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terminatorcolorado1737Here’s another funfair contraption. Anyone know what it’s called? Oh well, take a seat, they’re going fast! Or not, as it appears here. Which, to be honest, chimes with my memories of the same ride at the Pleasure Beach. I am guessing it was more popular elsewhere.

terminatorcolorado1440This nineties wonder is known as a Super Loop on Top, though of course this has been styled as Colorado, complete with springs and red rocks. I did attempt to model the local version of this ride – Terminator – a few years back, but this time I wanted to try Colorado. The ride always caught my eye with its swerving, tilting movements, but I think this paint job makes it even cooler. I believe there are also water jets to make the ride literally cooler, but I evidently haven’t reached that stage yet.

I also wanted to get the proportions a little better this time around. Feeling bullish, I ended up contacting the manufacturer, Moser Rides, and asking if specifications were available. To my surprise, Stefano Moser responded and sent me some catalogue scans which came in very handy indeed. Grazie, Stefano! As they say, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

terminatorcolorado1068A first for this build was the inclusion of backdrop scenery, lined with an excessive number of flashing bulbs. I mostly just copied the artwork from reference images, so I can’t take credit for that, but it’s fun; certainly it adds to the fairground feel.

terminatorcolorado2484Animation-wise, it’s still not perfect and it was still rather frustrating, but at least this time the gondola is actually joined to both arms. Hold on tight!

geometric-trees-1Projection, you understand. Frontal projection of texture essentially positions it to face and fill the render region regardless of the object’s shape. This can produce some interesting results, one way or the other. I have dabbled with it sporadically in the past, but this time I ran with this tree spree and tried to get a little more out of it. I went with a radial gradient to start, with an inverted replica used for the background.

Bit much, perhaps? Mindful of its loudness, I did try and keep the landscape simple. It does look bolder with some different colours being used; I do like how crisp the blue turned out. Perhaps, if toned down slightly, there’s even potential in a Christmas card there. My thanks to Steve of Steve Kidd Art for helping me see sense on the windmill iteration.

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And another experiment – the same idea, just using pixelated noise instead of the same gradient. This time, the subject was another favourite, the silver birch tree:

geometric-trees-D01geometric-trees-D02Perhaps a case of a birch too far, but more fun nevertheless. Who couldn’t love trees?

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My previous excursion to the fairground had me inspired to go back and revisit some of the other rides I looked at back in the day. There are few rides which encapsulate the old-fashioned fairground feel like the Rock-O-Plane, with its trusses, bulbs and cables strung around those huge arms. No surprise too, as the ride has been around for seventy years.

This ones’s a little different, though. Rather than the egg-shaped pods that so iconically house the passengers, this later variant ditches them in favour of front-facing chairs, meaning the ‘rocking’ is an altogether different experience. The common name for this version appears to be Sky Dancer.

The 2016 Rock-O-Plane model wasn’t actually that bad. The biggest issue was that it was about a third of the height it should have been. I did rebuild the wheel though, with some more detailed framework. The cars were transplanted from the Space Loop mostly.

To try and get the chairs to ‘rock’ authentically, I thought of using connectors and hard body simulation to actually have them swinging from the wheel but, fearing for my computer’s safety, chickened out. I instead added a step effector in two regions of the wheel – one at the top-left quadrant, the other at the bottom-right – with angular parameters of around 90 degrees.

That said, the rendered simulation actually looks and behaves quite a bit worse than it seemed to in the viewport, with some pretty sharp swings at points. It does at least seem to be the right kind of idea; I think the key is getting a balance between the strength of the effector region and the speed of the wheel itself. Below is the obligatory animation. I think that’s the fairground thirst quenched for now, but it’s been quite a fun ride!

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Is it early 2016 again? Alas, it is not. Sorry for getting your hopes up. However, we’re getting into the retro spirit here with a new fairground model to add to the collection from way back then – well, not entirely new. It’s another Top Spin, actually a very similar, slightly later (1993!) model by the same manufacturer, just with a cooler name: Space Loop. Seems a curious colour scheme for a space theme, but who am I to comment on such things?

This wasn’t really something I set out to do. It came about, actually, during the spring, when my spare time was almost non-existent and I desperately wanted to try and fit something in, so I took my 2016 Top Spin model and tried to glam it up a little, using what I’d learnt since then. It was going alright I suppose, but the old model’s clunkiness was starting to catch up with it. I thought it better to forget this build and start from scratch.

Skip ahead to a week or so ago, when I was afforded both some time and inspiration.

spaceloop-v5_0001I actually had some dimensions to work with this time, so not having to approximate height was a great help. Models do look better when they’re in proportion, I guess.

spaceloop-v5_0002The gondola is probably the biggest improvement of the ride itself, though more through greater patience than any shiny new tools. When tweaking my old model, I tried to apply some snazzy physics/simulation to a basic setup to see if I could replicate the brakes and achieve an authentic spin. I had little success with this, though, as Carol Vorderman might say, I’m sure it’s possible. Give me another few years.

Also the staging and lighting is much more involved than it was before – we have some  decoration and signage, actual lightbulbs rather than flat textures, and the strips on the supports are animated to flash on a loop – something I’ve only recently learnt how to do, after so long of manually animating entire sequences like a lemon.

With all this time to myself, I even went as far as rendering a sequence, attempting an evening setting to achieve a more sensible render time but actually losing rather a lot of its atmosphere. It might have been almost four years but damn, there’s still lots to learn when it comes to animation. But anyway, what’s old is new again. Kinda. Life truly is a Space Loop.

Yes, it’s that time of year, where outside sounds rather like a war zone thanks to fireworks screaming and banging all over the place. I don’t know, maybe I’m getting too old for this stuff. Well, as the saying goes, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. So I did, in a manner that won’t break the bank and terrify animals everywhere: I attempted to create some 3D animated fireworks.

They’re pretty simple, actually: an emitter producing planes, which are tagged with motion blur and highlights, giving them the coloured glow you see in the render. There’s also a gravity effector at play, pulling them downwards and, hopefully, achieving a more realistic effect.

firework04The above was done with tracers, giving a slightly more authentic trail, and I think the gravity effects are much clearer here, too. I rendered with no anti-aliasing whatsoever, in-keeping with this, the year of the pixel.

I also had a go at some sparkler effects; it’s a similar deal, but this time using some random ‘sparkly’ shapes and cloning them spherically, rather than having an animated emission. They did get better as I went along, which I suppose is good.

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And with the final GIF (I promise) we come to this obscene spinny firework thing – technical term, you understand. Just two emitters – albeit with much narrower range than previously – grouped together and rotated.

I have to say this year has been relatively quiet for fireworks, so perhaps I shouldn’t be so sour on the subject. If you are visiting a display, burning an effigy or any kind of festivity this evening, then do have fun. If you aren’t, well, who needs it when you have this?

Ooooh! Ahhhh!

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It’s time for another look at lettering, and high time too, as I haven’t been able to do nearly as much as I would’ve liked this year; I wanted to fit in another Twenty-Six Spins but that doesn’t look likely, sadly. It will happen, though. When you least expect it. Consider this a warning for shoddy Photoshops and even shoddier wheel puns.

I was looking at quick, flowing forms and somehow came to ropes. I thought it might be interesting to try and model a rope in 3D. So that’s what I did. (It wasn’t that interesting, really).

Surprisingly simple it was, actually, done in a couple of minutes by sweeping a flower shape along a spline and having it rotate along. It does seem to lose something on longer forms, as you might be able to tell. It’s a bit ropey. I also wasn’t entirely sure about the texture that I made, so I went back to black and white to try and mask that as much as possible. It’s quite unusual for me to start with colour or texture then work backwards, especially with lettering; I’ve learnt over the years that the gold is always to be found in the simplest forms, and that, unsurprisingly, seems to be true of this exercise too. That’s where the hallowed Threshold filter comes in. Even the textured renders look much punchier in simple monochrome, I think.

I did attempt some knots, as you can see here with a couple of alternate forms. I’ve never been good with tying even the most basic of knots, so maybe that’s why I largely steered clear of this. They’re even harder with splines! I imagine there are plugins out there which can model such a thing with just a click.

And for all my slamming colour earlier on, I did throw a few letters into Photoshop and give them a paint job; kind of fun, I guess, but I might be saying that to the happy colours themselves rather than the letters.

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Well, that ties it up for now. This experiment might knot be for everyone, but it was once again fun learning the ropes. Hopefully next year I’ll not be roped into other things, and shall be able to do a little more in this vein.

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Having done a few pure pixel pictures lately, I ventured into three dimensions to look at transferring objects into the pixel realm; reducing resolutions, avoiding anti-aliasing and trying to create as authentic a visual as I can.

Cheating, essentially.

I began playing with some simple shapes and animations, limiting colour.

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Happy results, and certainly a time saver for designs like those above and below.

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And, having played around with hexagons, it was time for the obligatory detour to Blockbusters, which then spilled into other game shows for good measure. After all, what do pixels make?

Blockbusters is set to return on Comedy Central (yes, seriously) at some point this year. By my count, this will be the fifth time since the golden Bob era that this format has been dredged back up. Will it take off this time, I wonder? You have to admire the perseverance.

While there’s nothing especially ground-breaking here, it’s nice to have it confirmed that pixel art doesn’t have to be restricted to just Photoshop painting; the 3D alternative for reference is equally effective, and a handy cheat. Cheating is good when it saves you time!

With all the stuff I’ve done on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire previously, you’re probably not surprised in the least to see this, an attempt at modelling the revival set.

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Like most game shows these days, it’s predominantly spotlights and LED screens. The video floor replacing the old ‘bowl’ was something I was initially unsure of, but they proved me wrong – it’s used to great effect throughout the show.

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There might not be all the glass and shine of the predecessor, but there are those video panels. I’d done some basic video integration with my Million Pound Drop screens, but this required rather a lot more. The results are somewhat basic, mostly cobbled together from previous or abandoned projects; it’s not nearly so impressive as the real deal, but it’s nice to know it works.

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I’m pleasantly surprised to be enjoying the new Millionaire as much as I am. I thought it was finished a decade or so ago, so the fact that it feels even remotely special again is testament to not Jeremy Clarkson but the overall production. The show is back in March, I understand; let’s hope ITV keep it as an occasional event, stripped over a few days, and aren’t tempted to water it down (no celebrities!!) or overexpose it. As it is, it should be an attraction for some time.

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There isn’t really much of a rationale behind this – I just fancied constructing an electricity pylon for some reason. Who am I to argue?

I know pylons are considered by many to be a monstrous blot on the landscape. The view would be cleaner without them, of course, but, like many industrial structures, I can appreciate their presence. They’ve always possessed a strange personality to me. I’m wondering if this is rooted in an old advertisement from when I was very little, which showed pylons coming to life and striding across the landscape toward the sea, heralding the bright future of cleaner, more efficient energy generation. When I’d seen it enough times to no longer be slightly creeped out, I enjoyed it.

pylon-081One of the nice things about creating a rather simple model like this is it means I can happy snap without ever leaving the house, and manipulate the weather as required. This was an excuse to focus on the latter:

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As the sun sets, let’s hope these pylons don’t go walkabout any time soon.

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CRYSTALDOME-2019-45-2Somewhere in that between-Christmas-and-New-Year smudge, I found myself watching not Going for Gold with Henry Kelly, but The Crystal Maze with Ed Tudor-Pole. This won’t surprise anybody who’s been here for any length of time; indeed, the surprise will probably come from the fact that it’s been a while – at least a year! Coming straight after Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, it was difficult to tell where one ended and the other began. But the hit of nostalgia was perfect for the time of year.

It was the final Christmas special I happened across, where the Maze was opened up to not the celebrities who seem to plague the revival, but children. Loud, obnoxious, ridiculously fortunate children. Though they might have me dropping the volume at times, or otherwise just downright jealous, it was a very sweet thing for the show to do. Indeed, it became all the sweeter when these kids made short work of puzzles which stumped the so-called ‘grown-ups’.

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Anyway, after taking another look at the set I thought I’d have another go at recreating the Crystal Dome stage, the heart of the Crystal Maze. I would hope to be better equipped than three years ago, when I last attempted this. Certainly, it’s much more realistic in terms of scale; the sixteen-foot dome now rather more snug but still commanding the space. The endearingly naff scaffold decoration is also more carefully done. The tokens are, as previously, a balancing act, trying to get a neat texture whilst going easy on CPU. Fun revisit overall, though, and certainly simpler than last time.

Still waiting for The Crystal Maze VR, by the way.

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Happy New Year to all who visit, especially to those who continue to do so. Let’s hope 2019 is a year of grabbing those golden tokens with minimal deduction of silver. Let’s win that murder mystery weekend!

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