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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.

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.

Not the usual fairground foray, as, besides some modest improvements, we have the exact same model as before. I just fancied turning Colorado back to Terminator, although not the Terminator paint job I remember from the Pleasure Beach. This being said, it still took a fair amount of time, probably not aided by my dodgy modelling skills. Then again, I’ve only been practising for about nine years…

At least it looks better than my original Terminator. We can certainly say that much.

It was this interesting little retrospective on the Super Loop on Top which gave me this Terminator itch once again. The series is well worth a look if, like me, you are nostalgic for the fairgrounds of days past. It’s nice to see it getting some recognition; I still think it’s an attractive beast and one of the coolest rides to witness in motion. Maybe when I win the lottery I’ll dig one up and get it back out on the circuit!

Well, here we are again! I am sensing polite smiles all around as we buckle up for yet another edition of Countdown. Honestly, the thinking behind this was similar to the previous pine cones. Not sure of the time I’d have, it was really just something I thought I could chip away at in short bursts without taxing my brain too much. It would just be a case of modifying my previous attempt, looking at the early nineties set.


This time, we’re in 1999, a happy time just before the millennium bug would come along and change life as we know it, blowing up all of our computers and pulling planes from the sky. Or, perhaps, not so much. Thankfully. I understand much was done behind the scenes to alleviate any potential issues, but, as a child at the time, all I remember is the media doing a good job of putting the fear of God into us. Some things don’t change, huh, or maybe it was a godsend that we all bought our Y2K-compliant watches, calculators and underwear. All this being said, I can’t have let it get to me that much, as my memories of that Christmas and New Year are entirely happy. I guess that’s how it should be when you’re seven.

Besides the obvious switch to indigo lighting, the main set really hasn’t changed much; some minor adjustments to the backdrop, and some new textures, but that’s about it. It was really a test to see how much I could do to clean up the clock’s ‘wings’ without having to redo them, because I remember they were quite the pain and I can barely even remember how I did it anyway.

cd1999-011aNew letters and numbers area! Clearly, they were going mad with the budget at this point – they might have even gone into triple figures throwing the lights in over here. The boards are the same as before, just modified, but the backdrop and numbers tray are completely new.

cd1999-010aIf you’re not a fan of the colour scheme – maybe you’d prefer it if it were blue daba dee daba die – here’s an attempt at recreating the credits, with the flashing lights and bright orange:

cd1999-lightsI feel like Countdown – with a warm presenter, at least – is a programme perfect for this time of year, whether you’re snowed in, dumfungled or just feeling lazy. Essentially a parlour game, friendly and unquestionably familiar, it seems to chime with much of the Christmas spirit of tradition. That would doubtless explains why, these days, the Christmas break is about the only time Channel 4 don’t show Countdown! It didn’t used to be this way, though; I remember when the grand final was screened on Christmas Day itself, indeed 1999 being one such year. I know it’s not as popular as it used to be, and Nick Hewer is so dour that he cannot be relied upon to big things up, but I do miss the finals actually having a sense of occasion. Ah well. I suppose hidden-away-at-two-o’clock Countdown is better than no Countdown at all.

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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.

AtoZ-INDUSTRIALM-01_3Back to the industrial zone, and with another fortunate letter for such a theme. AtoZ-INDUSTRIALM00_0044a

Above was my first idea; two cranes sporting a very weak handshake, by the looks of it. After that, I shifted to the gantry crane. Made in a couple of hours or so, the model is on the basic side – almost toylike with its simple textures. But it’ll do for this exercise.

There was an attempt to be rather more literal in presenting the M, incorporating diagonal beams, but in the end I thought that was pushing things a bit too far. Something similar might work another time, though:

Fun fun. Less than a week to go, now – how exciting!

horsey4Is it 2016 again? No, thank goodness. But it is National Mills Weekend, and I feel like, in my time here, I’ve bestowed a reputation on myself such that it’d be remiss to not recognise/freely advertise the event in some way. So, here we go again. For old times’ sake.

This is Horsey Windpump, a mill participating in the weekend’s festivities. It was one of the last tower mills to be constructed on the Broads, replacing an older structure in 1912. Relatively young though it is, it’s had a bit of a tumultuous time of it – struck by lightning in 1943, the stocks were split in two and that was pretty much the end of its career. Picked up by the National Trust, it was cleaned up and restored in the early sixties, but the October 1987 hurricane dealt it more damage, blowing off the fantail and cap. Quite the sob story.

Currently, the mill is in the final stages of being returned to working order. Just a couple of months ago, a brand new cap and sails were fitted, and that’s what I’ve tried to model here. I don’t know if it’s going to be turning this weekend but as I understand it’s due to be up and running soon. This is nice – there really aren’t enough working mills on the Broads.

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Note the ‘strategic’ camera angles. Long-standing readers of this blog will recall with heady nostalgia my constant complaining and frantic battles with ancient hardware on these renders, especially as vegetation came into play. Rather than put myself through the torment again, I thought I’d try something else: photato manipulation. Having visited countless times over the years, I have plenty of my own terrible photatos of this mill, and wondered if I could convincingly sew my model into them.

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It was a fiddly job and didn’t turn out especially well, possibly because the DPI of my renders was low, making scaling and cutting a bit of a pixelated mess. I did attempt to render the mill on a green background to make the ‘keying’ easier, but with physical sky lighting it only discoloured the thing. Naturally, the results were slightly better when taking colour (and proximity) out of the equation:

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But there we are, anyway. Why not mill around if you’re free at the weekend? As for Horsey, it looks like it’ll be open from 10 to 16:30 on both days. There are seals on the beach (a short walk from the mill) and if I’m feeling brave I might even make the trip myself. What more incentive could you need?

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.

snowglobe-snowmanWell, when the weather just doesn’t want to play ball insofar as white stuff, what else can you do but pick up a miniature world, shake it vigorously, and give them the gift of a blizzard? I don’t actually recall many of the things in our decorations box, though I do vividly remember one year receiving one as a present; predictably, it was a windmill, covered in pastel colours, battery-powered and sharing the space with what appeared to be polystyrene balls. Its base was inscribed with the words, “Marry Christmas”. I enjoyed it, despite the demands!

Anyway, here are a few I’ve tentatively put together; with time short, they’re not quite as extravagantly populated or decorative as I originally planned – not even a windmill found its way inside! – but ultimately I think simplicity works in their favour. Glass is always a pain (ha ha… except it’s not a pane) for me, but this actually turned out relatively well. You can see through it.

The snowman, who seems to have found his way from Mill Cottage to inside that particular globe, was sourced from here.

snowglobe-treeAnd, a bonus for a laugh… will you start the snow, please! It’s time to go tooooo the Crystal Snowme! If I’d seen one of these in the shops, I’d have pestered and pestered my mother to buy one – just as I would today. Someone, do a better job and make it happen.

snowglobe-crysIt looks like things are going to be rather busy – to say the least – as we count down to the big day, so I’m not sure if there will be any real time to make stuff until afterwards. In that case, I am going to take this opportunity to say that, if you are celebrating this holiday season, I hope you have a wonderful, peaceful time of it. Merry Christmas!