When I lent my services to a collegue who was working on a film about 12 years ago, I was introduced to the world of cnc. I remember watching this huge machining centre milling out a slab of mdf and turning it into a fantastic set of gears. I knew that it would have taken me hours to achieve the same thing with traditional power tools. I decided then that I would invest in a cnc router for my own business Oxenham Design. At that time I could turn on a computer, but even to check email seemed like a crazy set of operations. I persevered and learned every piece of relevant software I could get my hands on. I am now fortunate enough to be using Vectric's ASPIRE software, and Techno cnc routers, which has helped us to create some amazing projects, both in part, or in full. I thought that this blog would be a great place to share "behind the scenes" adventures with the software, materials and equipment we use, as well as the projects we build.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Is that the light at the end of the tunnel?

First off, I hate not posting regularly. It makes me feel out of touch for some reason. I find that posting at the end of each day wraps up the events that happened, and helps me get my bearings for the next day! The 6 days since my last post have been exhausting. I was able to take a day off today to catch up on my highly neglected quad copter camera rig. I do feel a little re-charged, and I shouldn't have to do weeks of 18 hour days for a bit.

The Zeby Derby build progressed at an extremely quick pace, considering all that was left to do.
The helicopter character "Chase" spent quite awhile in the body shop. As the budget doesn't allow for new body pulls of the character, it became a glue and paint repair job. There were  few cracks in the panels, and tons of paint chips. Jody spent a good day feathering out all the paint chips. We were able to mask off the graphics, so they didn't need replacing.
In the end, Chase looked as good as when we first created him. Although, I'm sure this will be the last shooting season for these panels. We didn't make the molds for this character last year, they were hand made by someone in production, so If we have to re-do this guy next year, we'll cnc all new parts, making it easier to assemble, being that all the parts will fit together properly!
The other job on the go was building the garage for "Ratchet" the pink utility truck. John designed up the building, and we both kind of worked on assembly. I ran the pvc for the 1.5" siding strips while John assembled all his pieces into a structure.

Once the walls were sided, and pre-drilled for assembly, it was off to paint. We went with a blue-ish grey, complimenting the pink accents that the finished building will have.
The 2 roof panels got textured in a faux gravel look. This saved some time over making the roof with shingles, which we were originally planning to do.

Once they paint dried, John got it all assembled into it's final structure. Look, we even do miniature signs! On set, the whole outside of the building will be strewn with various colorful car parts, including stacks of rims and tires leaning against the posts.

The director brought us these extended grippers that they wanted painted the construction vehicle color. I do believe one of these will get hacked and will hang from the crane truck. This will allow them to pick things up in camera easily, while the editing will make it look like the crane truck is actually doing it.
The other item they asked for was a Zerby Derby vehicle lift. This will reside outside Ractchets garage, and she'll be able to repair the other Zerbies with her robotic arm. Only on camera of course!
Jody was able to get the additional sleepy and closed eyes made for some of the vehicles that required them. The half closed ones are my favorite!
I also had to fabricate the heli landing pad for the helicopter. I went back and forth with the best materials for this, and decided that I would just weld up a steel frame. The legs need to adjustable, so I used 2 sizes of steel tubing, and welded a nut to the outer tubing, allowing them to adjust and lock the legs to whatever terrain it may have to sit on.
 The actual pad was made from white 1/4" pvc, masked with the character logo, and textured like gravel. It would look good with a big H, but there can't be numbers or letters at all, so the heli's logo made the best sense.
There was a fairly big set back in the middle of it all, as they changed the color on two characters, so we ended up having to pull a pile more car and truck bodies with a new color scheme. The maximum amount of cars bodies we can turn out a day is five, so it really ended up pushing us to our limits! This wasn't an easy task to fulfill with the Saturday delivery schedule. So we had to work even more hours to get it done, and delivered to location for Saturday afternoon. We succeeded, but were pretty tired!
Jody and I got back to the house around 5 pm Saturday, and I went to bed!
Which was a good thing, because we were now 2 days behind on our next build. The new build was for 4, full size airplane seats for a print campaign. There will be 4 full seats, 2- 5" thick red X's, and 3 chair backs that they'll shoot through. The pre-light was on Wednesday, for shooting today.

I'll post that build over the next day or two, while we start on a 7 foot cartoon, hockey playing shark!
Say that ten times really fast!

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Taking off!

The plane character finally got finished and delivered the other evening.
This was the E-flite rc plane donor body. We needed to change the graphics on the plane to in no way resemble the kit. This was for a multitude of reasons as you can imagine.

I had used a couple of plastic cup bottoms, back filled with autobody filler to make the final shape. A piece of .060" styrene was wrapped around to become the windshield glazing.
The vacuum forming went pretty smoothly, and once they were trimmed out, test fitted to plane.
Perfect! They just need some paint.

 I tasked John with drawing the graphics and we cut them from regular vinyl. Way easier than a paint job, and as the plane is all styrofoam, painting it was out of the question.
Dang! That's a lot of pink! They wanted the "Ratchet" character, who happens to be a girl utility truck, to be very pink! And pink she is!
One of Ratchet's features that they wanted was a lantern that would only light when attached to the truck. John hacked a small novelty lantern, and installed a micro switch on the side. When the lantern plugs into the trucks oversized outlet, 4 rare earth magnets lock it to the side, and the switch closes, lighting the lantern.
The robotic arm, which was laser cut from 1/4" clear acrylic, got brushed aluminum vinyl applied to all the surfaces we could get at. There was no way we were going to pull this thing apart! The arm has a total 6 degrees of freedom, and you actually need to be an octopus to control it! I'm glad it's not going to be me!

The chassis actually had to go back to production, so I couldn't get a picture of it finished on the chasis with the eyes. But this is the basic layout of the truck and arm together. The mid section sits quite a bit higher here than on the actual chassis. It still looks good though.
This is how the truck looks with the arm removed, and the "solar charging station" in it's place.
Here is the outlet and charge status indicator. We purposely made a weird looking outlet. This will let the show air in different countries, without tying it back to North America. That's why there are no letters, numbers or words. That way it can be overdubbed in any language.

We added small switches on the truck to allow them to set the "charge level" indicators, depending on what the script calls for.
 Here she is all lit up, ready to cave explore with here pink lantern.
On a side note, a tragic, on set accident, saw Bob the boats head dropped onto the rocks. This resulted in him suffering a severe cranial fracture. We won't be able to fix this at all. I think the animatronic eye plate survived, but not the head! The PET-G does seem to brittle out once the paint has fully hardened, and as we made these last year, it probably contributed to the damage.  The mold we made last year, which was only intended for a couple of pulls, got destroyed, so I guess poor Bob doesn't get a stunt double this year.


Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Let it snow!

Last weeks shoot went very well!
Part of the job was a miniature snow effects set.
 75 pounds of baking soda was the snow of choice! This got spread around the edges of the model base. It was sculpted into approximate hills. The soda is very fine, and even the finest brush leaves unnatural marks in the snow. To deal with this, the soda gets sieved over the brush marks, then gently tamped with a super soft, oversized cotton ball.

 Jody does a great job on this sort of thing. She seems to have a natural talent for shoveling snow, probably because it's full size snow to her!
 I put the scissors in for a scale reference. After the snow gets gently tamped to remove the brush marks, we spend quite a while with the compressor, gently blowing the baking soda, letting it drift and carve, just like it's full size counterpart. It's not hard to imagine the upper photo as being a real landscape in the arctic.

This was one of the sets that needed to be dressed. We didn't build it, we just had to dress it

The first step was to get the snow berms laid, and the chicken wire stapled down. This will be the structure for the snow blanket.
With the chicken wire all in place, we rolled out the fluffy blankets, and overlap the seams away from camera.

We use 2 different sized snow flakes on set. We use a large polyflake, which is a ground up white plastic, for the background due to it's larger texture. For the close to camera snow, we use a ground up styrofoam flake, which is amazing, and ultra-realistic even up super close.
The other part of the snow was using our small snow foamer over the windows in the set. this machine basically pumps out chunks of soapy foam that falls super realistic. You can set the size and quantity you want at the machine. This foamer was about 18 feet in the air on a Sky High stand. This made it a little difficult to reload, but we survived! Not the most fuel efficient car on the lot, it used over 2 gallons of fluid for the window scenes. Jody was tasked with running the machine. But due to her small stature, she had to stand on the lift to reach the remote. Silly Jody ! In fact, when she was getting off the lift, she banged her eye, which left a slight bruise. So you can imagine the jokes at Jamie's expense on set :)

It was a great shoot, that's for sure!

Back to the Zerby Derby.

Monday, 16 September 2013

getting close to done!

We got home from set last week pretty late Friday night. Then back at the shop first thing Saturday!
The first thing was to get the last decal on Bob the boat. Both these boats were in pretty rough shape when we got them back from last years shoot. Jody did a great job feathering out the chips and chunks, and prepping him for painting. His paint was 3 days dry when we got back from set, so on went his graphics!

We managed the last minute color change on 10 vehicles just in time for pick-up on Saturday, as well as some finishing accessories for a couple more characters. On the Rose character above, we made little wooden box sides to hold in the "dirt pile". Jody made that from Apoxie sculpt epoxy putty, then she planted a silk rose right in the middle. This should bob around when Rose drives around, akin to a little dog wagging it's tail!

All day Sunday was spent cutting a HUGE pile of 300 pcs of cardboard for road painting stencils. We do these periodically for the Township's road department. While I was running our Techno, Jody was painting the 30 pcs for the beer tap handles we do as well.

 She cast these from the mold we made last year and sprayed them out a light beige color. Then dragged a coarse brush over them with a dark gel stain to simulate woodgrain. I sprayed them up with a tinted urethane clear, and when they were dry, Jody had the task of painting the text in white!

Most of today was spent taping the cut road stencil sections together. While John and Jody worked on those, I had to get started on the 2 planes that are being picked up tomorrow evening, for shooting on Wednesday. I had envisioned this character wearing old school aviator goggles. I thought about drawing the 3d file up, and cnc-ing it, but the time it would take to get the existing plane into the computer would just take too long. I decided to use 2 plastic cup bottoms for the base form of the goggles.
Once the cups were located over the eyeballs (not an easy thing to do through an opaque cup) I filled the gaps with body-filler. This will get cleaned up in the AM, and vacuum formed into one thin piece of plastic. The plan is to cut the bottom out of the vacuum formed cups, and install a clear piece of PET-G as the glass lens. Unless the reflections obscure the eyeball, then it won't get any lenses. We still have to draw up all the striping for the planes as well, but it shouldn't take to long!