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.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Monday, 20 January 2014

Bullets to Butterflies!

An artist friend of Jody's has a new art exhibit that we were able to lend a hand with.
The excerpt from the website says:

The Bullets to Butterflies exhibit is a show which can be featured at your school, museum or library.
The message of this exhibit is one of hope and to show the power of a single voice in the face of inequity and violence.  Malala Yousufzai is a 15 year old school girl, who with her writing and energy has brought much needed attention to the education emergency that exists in Pakistan.  Despite an attempt at her life, Malala’s message has not gone silent, in fact, the awareness of the education situation in Pakistan has become a global issue.  World leaders are making commitments to make changes in Pakistan, and the world, so children everywhere have access to education.
The exhibit consists of 15 art pieces, a video presentation and the installation of a 12 foot concrete wall with bullet holes.  The exhibit invites visitors to engage with the bullet wall by asking a question and placing their answers in the bullet holes.
If you are interested in having this exhibit come to your venue, or have any questions, please contact Huma Durrani at humadurrani@gmail.com or Saba Syed at siba_ali@yahoo.com.

The first part of the build was the 12 foot concrete wall. Of course, this would be a "movie wall", as a real one would suck eggs to move around!

The bones of the build are pretty basic. 3, four foot by 6 foot pieces of 3/4" plywood made the face of the wall. I built a frame of 2X3's around each panel that will allow them to bolt together. The jack stands in the back were built from 1x3's with cinder blocks as counter weights. Youd be pretty hard-pressed to topple this wall by yourself!

 The concrete texture was added by mixing Durabond 90 and white glue together, and parging it onto the plywood.
Then out came the texture roller. I do this step when the compound sets up a little. This gives a more believable texture, and doesn't get the 'whipped spikes' that happen when it's not ready.
Once the mixture is almost set, it gets buffed smooth-ish with the float.
I used an x-acto knife to drag different sized cracks in the wall. Not overly believable now, but when the wall gets painted, these will really sell it.
The 2 end sections got 6" returns on them. This will make the wall look thick and substantial when it's standing at the various shows.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Returning to Earth!

Due to technical difficulties, I was unable to get a time lapse of the pre-light. It's too bad, but that's how it rolls sometimes!

With the set pieces all located in they're final spot, the lighting crew set to work, running miles of cable and lights.
 The art director gave a hand at carving up some additional rocks that could be placed around the set where needed. In the end, it was only 3 extra rocks that we needed. If you can't tell, the studio was freezing first thing in the morning. And with the giant loading door open for bringing in the gear, the -40c air made things very uncomfortable! Even though the studio lighting eventually warmed up the studio, I wore my snowmobile suit until around 2 pm!

We painted up the 3 rocks in the wardrobe room just outside the studio. This was quite a bit warmer for paint drying than the studio was.
The first thing lit was the stars on the backdrop. For the first part of the morning, the art dept. rode around on the lift, punching holes through the canvas, to let the light blast through.

It wasn't long before things really started to come together!
Jody went around and filled any remaining seems with the sand ground cover. This was a mix of crushed brick and orange and red sand. However, once the moisture in the crushed brick dried off, it was far to light in color. It looked way better wet. Instead of wetting the set down every 2 minutes, to keep the color great, I sprayed it down with Pledge acrylic floor polish. This kept the brick wet looking. In order to remove the gloss from the floor polish treatment, the large rocks got dusted with spray glue to mat everything down.

 The lighting was quite dramatic in the end. Perfect! I couldn't shoot any more pictures after this, as the toy was on set, and I don't know if I can show pictures of it or not.
Another fun miniature base, these are my favourite by far!

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

MARS: Some assembly required!

Today was pretty chill as far as studio builds go! We arrived at the studio for around noon, and assembled the various pieces. Mostly it is just a guess, as no one knows for sure until a camera gets on it. The art director also wanted 3 more sections of rock for even more flexibility, so I carved 3 more small rocks, and we hardcoated them with plaster of paris. We'll paint these up first thing in the A.M!

I decided to set up a time-lapse video using our Gopro, so you could see just how a typical miniature base studio day goes.
I'm hoping to shoot a time lapse tomorrow of the pre-light. This is usually a little more exciting, as a whole lot more is going on.
So here you go:

Monday, 6 January 2014

MARS: The Yellow Oxide Planet.

I guess it is the Court Jester who cleans the shop.
The final texturing of the styrofoam base came with the use of sand and the torch. This made really quick work of the task. The 3 combined set pieces total out at 20' long, so quick was what we wanted!

Lots and lots of rock outcroppings, that's for sure! We base coated everything with yellow oxide latex paint. This will be the first layer of 3 colors. Not everything will get glazed in detail, the stuff further back on the set will get less, and the up close stuff will get more treatments.

This was the result after the first coat of glaze. We went with a reddish brown for the first layer.

 The next few layers got darker and darker, with a wash of burnt umber as the final step.
The pictures kind of suck the life out of the colors, but they look quite good in person.
These pieces shipped out this morning to go to the studio.
The last part of the build is a table with a tilting top. The 16' long table will have the middle portion of the set on it, allowing us to adjust the final tilt angle on the day.
I didn't get any pictures of the table construction, as I will actually be building the final piece in the studio tomorrow. I just basically cut all the pieces today, for a screw together assembly tomorrow. This should make for smooth sailing I hope!

Friday, 3 January 2014

Mars Does Have a Ruler!

It didn't take Jody very long to whip up a hotwire foam crown to establish herself as the leader of Mars. Hopefully she'll put that broom to some use during her reign as Princess!

JODY EDIT : "Um, I was just getting ready to hand the broom off to Jamie. Everyone know's it's the court jester who has to sweep".
With the basic shape laid out, and the hotwire crater glued in. We just need to cheat the front of the set with a couple more layers of 3" foam. I doubt they'll ever shoot below the surface, but this gives them some flexibility to see down into the crater. I do believe one of the toys marches to his death into the crater.
Due to adding 6 more inches to the front edge of the set piece, we needed to fill out the rest of the underside with offcuts so it will sit on it's table surface without wobbling all over the place.
With type1 styrofoam being the least dense of the foams we use, I feel better if I bore 1 3/8" holes through all the layers and inject foam into the pockets. We spray it with water first, then put tape over the openings to compress the foam expansion. This will give us a strong glue core of additional bonding strength.
We moved onto the hardcoating for the main play base next.
The crater looks fantastic, but I think I'll break the edge of the base when it hardens up. I feel that transition is a little harsh at the moment.

The 2 main rocks that will act as blinders on each side of the set were sculpted and coated next. These will barely be in frame during the shoot, but they will block the camera from shooting off the set, cause that can really suck sometimes! Especially if it's our fault :)

They wanted the surface kind of swiss-cheesy looking, so we started by chipping away at the dried hard coat, and melted in rough pockets with a torch.
The very back, third row of the set has 3, 8 foot stylized mountain ranges. This will blend the foreground right through to the painted backdrop. Our hot-wire bow cutter is adjustable up to four feet, so we just roughly ran it down the length of the sheet, letting the bow shape the face.

Using our smaller hot-wire bow cutter, I shaped the main rock that will play center frame of the commercial. I wanted this to look like several alien rocks, jutting out at sharp angles. The little bow cutter is quite a bit slower than the big one, but in time it did the job great.
The final shapes look really cool. There's three of them, all at different angle, and will look so good on the textured base.

The middle of the set, which is just behind the main set, was made from 6 sheets of foam, cut into pie shaped pieces. When these are all together, and tilted toward the camera, it will have a nice, large curve to it, sort of like a horizon line. This whole surface will get a similar texture to the main set. Although we don't need to hardcoat the whole thing. Mainly we'll just use the hardcoat as a filler between the different shapes, blending them together.
 My other new tool is this 4 foot 11 inch tall mud mixing machine. It mixes the mud very well, but the hardest part of using it is trying to get it started in the morning!

 With all of the pieces now coated, Saturday will be the painting day. I hope it goes super quick, as I haven't finished the bathroom at home yet, and I'm getting a little tired of looking at it!