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.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Painting all the way..............

The painting took a long time on this build. Almost everything was hand painted, as masking for different colors would have been a nightmare!
I added a small OPEN sign that we mounted to the ice-cream sculpture out front of the store. This way, ice cream will be available 24 hours a day, forever! Muhahaha!
The roadway pattern we had printed, and the sidewalks were 1/4" MDF painted. The buildings were the worst thing ever to paint. The light acrylic colors have no opacity at all. This meant a minimum of 3 coats on all the trim. This was Jody's cross to bear for a couple of days! If I ever do anything similar to this, I would laser cut craft foam for the trim, and glue it on. Painting the trim was a colossal waste of time. The other thing that we ended up doing differently, was the awnings. And every building had them. Because I squashed the buildings on the z axis, this left very little separation between the awning stripes. This meant that painting 3 coats on every other stripe was quickly turning into a very amateurish looking building.
I decided to cut vinyl for the stripes instead. But this meant figuring out HOW to draw something to cut. After pondering my dilemma at 2 am, I had an idea!
I was able to select the polygon edgeloop of every other awning stripe, extract it, and export it out actual size for vinyl cutting.
This worked almost flawlessly! Just some very minor tweaking of the cut graphic, on one of the buildings! It's amazing what a clean, crisp, opaque stripe can do for the overall look of the whole project!

All in all, this was a great build! The time allotted was about 1 day less than I would have liked, but we got it done! Everyone loved the build, and it was an overall size of 7 feet by 5 feet. Big enough that they won't have to worry about shooting off the base at the edge of frame!

Ahhhhhh...........I looove my job!

Jody and I wish all of you a VERY happy Holiday Season, and we wish that the New Year brings every one of you happiness, health and wealth!
Until 2016 my friends!

Jamie and Jody


Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Back to the Miniatures!

We sort of got caught off guard with 2 builds, and 2 new shoot dates for before Christmas. We shot the second one yesterday, but I can't disclose anything until next summer :(

But, back to the interrupted miniatures build we were working on!
The next little asset I had to make was the picnic table that will sit outside the ice cream store.
I re-modeled the original umbrella model they supplied, just to make the machining a little cleaner.
I brought my model into Aspire, and found a good height for the split. It was a little too thick to double side machine from 2" material, so I cut it in 2 halves.

We also got a request for 4 more additional buildings to populate around the set. They didn't need to be as complicated as the ice cream store, but they needed to still look good. And with the deadline quickly approaching, I decided to try a different approach to them.
I brought the buildings into Hexagon, rotated them to camera a little bit, then squashed them on the z axis. I did have to elongate the depth on all the details, so when I squished it down, there would still be some detail to be able to paint.
Once into Aspire, I set the z height to exactly 2 inches, so as to fit into the material we're working with.

The end result looks really good with some side lighting to make the details really pop.
Meanwhile, Jody was making some pretty decent headway on the painting portion of things!

I finished up on the interior components, and Jody had finished working the little ice cream chairs.
We went with laminated prints for the walls and menu sign. The case-goods were built from .060" styrene, and put together much the same way you would a real cabinet. There was nothing from the cg company for the interior, so we designed it on the fly. This is a 3 walled set, with no ceiling. We just extended the walls up high enough, that no ceiling wouldn't be an issue at all.

Friday, 11 December 2015

The little things are the coolest!

Inside our miniature ice-cream store will be some chairs and tables, a counter, and a wall shelving. Very store like! They sent me the 3d model for the chairs they want, and I brought it into Hexagon for layout and scaling. The final size worked out to be just over 2.25" in height.
Because these will get double side machined, it was easiest to nest them, with sprues, in Hexagon. The sprues are there just to make sure they don't all fall apart once the cutter starts attacking them!
The imported nesting was 1.673" thick, so I'll be cutting these from 2" HDU. I brought the model into Aspire, did some quick math to center them in the material thickness, then added a base component, so the cutter wouldn't have to travel all the way down to the machine bed. I kept the base component shy of the middle of the block by about 1/4". This way the cutter would at least travel past the center block seam on each side, eliminating any onion skin that would be left attached to the model, if I had the component set at the halfway, or 1" height.

42 minutes total, including flipping the material! Pretty fast turnaround for 6 chairs, and 2 table bases!

 I did have to clean of the sprues, and some machine marks, but HDU is pretty quick to deal with that sort of thing. The table tops were cut from 1/8" styrene plastic.
The next asset to deal with was the large ice-cream cone that will sit out front of the miniature store.
This scaled out at about 8" tall, and 3.625" deep. This I will cut in two halves, from 2" HDU, and glue up.
Here the cone has been cut, cleaned and primed. It's sitting next to our super-cool cartoon trees that will also populate the model base. The tree's I designed in Hexagon, machined from 40lb urethane. The sphere's are just craft foam balls from the craft store, with painted corsage pins stuck in for some color!

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Finally, a miniature build again!!!

What can I say! I love miniatures. The only thing better than miniatures, is CARTOON miniatures!
And that's the current build!
We have to build a small toon-ish village for a tv spot. This makes me VERY happy indeed!!!
We were supplied a lot of 3d assets, which I will be pulling from heavily. Non of this will be 3d printed. the scale makes this a bit to big for printing, and I can machine almost any of this 100 times faster than 3d printing. I still think that 3d printing is a little over rated for a lot of what we do. It certainly has its place, but not for this gig!
This is the main building. This will scale out at approximately 13 inches wide. I decided the best way to tackle this for 3d machining is to split it out, both in Aspire, and Hexagon. I hid the text portion of the sign, as I will laser cut that from craft foam.
I know that the wall panels will be machined from 3/4" pvc, so I blocked out a cube, set back from the farthest point on the wall by 3/4". I don't care about the large sign depth at this point, because I'll just cut it off in Aspire. This method seems to be the fastest way from A to B.

The reason for the cube, is really just to give me a surface plane when I import the model into Aspire. The model will get sunk into the zero plane, right up to the pink face, then I'll discard everything below the zero plane, effectively just giving me what I need to machine. I will also be cutting the window trim, and bricks as separate pieces. Which is why I have hidden them, so they don't get exported with the building. This will make for a really clean model. And at 4k, that's what I want to deliver!

With the file brought into Aspire, and sunken to the correct depth, I sliced off the top molding, and hid it for use later.
At this point, I brought in the door and window trim, so I could vectorize them for both cutting them out, and laser cutting the trim later.
Cutting the raw wall panels was really quick. 40 minutes for all 3. I'm not mitering the corners, they'll be butt joints. But with some primer and sanding, they'll be golden.
The assembled walls came together perfectly.
A couple coats of filler primer, some sanding, and they looked great. I did use a spray texture on them in the end. This was done to match the other things we'll be fabricating, which will be stipple painted with a brush. This way they all look like they belong in the same environment.
Once the upper trim was machined, Jody set to work on the painting.
This is pretty much the final building structure. The upper molding will get attached to the base with a strip of aluminum tape. The tape is just to eliminate any light leaks when they eventually light the interior on set. We're doing frosted windows for this this from clear PETG, with a frosted vinyl decal.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Filming! Aaaahhhhhh!

Well, the start of my short film was awesome on the weekend! The Kawartha Settlers Village was kind enough to let us use their location, and we took advantage of both the inside, as well as the outside! We started at noon on Saturday, and finished up about 2am! By that time, everything that we had left outside had an amazing coating of frost, stupid Jamie.
I also got to try out my 3-axis camera stabilizer, which I was pretty pumped about! On Saturday, I ended up attaching it to the end of my 8 foot jib crane, and was able to use an RC transmitter. This allowed me to be able to remotely pan and tilt the camera for our first shot. I had Joe working the jib, while I controlled the camera. It was a little  bit like releasing drunk camera monkeys loose, but we eventually got synced up together!
We had 2 extra's that were to look like they were out for a stroll, while our cowboy rolled into town!
Jody moved frequently between producer and director. Which was good, because I was so focused on tracking the horse with the camera, I had no idea what the hell else was going on! There could have been a flaming gorilla with a sombrero, and I don't thing I would have noticed it. Sooooooo sad! Thank goodness for awesome sauce Jody!
Here our cowboy is pushing his way into the cabin, all tough like!
We were very grateful to Leahann and Andrea, who not only supplied the horse "Sasha" for the shoot, but took the time to trailer her an hour to the location! They were awesome! Jody also got to ride her after we were done. She was pretty stoked, as she's never been on a horse before!
Once it got dark, we moved on to the inside of the cabin!
Oh yeah............That is a hand in a box your lookin' at! A little weird right? The hand was the bane of my existence all night! It was never where it needed to be! HA HA. It was in the box when it should've been out. Out of the box when it was supposed to be in. Missing from the shot, left in the satchel bag...........................It became a running joke almost.
Sunday's shoot day was almost as fun as Saturday's. Less people to have fun with, but still pretty fun!
Maybe not for Joe, who spent most of Sunday doing this!

Hopefully I get to finish the script this winter, and start casting for the other rolls in the late winter, then spend all summer doing this cool gig!