit past their best, as they’re a mixture dating back to 2019. Others were made just now, so that I wasn’t just posting a big fried egg for you. Hopefully it’s not too hard to tell which are which.
Oh, for the days of heading into Woolworths (RIP) and spending ages agonising over the pick ‘n’ mix selection!
Here we have the legendary Bam Bam Bigelow in the style of Capcom’s equally legendary Street Fighter II. What with this and WrestleFest, there certainly was a lot of stunning pixel art floating around in the arcades in 1991.
Basically, I drew Bigelow directly alongside the Zangief model, trying to copy one of his poses and deviating from there. This mostly entailed bulking him up; he was a big chap, but also incredibly agile with it. That’s what made him so impressive to watch.
Of course, the magic of pallette swapping allows me to come up with alternate colour schemes for multiplayer mayhem, should several players wish to be Mr. Bigelow – and who could blame them? He bore the flames for much of his career, so it was actually quite easy to mimic some of his other outfits.
I do think the facial likeness could be better, but it got to the point where I felt like I was going backwards with that. Who knew it would be harder to get a face right in pixel art? That said, I’m happy to have finally got this done as it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a week or two, only I kept hitting a wall with it.
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!
Letters play once again. This time, a trip back to the world of brutalism and its – as the name would imply – brash, hard-faced aesthetic. I am a fan.
Ironically, this dalliance began as something similarly geometric but rather more elegant, slicing up octagons and trying to create letters with very slender and narrow lines. At this moment I found myself wanting something bolder, not a headache, so I decided to leave it for further exploration at some other time, perhaps. Perhaps not.
The most fun had here was with the texturing, a hangover from the Twenty-Six Spins challenge of yesteryear, of which brutalism was a highlight. While the simple forms have an appeal of their own, it’s those grimy, utilitarian facades that really play to the theme.
And, of course, the nature of these letters leaves them open to the iterative process. The bars, stems and other assorted body parts can be thickened or narrowed to create diversity without losing the overall vibe. There seems to be a trend these days of using different sizes and weights together in typography so, there we go, I’m in with the crowd.
Later, I spotted that flipping the “R” made rather a nice “Y”. I like it when possibilities bring themselves to the fore.
Indeed, as often happens, this ended up pretty much driving itself. I get great reassurance from that, more and more as time goes on. It’s always fun.
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.
Using a rather different pallette to recent adventures, here we have twin electricity pylons which stand near to the village of Haddiscoe. Due to their position next to a waterway (called the New Cut) they are rather tall – exactly how tall I’m not sure; I haven’t climbed them, and won’t be doing so any time soon. Of course, on the Norfolk skyline such a construction is visible for many miles around, so these have never really been far from my eye, but I kind of like pylons and their weird, ominous presence, so this isn’t an issue for me.
That personality was the focus of these developments. The sketch came from wandering around the area in Google Street View, just out of curiosity really, after a local news report of some weather damage to the railway embankment there. There’s just something about the way these pylons have stood so tall in the remoteness for so long, effortlessly looming over the space.
Though the sketch from Street View goes some way to depicting the atmosphere, I feel these more graphic pieces better capture their “power”.
Following on from the snowy conifers, we have a rather different take on the snappy winter weather, and a subject making its welcome return. Rejoice, the first windmill in over a year! And even that one was just an animation of a model made in 2017. The last one before that was a drawing back in March 2020.
Well, I must confess this isn’t entirely new, either. In fact, it’s a repurposing of several elements. It’s my Post Mill model from way back in 2016 (which was very much inspired by Stanton Mill in Suffolk) decked out with new sails and a coat of paint. I then added some grids, randomly distributing squares and rectangles which use textures I created years ago but still really enjoy playing with. While I have applied them to the mill model, using the favoured frontal projection, I really like creating bumpy, displaced 3D textures and sending them to a two-dimensional plane. That might sound counter-productive or plain silly, but the results are quite exciting to me. I’m a sucker for that harsh, icy aesthetic, and this method creates it in such a way that I probably couldn’t draw or paint, even if I tried. It’s possible that the end result is a little heavy-handed with the squares, but I do enjoy the frosty vibe. It’s not often I “frame” work, either, but I felt like it added a little something in this instance.
How nice to spin a few old bits and bobs into something new.
Here’s a curious little programme about windmills from more than half a century ago: