Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Shower of Shot

Now I'd produced my "Monkhouse" font, my next job was to produce a caption using it. The Monkhouse font needs to be used very large to be legible, so the ATV graphic designers merged the letters together to give themselves enough room.

I also love the fact that the words are not centred.

I looked at the example above and noticed that the outer two outlines were fused together. By putting my letters over the ones in the screen-grab I worked out that the fourth outline of each letter should overlap the third outline of the letter to its left.

To do this letter fusing I used Inkscape and the letter outlines I'd drawn to import into FontForge. I used them rather than the true-type font simply because they were already the right size. I did this fusing a letter at a time, left to right. First of all I'd overlap the letters.

Overlap the letters

Then I'd merge the two outer outlines using the Inkscape Path Union feature. After that I deleted the areas of the merged path I didn't want. The quickest way to do this was simply to draw a rectangle over an area of the overlap...

Rectangle over the overlap

...and then use the Path Difference feature....

Path Difference

...and then tidy up the paths using the Nodes tool.

And Bob's Your Uncle

Then I'd do the same thing again for the second outline in.

Here's the finished caption in Inkscape:

The end result.

After Rory OK-ed the end result he asked if I wanted to have a go at animating a title sequence for him. I said I would, provided I could get Macromedia Flash 8 to behave on Ubuntu GNU/Linux (I don't have a copy of Windows). WINE is a very clever piece of free software that allows programs written for Microsoft Windows family of operating systems to run on the GNU/Linux operating system.

I already had WINE installed so I tried installing my copy of Macromedia Flash 8 and it worked perfectly. The only problem was the lack of anti-aliasing on some of the smaller fonts used on the interface and some of the keyboard short-cuts I liked using not working.

The next problem I had was how to export my Inkscape design into Flash. After doing a few tests the best format to use for the Inkscape to Flash 8 transfer seemed to be Encapsulated Postscript or ".eps".

Now I was sure I could do something useful in Flash I got back to Rory and asked him which music he wanted to use. Rory quite rightly sent me back a copy of the late sixties/early seventies theme that was used for the longest amount of time. However, there was something missing - I wanted the "left a bit, right a bit, fire" that I remembered from my childhood. I suggested Rory cull it from the start of the final season's title sequence.

I wanted to include this because I wanted to add the iconic ATV Colour Zoom logo at start of the sequence and have Bob smash it to pieces with a crossbow.

First of all I traced the bolt and bow from the final season titles - this was a very easy job as the shapes were quite simple. I layered a few gradient fills on top of each other to get a kind of "airbrushed" effect.

Running on GNU/Linux? That's Flash...

Then I needed to smash the ATV logo to pieces. The first thing I needed to do was break apart my ATV logo in Flash so that it was all one symbol on one layer with no groups. Then I drew a "crack" shape on top of it. Finally, I turned the pieces inside each bit of the "crack" into separate symbol so I could animate them.

Lady Plowden did this too...

Although it's very simple it worked quite well. As far as the titles themselves were concerned I wanted to copy the final season titles with the bolt setting off on a journey with concentric rings of airbrushed items giving an impression of movement.

This is what I wanted to copy...

One of the items I needed to borrow from those original titles was, naturally, an apple. Tracing the apple in Flash was an absolutely horrible job, and reminded me how lucky I am to be able to draw things in Inkscape most of the time. I decided not to draw the apple in Inkscape as I had no way of getting the gradient fills from Inkscape into Flash - they come across as bitmaps in all the formats I tried. This was no good as all of the objects I drew had to change size dramatically in the finished animation so they really had to be totally vector shapes.

Looks sweet, but rotten to do.

If you've never watched "The Golden Shot" you may not know that over the theme music an announcer says "...Live, from Birmingham...". To illustrate the "from Birmingham" part I wanted a ring of ATV logos to appear. That was simplicity itself. But for the "...Live..." part I wanted to show the reason for the program being live - a telephone. "The Golden Shot" was a program where viewers at home could phone in and play.

In the later seasons of "The Golden Shot" a gold plated Trimphone was used, and I just had to have a trimphone in the titles as they are the essence of Britain in the seventies. I found a website with pictures of trimphones and I'm sure you'll be delighted to know the trimphone I used as reference material was one of the series designed by Lord Snowden.

Something beginning with T: Trimphone - lovely!!!!!

Finally, I wanted to have a postcard, as viewers writing-in was an important part of the programme too. I used my Queen's head and stamp perforations I'd designed many moons ago to use on a recreation of an ITV Schools and Colleges interval transparency. Anyone familiar with Bob's life story will understand the significance of what's actually written on the card.

And I want them served on that nice silver cake stand...

Sadly I currently don't have access to the fantastic Swift3D here in England - I left my serial number in the UK and you can't export without it. If I had, I would have used it to realise one of Rory's original concepts for the title sequence.

What he asked me to do was to make the "O" rotate when it is hit by a crossbow bolt so that it looked like an "i" when it was on its edge so we got a shit/shot gag on the main title card. In fact, if I had had Swift3D I would also have recreated the wonderful psychedelic silver tube effect from the 1972 title sequence as well - it truly has to be seen to be believed.

1 comment:

Dawson said...

In retrospect the O/I rotate would have been over-egging the pudding. The silver tube effect would have been wonderful to see though!

It's really astonishing to see just how much work you put into it all. I'm sure many designers bung out what they can get away with as quickly as possible, but there's always real heart in what you do.

Bob of course had a very distinct handwriting style – two in fact – public and private – and there's certainly enough handwritten material extant to create a font out of – not that I’m advocating you should!

The other thing about The Shot was that the final series was pre-recorded so its USP was somewhat blunted. They didn't make reference to the fact in the show and I daresay the slight deceit of having the contestants 'phoning in' from round the back rather than from home would have today made a front page Daily Mail outrage.