SketchUp Three (Part Two) – Adding Details

Framework

Framework

If you’ve been following this series (Part OnePart TwoPart Three), you should now have a framework of a house. Now we shall add some extra features, and introduce some new techniques.

So, open up your House file, and also the blueprint you are working from, and we’ll jump in!

Doorways

To get into the house, we are going to need some doorways. My research tells me that an average door is 36″ by 80″ (about 1m wide, 2m tall). On my blueprint, the front door is about two feet from the left corner, so lets start marking out these measurements:

Guide Lines

Guide Lines

Snap Effect in Action!

Snap Effect in Action!

Now draw a Rectangle for the doorway, and use the Push/Pull to create the doorway! The Snap-Effect will keep you lined up properly:

Now that we know how to make a doorway (Draw Guidelines using Measuring Tool, then Push/Pull to create gap), we should make all of our doorways.

By now, we will have covered our Scene in guidelines, and rather than helping, they will be getting in the way! We could go round and delete them one-by-one, but there is an easier way! The “Delete Guides” entry on the Edit Menu!

Delete The Guidelines

Delete The Guidelines

Window

Window

OK, that’s the doors … we need to do the same for the windows! For the purposes of this tutorial (and simplicity!), I will be having all of the windows start three feet from the floor, and the tops be level with the top of the doors (80″, remember? This is 6′ 8″, or about 2 meters in new money). Again, put some guides in place. I’m making the front window 6′ wide, placed approximately halfway between the door and the right corner. Then draw the rectangle, and Push/Pull it. Again, continue around the house, putting all of the windows in place.

Doors and Windows

Doors and Windows

Actual Doors and Windows

Now, we want to put the actual doors and windows in place! Now, we can design our own furniture, and we already have most of the tools to do so (Draw a rectangle 6′ 8″ x 3’6″, Push/Pull to 1″ thick, BAM! Door!). Or we can rely on the kindness of strangers!

The SketchUp Warehouse is a repository where anyone can upload their creations, for other people to use. Maybe you will upload something there one day? For now, head to the File Menu -> 3D Models -> Get Models …   This will open the Warehouse, and allow you to select items to insert into your scene! Enter a search term (e.g. “Door”) into the Search Box at the top, press Enter, and Presto! Doors appear! Take some time to browse around, see what people have uploaded. If you find a design that you like, select it, and you will be taken to it’s Page, where you have the options to view a 3D render of it (note: can take a little while to load), or to download it into your Scene. Scrolling down should reveal other items, including collections and models that this item has been used in. I’ll not get into the complicated sections for now: Find a door you like (I’ve chosen “Flush Door” by user: “Luncai”), hit Download, and load it directly into your model.

You will notice that the door is now free-floating, and you can move it around. Find some free space, and click. Note: Do not try to place it in a doorway yet! Drop it near the house, and we’ll come back to  it …

Interlude …

SketchUp Three: Building a House

In my previous two posts (One, Two), we learnt some basic techniques for creating models in SketchUp. Now, I am going to jump directly to using these, and other, techniques to build a detailed Scene.

Don’t worry if you struggle to follow this on the first time through! You can always start over, and slowly build up bit-by-bit!

Design Stage

Firstly, it is a good idea to have a plan in mind! Sure, we could just throw a Scene together, adjusting things as we go along, but I prefer to be building towards a Goal! With this in mind, we need a Plan! Searching Google for “royalty-free house floor plans” led me to http://anyaflow.com, where I downloaded this image:

Floor Plan

You may download it directly from me by clicking to show the full Image, and then Saving to your Downloads folder.

Now we can open SketchUp, and start to build!

Start at the bottom

Base

Base

First, we need a surface to work on. Draw out a Rectangle, and size it to be a little bigger than the House will be. (In my example, we can see that the house will be 44’11” wide and 38’7″ long, so I will  make my Base 50’x40′. Remember that we can get exact dimensions by typing them!). I like to give the base some Thickness, so use the Push/Pull tool to bring it up by 1′.

Outline

Now we can start to build the outer walls.

New Tool: Tape Measure. Draw guide lines 1′ from the Right and Top edges.

Offset Tool

Offset Tool

Using these guides, and the Snap Effect, we can draw some of the outer walls. Draw a Line from the intersection of the Guides, about 40′ across the top, and 30′ down the side. Then Select these two lines (Tip: Select one, hold CTRL and Select the other). You can now use the Offset Tool to drag a 1′ ‘copy’ of the Wall. You should have something looking like this:

The Walls So Far!

The Walls So Far!

Now, using the measurements supplied (or worked-out/guessed-at!), we can fill in the rest of the walls.

I used a combination of Drawing straight lines and Rectangles, using Snap Effects, typing Measurements, and Guide Lines (from the Tape Measure tool) to produce this:

Draft Floorplan

Draft Floorplan

Cleaning Up

Now we can get rid of the Guides, and extraneous lines. The Guides are easy. Edit Menu -> Delete Guides! Trickier is erasing all of the extra lines, without clearing lines we want to keep!

Using the Eraser tool, trim the lines back, and also delete the lines “inside the walls:

Erase these bits!

Erase these bits!

We need to check that all of the Lines are connected. Select the Push/Pull tool, and hover over one of the walls. You should see that the entire wall section, and nothing else, is the familiar Spotty Blue. If this is not the case, draw over some of the lines, to make sure they are correctly aligned. You should have something like this:

Ready to Build Walls!

Now use the Push/Pull to raise the walls to exactly 8′ high.

Walls

Walls

Here is your basic building!

in Section 3a, we will move on to detailing it to actually look like a house. Doors, Windows and textures! We WILL be seeing our old friend the PushMe/PullYou again, and I will also be introducing the Sketchup Warehouse!
Until next time!

Part Three, Section 2

SketchUp Two. Copying, Scaling and Detailing.

In my previous post (SketchUp – A Beginner’s Guide), I introduced some basic concepts of the 3D modelling software. How to make and move basic objects.

Now we move on to slightly more advanced (don’t worry, not very advanced! We’re taking baby-steps here!) techniques.

Copying

Once you have an object, it is a simple matter to duplicate it. Actually,. it is several simple matters, depending upon your preference.

Select your object. You may notice that only part of the object is selected! We need to cover this first!

Selecting Objects

The Select Tool - Top Right of screen

The Select Tool – Top Right of screen

Using the Select Tool, you can select a single line or face. Or you can drag a box around an area, selecting everything withing this box. WARNING: This may accidentally select hidden sections! To avoid this, we can try several options:

First, extra-clicks. A single click will select a single item, such as a Face or a Line. Double-Clicking will select a Face and surrounding Lines. A Treble-Click will select ALL connected items! This is very useful fro a free-standing object, but care must be taken when you  have interconnected objects!

A way to avoid interconnected objects is, as mentioned before, to make your objects into Components. This will stop them from interacting with other objects, and make them easier to select individually.

A third way is to drag a box around your object, but this has the danger of selecting unseen items, such as the rear faces and lines.

I recommend Components.

Back to Copying

Cut Copy Paste

Cut Copy Paste

Now we have selected an Object, we can use controls that are very familiar to some people, as they are the standard Windows Copy/Paste functions. On the Edit Menu, choose Copy. Simple as that. This stores a copy of the object in the computer’s “buffer”, ready to insert into the scene. To do this insert, back to the Edit Menu, and choose Paste. (For those unfamiliar with the terms “Cut”, “Copy” and “Paste”, they refer back to when work was done on pieces of paper, and literally Cut with scissors or a knife, and then stuck into place with a glue or paste.)

The more eagle-eyed of you will have noticed the Control Keys noted at the side of the Menu Functions. These are keyboard shortcuts that you can press, instead of moving the mouse to the Menu, clicking on the Menu, moving the mouse to the correct option and clicking on that option! E.g. instead of choosing Copy from the menu, you can hold the CTRL key, and press the “C” key.

Now we have a copy in the buffer, either use the Edit Menu -> Paste, or press CTRL-V to Paste the Item into the scene. To begin, it will be “floating”, and you can move it to the required position, before clicking to actually place it.

Scaling

The Scale Tool

The Scale Tool

You may create an object, and then want to make it a different size, or have a copy of an object as a different size. This requires the Scale Tool. Select the object you wish to Scale, and then click the Scale Tool. You will see lots of yellow “handles” appear over the object. These can be use to drag/stretch the object.

Scaling Handles

Scaling Handles

Some handles will only stretch in certain directions, while the corners will stretch all dimensions. Try some, and see how it works!

As with other functions, the Dimensions box in the very lower right of the screen will keep a track of how much you are scaling the object. And, as an added extra, you can type a Dimension to set it exactly! Start pulling a handle, and then type 2 <Enter>, and your object will be Twice the size! type 0.5 and it will be half as big as it started! Useful for when exact ratios are required. And an extra bonus feature, you can scale it to an exact distance! Try stretching and then typing 6″<enter>  or 3m<enter>. You should see the object become the size you indicate!

Detailing

It is quite rare that all you will want in a scene is a plain cube, or even several cubes of different sizes. So we need Details. There are so many different ways we can alter an object that I can only discuss a few in this article.

We shall start with the

Push/Pull Tool

Push/Pull Tool

Push/Pull Tool

A very useful feature, this allows you to move a face, or part of.

To Push/Pull a complete face, simply select the Tool, and hover over the Face you wish to move. You should see the familiar blue spots, showing the selected face. Holding the left mouse button down, you can Push/Pull the face. Notice how the Snap Effect can be used to line up the face with other Objects in the scene.

Push/Pull Examples

Push/Pull Examples

To move just part of a face, you must section it off using the Pencil tool. Draw a line splitting the face, and then proceed as before.

The examples (right) show (l-r) a cube with the whole face pushed back, one with a line splitting the front face in half, and the right pushed back, and one with a design Drawn on, and then Pulled forwards!

NOTE: If you are working on a Component, you must first double-click the component to make sure you are working within it, rather than on the main scene. Also, be aware that alterations made to One component will affect all copies of that component!

This tool can be used to create many effects, including removing a section from an object by Pushing it until it is level with the opposing face (Snap Effect!).

We’ll leave it there for today.

Practice with these tools, and experiment with creating your own Objects.

Let me know how you get on, and the best examples I receive might get featured in my next post!

Happy SketchUping!

Part Three

Sketchup – A Beginner’s Guide

Sketchup 3D design software from Trimble (previously from Google) is a very simple, yet powerful, program. Starting from basic shapes, you can build up to elaborate designs, ranging from small engineering components to vibrant cityscapes.

A lot of people are put off from using 3D design packages as they see them as complicated and fiddly, but with Sketchup, this is not true at all!

Here I would like to look at some of the most basic features, and how they can be used to create advanced designs.

I will be walking you through features, so it will help to have Sketchup running, and switch between it and this page (You know how to use ALT-TAB, yes?)

To Begin

The Opening Screen

The Opening Screen

Obviously you will need to download, install and open the program. It is available here:  https://www.sketchup.com/

Once you  have it up and running, you should see the Main Screen, with tools all around. We shall be learning what some of these tools are for.

First, though, some basic controls. I would advise trying these now, to gain some familiarity

  • The Mouse Wheel controls zooming in and out. It will focus on where the mouse pointer is, so scrolling out, and then back in can be a useful way of moving around the scene.
  • The Mouse Wheel also controls the angle you are looking from. Holding it down, and moving the mouse will rotate the camera.
  • Left-Clicking will select an Object. You can tell it is selected by the Blue border it gains. You can also do this by dragging a Selection Box around an object, but this will select EVERYTHING it contains, so use caution!

Adding Objects

The Square Tool

The Square Tool

Your scene is currently quite bare, so let’s add some features! Strangely, for a 3D program, we do not add 3D shapes. We draw 2d shapes, and extrude them. This is easier than it sounds!

Begin by selecting the Square tool, from either the Top or Left Menu. Your Mouse Pointer will change to reflect the current tool (as always). Click where you would like to begin, and move the Pointer around. You will see the Shape begin to form. If you move around enough, you may notice the useful Snap effect. Sketchup tries to guess if you wanted to line up with something, and “snaps” to be level with it. We will not use this now, but be aware of it as you go forwards.

Snap Effect in action

Snap Effect in action

In the bottom right-hand corner, you will notice the “Dimensions” area. This shows the dimensions of the Object you are creating. It also allows you to directly enter the Dimensions you would like. Try making a square 10 feet by 10 feet. Watch the Dimensions area, and do not worry about being exact. Once you have clicked to place the square, ,type “10, 10” (without quotes), and hit Return. You will notice that the square becomes exactly 10 inches by 10 inches! You must put a ‘ (apostrophe) after the number, to signify Feet! Try again! (Pro-Tip: CTRL-Z will undo your last action(s))

You can now test some of the Selection methods. Choose the Select Tool (an Arrow, like a normal Mouse Pointer), and try clicking an edge, or the face. Try double-clicking.

The Third Dimension

Cube

A Cube! (Sort of!)

You have a square, but we want a 3D object! So, select the Push/Pull Tool, and move over your Square. You should notice the face become ‘spotty’, to show that it is selected. Click on the face, and move the pointer. The face will “extrude” to form a solid. Again, note the Dimensions area. You can try to get the right height for your box, or click in approximately the right area, and then type the distance you actually wanted!

Groups and Components

Before we go further, I can’t stress enough about using Groups and Components! USE THEM! Select a complete object by treble-clicking on it with the Select Tool. This Selects all connected edges and faces. Then press “G” (for “Group”). This locks the object, allows it to be manipulated independently of the rest of the scene, and moved as one piece.

It also allows you to replicate objects without having to recreate them, using less memory and being able to edit them all at once!

If you move normal pieces together, they will connect. This is good if you want them to, but you cannot un-connect them without a lot of work. Groups or Components that touch will “Snap” together, but you can move them apart easily! They are effectively their own “mini-scenes”.

NOTE: To edit an object once it has been made a Component, you need to double-click it to “enter” the component. Or “Explode it, making ti a non-Component again.

Moving Objects and Components

The Move Tool

The Move Tool

I get a lot of use out of the Push/Pull tool, so watch closely!

Adding pieces is easy enough, especially using the “Snap” effect. Make two cubes of different sizes. Make them into Components. Click on the “Move” tool. Hovering over an object will outline it in blue to show it is selected. You can “grab” any part of it and drag it around. The Snap effect will try to guess if you are moving it along an axis, or you can hold the cursor keys to force it to lock the movement to an axis, if for example, you only want to raise the object without affecting its horizontal position.

If you “grab” an edge, or corner, you can take advantage of the Snap, and line it up with another object. Try this with your two cubes. Put the smaller cube on top of the larger. Rotate the View to make sure they are in the right place, with no gaps.

Summary

Two "cubes"

Two “cubes”

You should now be able to create and move blocks in your scene. The best idea now is to practice this, creating blocks of specific sizes, placing them together in specific ways.

Do not forget to save your work!

Have a go at this, and let me know how you get on!

The next part will deal with some other basic techniques. If you have any features you wish to know about, feel free to let me know!

Part Two

New Fangled Gadgets

Why, back in my day …

The height of sophistication!

Trimphone! The height of sophistication!

… we didn’t have mobile telephones. We had one “land line”. In the hall. (Actually, due to Dad being paid “in-kind” rather than in cash for one job he did, we were one of the few families who had multiple phones in the house, but I digress). It had no “speed-dial”, or saved numbers. Just a ring of digits that you could dial individually to make up the required Number. If someone else was using it, you had to wait. If you were using it, you had to endure a parent glancing at their watch, and tutting (especially if it was before the 6pm cheap-rate!). The lack of privacy became noticeable as teenage years arrived. I recall changing my pound notes(!) into 10p coins and going to a local “phone box” in the village, rather than have my family overhear conversations with my friends. Ah, good times …

Or was it? It may sound like the moanings of a pre-Millennial, but we did get by without them. Mostly. Sure, I missed a few good parties because people couldn’t contact me. I failed to talk to a local girl I fancied because both of us were being eaves-dropped on by parents. I annoyed some friends because I missed the bus, and they had to wait around, not knowing whether I was on my way or not. But we got by. Mostly.

These days …

iPhone - new-fangled gizmo

Dang new-fangled gizmo

… I see too many of my generation (and previous generations) bemoaning the very existence of Global Communication Technology. They take that last paragraph I wrote, and turn it into a crusade. “Kids these days are not social” … “they don’t play outside” … “they have no real friends” … “We got by without mobile phones!”

Who do they think kids are talking to on their phones? I understand the dangers of ‘strangers on the internet’ (better than most, my alter-ego being PC Wizard), but mostly, they seem to be communicating with their school-mates. Arranging when to meet down at the local park. Checking who is going to the football match at the weekend. Apologising for being late, and finding out where people will be. Checking that their mate who hasn’t arrived is OK. Swapping gossip, and giving out #spoilers for the latest TV shows (“Netflix”, I think they watch, these days).

Yesterday:

I went to my niece’s first birthday party. It was a wonderful affair, with family and friends gathered to wish my niece and her parents the best for the future.

I got my invite via Facebook, and texted Lucretia to arrange our attendance. I checked the location, and driving directions, from my mobile phone. We kept in touch with everyone, complicated by Lucretia’s recent illness*, via TXT, Facebook, voicemail, and email.

Would I have attended without mobile phones? Probably, but it would not have been so easy.

The Future:

Mobile technology is not going away. People who are new to it will get used to it. The newer generations will have grown up with it, and wonder how we got by without, in the same way that we wonder how the world worked without radio, motorised transport and frozen food.

It seems odd to think that the iPhone is only 10 years old. We have come so far, to be able to carry a mobile computer, capable of linking to the Global Superhighway, and processing data faster than our forefathers thought was possible. The main question it leaves me with is: What next for mobile technology?

3d Printing is becoming more common, but feed-stock currently precludes it from being truly portable. Bio-monitoring (heart-rate, pulse, sugar levels etc) is advancing. Augmented Reality may attempt to surface again, although Google Glass failed to take off, and Pokemon Go is ‘only’ a game. The veil between the “real world” and “cyberspace” is breaking down, and who knows where that will take us!

We should not mourn the loss of the past, but rather celebrate the onrushing Future, and grasp it with both hands, lest it slip past us!

*Another example of how Modern Technology helped us to communicate! Her days at the hospital were greatly eased by being in constant (txt/Facebook) communication with her nearest and dearest, even though they could not be physically at her side.

Fancy Dress Party! (Comic Con Leicester)

(A Little late, I know …)

So, I made a joke about dressing up as Merlin, and before you can say “Anál nathrach, orth’ bháis’s bethad, do chél dénmha“, Lucretia has bought tickets to Comic Con Leicester, and re-purposed one of her old dresses as a Wizard’s robe!

Details of her crafting efforts are on her Facebook page, and well worth a look!

After all the swearing, and shouting, and throwing glue, plaster-of-Paris, Warbla plastic sheets and silver paint at me, the walls, and anything else in range, and once the blisters from the hot glue had healed, we ended up with outfits that captured if not the exact, “Is that really Helen Mirren and Nicol Williamson?” effect, then a good nod towards them. Clad in our fur cloaks, we headed into the 25’C heat and crossed town to the Athena Arena, where all manner of strangely-attired folk were gathering.

A dinosaur having it's photo taken by a masked man

Arriving at the Venue

The first sign that this was no ordinary Saturday in Leicester was the man in a strange mask taking a selfie with a mechanical dinosaur! The Jurassic Park crew were in attendance, but I’m not sure who he was meant to be. Maybe you can enlighten me?

inside the venue, we were greeted by a Pirate, several Star Wars Droids, and a stall selling cold drinks for outrageous prices. We headed into the main auditorium, where various vendors were vocally vending their wares. A sea of Pokemon Plushies, We-Draw-You-As-A-Sloth artists, toy dolls of all varieties (unfortunately, I couldn’t find any Nick Cave ones), and, of course, comics!

On the stage, people were being taught Light Sabre skills, and a side room had talks by authors I had never heard of, on genres I can only wonder about!

And there was cake!

Cakes

CAKE!

After we had nommed all the cakes, and paid HOW MUCH?!?! for a couple of beers, we chatted with a young lad (16? 18? 25? Damn kids! Why, back in my day …) who had only decided to attend three days before, leaving his mother very little time to make his costume! She seemed very supportive of his hobby, and it showed in the details of his outfit (even if the sword across his back did bop her on the head occasionally!).

We took a break from the convention centre, and spent some time outside, surveying the assembled crowds. Lucretia wouldn’t allow me to take photos of the ladies wearing only body-paint, but you can trust my judgement that the Lady Predator, and Poison Ivy were immaculately inked, with much attention to detail!

Morgana and a Jedi

Morgana (Lucretia) taking a break from bat wing and snake skin. Also, a ( very) young Jedi.

Later on was the Masquerade! A chance for the costumers to show off their creations! I was bundled towards the signing-up stand, and quizzed about who we were meant to be! After recommending John Boorman’s movie to anyone who would listen, we were put in a queue and waited our turn for 15 seconds of fame.

Unfortunately, this meant we missed the Kiddies Cosplay. We’d seen several very cute younglings, including a 4 year old Wonder Woman whose tiara kept falling over her eyes!

In the queue, we chatted with our fellow Fancy Dress Folk, including Dr Who (David Tennant version), a proudly-shoddy Batman, and a Warhammer 40k Imperial Guardsman.

A video of the procession (By Dalek Sram) can be found on YouTube (skip to 2:58 for us!), but here is what we looked like:

Merlin And Morgana

Merlin And Morgana

The Best Judge in the World!

The Best Judge in the World!

Apparently, the judges were only supposed to choose the best three costumes, but this lady insisted that they also have three “Honourable Mentions”.

The Big Daddy robot costume was a no-brainer. A huge amount of effort, and well-deserved Mention.

The Imperial Guardsman we’d chatted with was also called up to take a bow.

But the most surprising was when they asked “The Excalibur couple” to take their place on stage! YAY! All of Lucretia’s hard work had paid off! We didn’t win a cash prize, or an all-expenses-paid trip to the Anime studios, but we did have the attention of the entire convention (if only for a few moments!).

To finish, the last couple of pictures:

Lucretia meets Negan

Lucretia meets Negan

Dark Magician Girl

Dark Magician Girl

 

So, yes, we had lots of fun! Chatted with some interesting people, saw some very silly costumes (including non-costumes, if you include the body-paint ladies!), and failed to buy any merchandise! We will be attending next year! Watch this space for our costume ideas!

 

 

Rory, Rory, Tell Us A Story!

Rory's Story Cubes (Fright)

Fright Cubes!

We recently attended a friend’s birthday gathering, and while we were sat celebrating our success at the Ludorati Escape Room, one of the guests produced a handful of what we initially thought were dice. But these were no ordinary dice! These were Rory’s Story Cubes! Sets of dice, but instead of being marked with the traditional ‘pips’ or numbers, these featured pictures. One set (“Fright”, pictured left) had skulls, ghosts, traps and other scary images, while the second (“Clues”) was covered with symbols you might expect from a detective novel, such as Magnifying Glass, Fingerprint, DNA Helix, and Blood-Stain! Each set has three dice, and although there are many ways to use them, we went for the simplest: Roll all 6 dice, and make a story from how they land! Mix the order around to suit. We took turns to explain what our roll signified, each of us telling a more spine-chilling tale than the last, until we felt it best to stop, lest we scare away the other patrons of The Salutation!

There are currently nearly two dozen sets of Story Cubes, each featuring 3-9 dice, in various themes (including Dr Who, and Moomins, to go with the more generic Actions and Voyages!). “Rules” are included with each set, but they are more like guidelines, and the symbols and pictures do not have set meanings. The DNA spiral might mean finding a bio-metric clue, such as hair, or you may feel it refers to a family connection! The Portcullis could indicate a castle, but might be some other protected building, such as a Bank Vault, or even a person acting in a guarded manner!

Story Cubes

What Would You Write?

Here we have one of the stories we told! Shadow-in-Doorway -> Poison -> No Entry -> Microscope -> Television -> Blood!

I’m sure you can come up with your own tale about these pictures! Is the shadowed figure the Hero or Villain? Why is the entrance barred? Who’s blood ends the tale?

No two stories are ever the same! In fact, we had fun taking the same dice, and each telling a different story from them! In one, it wasn’t poison, but a Forbidden Potion that had magical properties!

An excellent way to cure writer’s block, or just while away an afternoon, you can use them solo, or with a group of friends. Mix and match them as you like. Stick to the “Rules”, or make your own! YOU are the author of these tales!

I am tempted to use a few of these cubes to tie in with my #WhatWouldYouWrite twitter feed, asking readers to interpret the minimal cues I provide (often #TodaysTitle), and suggest possible stories. Is that something you would be interested in? Do you search for inspiration? Search no more! Rory’s Story Cubes are here!

Why not tell us about what stories you have told with them? Or what you use to inspire your tales? Or even how you spend your days?

More Redesigns

To try to keep a coherent feel cross the Mad Dwarf brand, I have begun rebuilding the PC Wizard website.

Taking the main Mad Dwarf site as a template (as I have with Crystal Wizard and TechNo Prisoners), I have kept the blue and white of the original PC Wizard, giving a level of continuity.

PC Wizard

PC Wizard redesign

I still have a few details to iron out, but it has been a reasonably easy job, copying text from the existing site into the new template, and tweaking to account for the design differences.

It will soon go live, at which point there will be an announcement, and possibly a Grand Re-Opening!  Watch This Space!

Another New Redesign (Again!)

As you may have noticed, the main site, thecrystalwizard.co.uk, has undergone a redesign.

This is part of the recent re-acquisition of our Mother Site, maddwarf.co.uk. Mad Dwarf Productions (MDP) was the original “umbrella organisation” for all of my projects, but due to circumstances beyond my control, the website fell into disrepair. My recent projects sprang up without the guiding light of MDP to keep them coherent, and the designs all went in their own directions.

Now that MDP is back, I am slowly bringing all of the wayward children back into the fold. TechnoPrisoners was designed alongside MDP, and actually sits as sub-site, befitting its station as the first incarnation of MDP-Online. Crystal Wizard has now been brought in line, and the other sites will soon follow.

While I do not profess to be a Master Web-Designer, I have put no small effort into both the technical and aesthetic sides of this design, and I hope it works for you!

The colour schemes have been colour-matched, using a different scheme for each site, to represent their unique flavours, while relying on a common template. The base concept of using labelled Image Links aims to make the site both visually attractive and easy to use, giving quick recognition to each area. Rounded corners softens the look, giving a slightly more informal feel.

Behind the scenes, files have been tidied, renamed and optimised, stripping away unused clutter. The code for the pages has been almost entirely rewritten, incorporating labelled areas (DIV and SECTION tags), and many design elements moved to separate Style Sheets, for ease of maintenance.

I have tried to follow Best Practices for accessibility, incorporating ALT tags to describe images, and making the pages compatible with screen-reading technology for text-to-speech systems.

The Dark Art of SEO (Search-Engine Optimisation) has featured, but as this Alchemy involves tainting ones soul with the ever-vain search for Impressions, Clicks and Likes, I have kept it to the minimum required.

Analytics are run through Google’s offerings, tracking page hits, entry and exit pages, user flow and interactions. This anonymised data is useful for gauging interest, and locating faults, and can be used to suggest area that can use more attention.

Instead of creating a separate Style for mobile devices, the base theme has been written to automatically adjust, allowing the device to display content appropriately. An important design consideration, as people have a wide range of technologies to view the Web on, with a variety of screen-sizes available.

I hope this will lead to a comfortable, coherent experience for my readers, and welcome any feedback regarding the new design!

Shakespeare Lives

I’m really not sure what to make of Viktoria Modesta‘s new feature: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream“.

Made as part of the British Council‘s Shakespeare Lives #2016 programme of events marking 400 years since the Bard’s death, it shows VM as Titania, linked to some kind of digital dreaming machine, playing out part of the famous production in a Virtual Reality.

Titania

Titania Dreaming

The video contains some very striking imagery, switching between the futuristic lab where Titania sleeps and her dark, neon-lit imagined-reality, where she dances, free to live out any fantasy she wishes. In the dream, she is clothed entirely in a white 3d-printed outfit resembling some kind of skeletal structure, contrasting with Bottom’s black leather ‘armour’ (complete with smooth, full-face mask). But beyond the imagery, what else is there?

The original play contained themes of Finding Oneself, Dreams vs Reality, and (of course) Sexual Tension. These themes are well reflected in this  modern telling, if conveyed in a way Shakespeare could hardly have dreamed(!) of. Oberon is concerned that Titania is losing herself in the Dream, and fixating on her idealised self-image. The masks worn in the Dreamed Reality mirror the ones worn by actors, if a little more dramatic(!).

Director Sing J Lee allows VM to explore infatuation, alter-ego overpowering self, and self-presentation, echoing the play-within-a-play of the original and asking questions of all who would stand on stage and perform (and of those of us who would not!).

As I began – I am still not entirely sure what to make of it. But I hope that it fulfils it’s main intention of drawing the next generation towards The Great Bard. And also, towards VM, who, I feel, has only started to make the impact that she is capable of!

VM

VM