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I may not have been posting much since completing the Twenty-Six Spins challenge – indeed, by that, I mean I haven’t posted at all. But I have been keeping busy, on a daily basis no less, with several pieces, and hopefully these will be ready to show soon. I’ve certainly felt more awake creatively since the challenge, such that this exercise was my idea of letting off some steam. Hopefully, it’ll last. I pushed it enough while it was running, but I’ll say one more time: do give it a whirl. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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You could say that the aforementioned series was a lifeline for me – see what I did there? I found myself playing with my Who Wants To Be A Millionaire model from earlier in the year, with a view to bringing its nineties complexion up to date – well, 2010 anyway. There wasn’t much to like about the series from that year, which introduced a ‘big bad clock’ for questions and essentially killed the show. They did, however, use more pink and purple around the set, and that’s never a bad thing. I’ve dialled that up here, and though I’ll probably always favour the original set, I’m enjoying the heightened neon-retro feel here.

The new curvy columns aren’t great, but will do and shouldn’t be hard to tweak. What does bother me somewhat is the bumpy decoration on the backing panels, not looking particularly accurate; wouldn’t you know it, a simple tweak made it vastly better – a shame this came after the eight-hour render session, huh. Still, as its essentially the same set as that of my first Millionaire attempt in 2016, it’s pleasing to see a much more accurate reconstruction overall.

It was great to see Who Wants To Be A Millionaire Win Enough for The Parking Meter While They’re In Here back last month with Jeremy Clarkson at the helm. Not being a massive fan, knowing his reputation and having never run into Top Gear, I wasn’t really sure what to expect of Jezza. As it happens, I was pleasantly surprised; he was very funny and, though he mocked, you could tell he really wanted the contestants to do well – even when it was clear they probably weren’t. His appointment gave Millionaire an air of unpredictability and intrigue that it probably hasn’t had since 2000. I gather it was a success, holding its audience across the series, so hopefully we’ll get another run soon, since that would mean all the more opportunity for stuff like this!

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With the announcement that Who Wants To Be A Millionaire is coming back for a week of twentieth anniversary specials, I was compelled to get in on this and throw a revival of my own. Almost two years ago now, I had a go at making a 3D model of the Millionaire set. I hoped I could do better this time!

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I’ve gone for a more 1998 look, or at least the early days in general. It’s always been a fairly intimate arena, but here we have a wider range of colours besides just blue, and with those wonderfully bulky screens and a big case of wonga making the centrepiece.

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The 2016 attempt now looks pretty terrible, so I’m guessing that’s a marked improvement! With what I’d like to think was a more informed approach, creating the model and animation was a much happier experience this time around. No friends needed to be phoned… though, I should give credit to my friend Christopher Jamin; shots of his own Millionaire models helped me no end with the make-up of more intricate elements.

I’m always curious with revivals; it seems there is a very fine line to tread when bringing back an established show. Some are spoilt with unnecessary ‘tweaks’ (Crystal Maze, Krypton Factor) while others just can’t seem to escape the shadow of previous presenters (Blockbusters, Robot Wars, Crystal Maze again). Indeed, it will be strange having Millionaire mark its twentieth anniversary without Chris Tarrant. Jeremy Clarkson probably wouldn’t have been my first choice to succeed him, but he will undoubtedly attract others, and there’s nothing to suggest he won’t do a decent job.

The £64,000 question will of course be whether viewers want Millionaire back just four years after it limped into retirement virtually unnoticed. Should things go down well, I’m sure we’ll be seeing more. If it’s used sparingly and goes back to the basics that made it gripping in the first place, I think Millionaire could well flourish again, twenty years later. We’ll have to ask the audience and see…

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Oh, and ITV: it’s the thirtieth anniversary of Interceptor next year. Celebratory revival please.

tctk0017As a child, I was always fascinated with clocks. Back then, of course, the satisfying ticks signalled all the good stuff – home time, TV shows – like Bernard’s Watch  and dinner. Later on, of course, those hands brought about things like the dreaded school bus and homework, but still, the appreciation and wonder of such a device has remained. I could tell the time at quite a young age, and am often reminded of the time in the supermarket when an old man, spotting me enjoying my new watch, approached my buggy and asked for the time. When I told him it was thirty-seven minutes past ten, he was, well, rather shocked!

Before long, I had acquired quite an array of watches and clocks from car boot sales and junk shops, but occasionally brand new; most notably for me, a Thomas the Tank Engine musical watch and some snazzy back-to-front clock cuff-links. I’m not sure what became of my collection. I had a habit of taking them apart to look at the mechanisms, so perhaps they were broken. Perhaps my parents just got rid when it seemed I was no longer interested.

So, in another bid to turn the clock back, here are some random and speedy attempts at clock modelling – one more traditional and the other rather more modern. Once the clock face had been put together, it was a relatively easy job making the modifications; this being said, I’m not sure the refraction levels of the glass are all that:

I originally went without the Batman-esque decorative pillars on the case, and tinkered with the finials somewhat:

These are more than a little basic, aren’t they – I’m hoping that this will allow for a more satisfying progression; at least, that’s my excuse for posting these quick models! It would be fun to, one day, try and model a clock from front to back, coding it to actually work. There are certainly lots of interesting and intricate timepiece designs out there, so inspiration abounds even out of the realm of memory. I do have some things in mind. Time will tell!

lighthouse001Lighthouses are plentiful on the east coast, but few could boast the immediate charm of Happisburgh. The oldest of its kind left in East Anglia, construction in 1790 came in response to a dire winter the year previous, in which hundreds of sailors were lost for the lack of warning lights. Two towers were originally built, but the second structure, under threat of collapse due to erosion, was demolished in the late nineteenth century, granting the taller twin undivided attention.

lighthouse003After almost two hundred years, it seemed it was lights out for Happisburgh in 1988 when service was decommissioned, shunned for more sophisticated navigational technology. Thanks to a tireless local campaign and parliamentary action, it was saved and entrusted to a small group as an independent facility. Upkeep is entirely dependent on volunteers and tourists, thousands of whom visit each year.

The light still operates and has a range of eighteen miles.

lighthouse002It was nice to be able to work a bit more liberally with trees thanks to what was learnt in the Huizermolen build.

It seemed ludicrous and chicken to go so far constructing the lighthouse without due consideration for the light bit. Within the lamp room, I modelled a basic lens for beaming with a spotlight behind it, and it seemed to work, giving the small source a wider, tinted glow. I actually think I fiddled a bit too much, especially with turbulence, and started to lose some of the early promise. It’s something to look at on the next attempt.

I want to marry a lighthouse keeper, won’t that be okay?

 

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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Welcome to the nineties! And a return to the realm of game shows, furthermore a return to the evergreen Countdown, to which we’ve been quite carelessly oblivious for some time. I really should have gone all out and scheduled this to go out at half-past four, shouldn’t I? Never mind.

Count1990_S0In 1990, it was just Richard Whiteley and Carol Vorderman left of Countdown’s troupe of staff. Vorderman had, until this point, only been wheeled on to referee the numbers game; it was reputedly down to the laziness of the producer and his unwillingness to audition hopefuls that she was ‘promoted’ to Whiteley’s lone foil, but I think it proved to be a shrewd decision. It took some time, but eventually the chemistry blossomed and Countdown flourished, discarding the sterile formality of its infancy and becoming charming, convivial telly. Though I’m not sure I fully observed or appreciated it at the time, those are definitely qualities true of the show I grew up with.

Count1990-C2The Richard/Carol era was ushered in with a new set, replacing the pastel of the original with lots and lots of wood. It wasn’t the most lavish, was it? But then, I suppose it is Countdown we’re discussing – Hollywood may be nine letters, but it wouldn’t be allowed. It’s certainly not the most offensive set they’ve had – maybe that’s another project for another time? – but it is rather clinical, perhaps because it bears an uncanny resemblance to my dentist’s old waiting room. I can practically smell the surgery, and hear the drill upstairs. With Whiteley’s puns often as painful as pulling teeth, perhaps it’s a mercy I wasn’t around to see the show in this era!

Count1990_S1Tempted as I was to brag about how quickly this came together, I’m not sure it counts, as so many of the elements were simply lifted from my main graphics. It’s more of a redressing. This being said, the elements that were newly constructed – jagged walls, Dalek-esque panel desks – did prove a much less fearful build than anticipated, which made it fun. The majority of the process was cloning a single panel of wall and angling it as required. Then, another. And another. And a fourth, please, Carol…

Vorderman’s domain didn’t go unloved, being appropriately renovated and now placed on the same scene as the main stage. I’ve tried to make it look less dingy than it appears on the reference clips, but indeed, it looks a little strange for me doing so – perhaps revealing there was a good reason for the darker lighting! Or perhaps I’m just lousy at lighting scenes. I’d put money on that, actually.

The references I speak of were only charmingly fuzzy VHS rips of Countdown found on YouTube:

And I lifted the letters selection in my quick animated header from a notable outtake:

Poor Richard did find himself in some unfortunate situations over the years. It’s not so much the word being offered as it is his obvious astonishment and then the attempt to fumble through that makes it so amusing.

There we have it. Countdown. Again. I feel that, coupled with Millionaire, this has ended my latest game show gorge, but that’s by no means a guarantee (that’s a nine-letter word). Retain your vigilance (that’s a nine-letter word).

Well that’s all for now, anyway. It’s 5PM now (trust me!) and I think Oprah’s on next. Time to put the Master System on.

ejectorseat0021The wild ride in store for this edition is another at the scary end of the park, and surely one of the most ominous of all – Ejection Seat, Slingshot, reverse bungee, whatever you want to call it, it’s evil. Or at least it looks evil to me… I’ve never been on it, don’t be ridiculous.

We had one called Ejector Seat that appeared at the Pleasure Beach in the late 90s – it wasn’t this colourful, mind… in fact it looked old from the get-go and I’m sure had never even seen a lick of paint – but they’ve been around since the mid 70s. It’s an intimate ride, with only two seats in a rather modest gondola. This is attached to two giant arms by elastic cord. When the riders are in place, the gondola is raised by a crane into position, and there’s terrible suspense as the elastic cord strengthens down from the top. Then, the operator would typically yell “HEADS BACK!!!” as if your life depended on it – it probably did, to be fair – and seconds later, you are released and off you go, ejected at horrifying speed into space, and essentially flung around freely until the cords relax and you are lowered back down, very much a changed person. Much like the bungee jumping it tried to compete with, it was not without dangers; I’m sure I heard that passengers had to sign a contract beforehand, saying they know of the risks involved.

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The main reason for picking this ride was to experiment with some more of Cinema 4D’s dynamics – I searched for tutorials on actual slingshots as I thought I could then transplant it into the ride. This led me to the Cloth tool, which, it turns out, is excellent! So very simple to achieve results with. The ‘Cloth Belt’ tool is another wonder, and did exactly what I wanted; it allows an object to hold onto a point of a Cloth object, essentially letting it hang. It’d be good for clothes on a washing line…

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…or indeed good for our ride. There was a lot of fumbling around with various forces and air resistance and flexibility and too many to name, but it was exciting to see it gradually come together. I made two cords, one for each side – they are ‘belted’ onto the top of the tower and a notch of the gondola. By just moving the gondola around, the cords react dynamically in real-time, which is most enjoyable!

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Stills don’t do the dynamics justice, so I rendered a quick video of it bouncing around:

Not the most artistically beautiful of my fairground beasts to date, but surely the most valuable exercise, delving beyond the modelling and starting to look at some of the enviable powers afforded to this program. More soon.

SaSSaM“SPELL [INDISTINCT].”

Inspired by Charlie, who sadly left these chaps out of his retro toy series – the Speak & Spell and Speak & Maths had to settle for this place instead, turned into 3D models. Building these in Cinema 4D was about as fun as you’d expect.

I grew up in the 90s, but being the youngest of five meant few of my toys were actually new; the majority were inherited from my siblings who grew up in the 70s and 80s. Two such wonders were these (it appears there was also a yellow Speak & Read available, but we didn’t have that, or perhaps it just didn’t survive to 1992). It was an impressive piece of kit for my infant self to play with then, never mind for the kids of the late 70s – it spoke and knew. I used to call it a computer (probably because I wasn’t allowed near our actual computer… and when I did go on it, the printer invariably started smoking. But I digress.) which might not have been so far out as I later thought: as is to be expected by now, YouTube has all the answers. This chap covers everything you could possibly wish to know about the Speak & Spell, so that’s my cue to zip it. Enjoy.

 

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I don’t know where on earth this idea that I’m obsessed with The Crystal Maze has come from. I’ve only spoken briefly of it a couple of times, haven’t I? Well, as it happens, I’ve been encouraged to post about it (by a staggering two fellow bloggers) and with that I have a pair of Maze posts planned for December (admittedly one will be a repost of something I wrote for elsewhere, earlier in the year), so if I wasn’t coming over obsessed before, I probably will be later on.

Here’s the first. I decided to go back to my pledge to try and crack 3D modelling. And what better way to do that than to also try and crack The Crystal Maze? For those unaware, the team of six contestants travelled around a ginormous set… ‘the maze’… comprised of four ‘time zones’: Aztec, Industrial, Medieval and Futuristic. Each zone housed fiendish games, and when beaten, said games yield a time crystal. Each crystal won bought the team five seconds inside the Crystal Dome, the show’s hilarious (and blustery) finale.

The idea of achieving a realistic crystalline (or, to be boring, glass) texture, was a little daunting. It took a long time, and at times felt as though I was going in circles and not really knowing where to get off. I pressed a lot of buttons… most often, I’m sure, the wrong ones, but it was certainly an interesting experience, dealing with several channels of transparency, refraction, reflection and specular. I’ve shown my ‘progress’ in the selection of shots above. The caustics on the floor are a treat – I confess I’m not entirely sure how that happened.

When I’d done/had enough of texturing, I then applied dynamics to it and built a maze for it to roll around in – quite literally, a crystal maze. (So that’s why they shoehorned one of these into almost every series!)

It’s a pitifully easy maze – two minutes should be plenty enough. My second shot, though, is a reasonable estimation as to how the archetypal Crystal Maze contestant would likely have fared; just throw the screams of “COME OUT!” over a familiar harmonica riff, and the memories of Thursday night perfection will surely come flooding back.

It’s time for me to race toward the door and bang on it until someone sets me free, but in departing, here’s a clip for you; it’s very Crystal Maze indeed.

How I love Richard O’Brien.

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How I laughed when I touted the idea of a spinning wheel to determine the time limit for my Reddit Gets Drawn practice runs. What a ridiculous suggestion.

Um, yeah, you didn’t realise that, behind the laughter, I was being deadly serious… or I just turned to this in a fit of boredom and burgeoning flu. You decide.

I have basically taken to Cinema 4D and refaced the wheel from our version of Wheel of Fortune, just to inject extra fun. Wasn’t that a wonderful show? Or not. But that satisfying ‘ping’ every time a contestant guessed a letter that was in the puzzle, and the adorably cheesy models flashing the prizes… ahh, the nostalgia. As you can see, there are some beastly spaces on that wheel, which I’m sincerely hoping it doesn’t land on anytime soon. I think if I pick any of the shortest ones I might have to ditch the Reddit element and work on self portraits – it’s okay to offend myself, I’d rather not do it to others!

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The most exciting thing on this – besides the generous helping of glitter on the type – is that the little flipper you see actually reacts to handles of the wheel, with some magic from connector dynamics. It took a great deal of time to create, and it’s a small reward in stature, but a pleasurable one when it works.

In fact, I think this blasted wheel took longer to rejig than most of the values on it put together! Oh well. It’s learning. Learning is good. I had a wheel of a time.

Will I actually use it to determine my time limits? Well, that depends entirely upon what it lands on…! 😉