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.

Monday, 30 May 2016

It Aint the Size of Your Kitchen That Matters to the Ladies!

Before I get to the next post, I thought I would post a small behind the scenes video of our last location shoot for my next short film! Woot! Woot!

Believe it or not, this shoot ran from 7:30pm to 2am, last Saturday night. It was soo much fun to do. It's kind of fun for me to watch, as I missed a lot of what was going down! But the pre-pro takes a lot of time and effort, and ate up most of my free time. Securing a location, doing the graphic design for the fake newspaper, getting it printed, breaking out the shot lists, and making sure the schedules work with everyone involved!
All in all, I had such a great time! I have met a ton of new people, whom I hope to continue to have relationships with long after the shooting wraps. So here's to all of you guys, and all your hard work!

But while all this was goin' down, we were working at the shop on a kitchen set for a popular kids toy. I can't mention the toy, but I can document the build! The set was something that I designed, based off of a couple of artist concepts, and color designs. The set, and all it's pieces, are a fairly basic set, and all of it was drawn up in either Corel, or Aspire, depending on where I wanted to end up.
The first step, as always, was to nail out a floor plan, then I could base all the elevations off of this basic map. All of this will be 2-D profile cuts from both 1/4" and 1/8" styrene sheets. 1/4 and 1/8" styrene sheets you say?!? What?!? That's right, this is a miniature kitchen! At a total size of 3 feet X 3 feet!
First up was the fridge. Not for any other reason, except that those were the parts that our Techno CNC finished first! I actually split this job off onto both machine at the same time. The smaller pieces were all cut on the table top one, while our big machine cut the larger sections like the walls and floors.
The little counter stools were all cut on the small machine, from 1/4" styrene. I used 1/4" acrylic rod for the stool posts, set into the appropriate sized hole in the bases and stool tops.
With the fridge and stools done, I moved on to the kitchen sink. Again, all simple 2D stuff. The faucet spout was fashioned from 1/8" brass rod, with the oversized sprayer head made from half an acrylic sphere bead, that we somehow have a bazillion of. The little tap handle were ground down miniature wire marettes.

 It wasn't long before these guys were ready for some paint! I really like to use ABS lacquer on anything styrene that we make. It eats right into the material, and can be sanded, if need be, in less than 10 minutes! This makes for some fast turn arounds!


Wednesday, 18 May 2016

The third one is always the biggest!!

The last and final set for the Fisher Price commercial was to be a snowy, arctic type environment. Kind of like April was in Canada this year! Pfff... There was no CNC work on this set, it was all hot-wire bow cut styrofoam. This set was also fairly big for a toy commercial. 24 feet at the back end, 16 feet deep, and 16 feet wide at the front end.

Most of it was straight forward, rocky out-croppings, sitting on 2" slabs of white styrofoam. All supported by some basic plywood whalers.

 I hot wire cut most of the rock features, but Jody did the hard coating on the far back mountain range,
 and all the painting! I find if I work slow, Jody gets all the painting done by herself.....Does that make me a...? Maybe. Probably......... But she's awesome at it, and likes it too, and I like to make her happy :) Cause that's how I roll.

We didn't do a full final paint on the mountains, as experience tells me, it'll change on set.
She got it as far along as it needed to be, and with us having one studio build day, and one prelight day before shooting, there will be plenty of time to change anything. Idle art directors make for more work :) That's right Mr. Art Director, I know you read this blog! ;)

EVERYTHING was wild on this set, so setting it up, and adjusting stuff went really quickly. Notice any mountain range paint changes? Oh ya you do! The fore ground rocks didn't actually get any hard coat. 2 coats of latex, and 3 multi colored coats of a fine speckle, made these jump to life as granite boulders.
We used 2 kinds of snow for the scenic of the base. The very fore  ground, in your face snow, was 150 lbs of baking soda. This sculpts just like real snow, and gently blowing compressed air on it, gives it an un-matched, windswept look. The other snow we used is a fine ground styrofoam snow. It looks pretty real in your hands, as full size snow, but in the background, it gives a nice texture to things. If we used backing soda in the back, we might as well of used a white bedsheet. NO life to it at all. So the texture is what sells it!
The trees are something we have, and rent out. They take a long time to make, and are kind of expensive, so we just rent them out most of the time. :) The smaller pines are trees the we have, but bought and modified slightly a while ago.
The last step was to clamp on a miniature, remote smoker for the volcano type mountain. I don't think they actually even fired it up in the end But at least it was on standby!

And here's our student helper, Polina, Godzilla-ing her way through the set. Good times that Polina, good times!


Oh, and as usual, 13 days left in the My Rode Reel contest, so PUH-LEASE throw a vote to Endlewood, our short, 3-minute film we entered!!

It would be AWESOME to win!


Monday, 9 May 2016

2nd of Three!

I have been spending most of my free time gearing up for filming this summer. This means that the blog is kind of a close second at the moment. We're spreading filming out across most of the summer, with the first scenes already shot last fall. This means shotlisting and blocking the remaining 30 scenes! Lots of work and thought goes into it all, and adding locations and schedules from everyone involved, also adds its set of lengthy problem solving skills. I may regret this at some point........but probably no way!!

But back to the miniature sets:
The second of three sets we built for this commercial was a tropical islandy set. This got the least documentation, because the deadline was creeping up fast, and we were soon to be without the Jody, due to her Boston Marathon race!
The main piece, where all the miniature action was going to take place, was a small island. This needed a smooth skin "beach", and rocky pieces. This was all made from hand carved styrofoam. We went with 2" foam, with the rock chunks added on top. Once carved, we coated it with a Durobond mixture, and added texture with crumpled tin foil. This resembled a kind of lava rock look.

With me working the island portion, Jody, and our student helper Polina, worked on cutting all the palm leaves, and painting them up. After they were base coated, Jody airbrushed some more coloring onto them. We had to go quite a bit darker than real palm trees, as these are all being shot against green screen. And we don't want the leaves to get keyed out by mistake, making a monstrous amount of work at the post production end! The final step was to slice them up with scissors, to get the individual fronds.

The trees came out great! Running down the center of the leaves was a piece of wire. This allowed us to be able to 'pose' the leaves as we needed, and give us something to attach to the trunk!
This was the only image I was able to grab of the set :( Just too many people and gear in the way!
I wish I had a picture of the 8'X8' water portion. It was really cool! We used a textured acrylic, similar to a ripply patio table glass. This was suspended above a really weird looking metallic blue sheeting. It looked like something Elton John would wear. But under the acrylic, it gave the water tremendous depth. When we shot it, we drifted dry ice over the surface, and the whole thing became VERY pirate-y!

AAAAAAAAND, once again, if you haven't cast a vote for my 3 minute short, Endlewood,
The link is here:

Just click "VOTE", log in fast, and your done! I would be so stoked to win this, so thanks again!!!!


Monday, 2 May 2016

Caught up!

We got a little crammed for time on this build, and then had 3 days on set, which we weren't really expecting, so I ran out of time for posting!
Next up was the bridge that spans the opening where the kid actors stand. This was from 1/2" pvc. I used a 1/4" Ballnose cutter to cut the slots for the 1/4" acrylic rod, that will become the multiple upright supports. I went with the ballnose cutter, so the rods would fit tight and clean, as opposed to a square bottom slot from an endmill.
They fit super duper! Because this is a set, anything that doesn't face the camera, doesn't get any attention. So as this is the back side of the bridge, it will just get painted like this.

The final bits were some fencing along the "Wharf", and some ladders down to the "water"
We even made little bollard cleats for boats, but I didn't get any pictures :(

These were the only pictures on set I could get of it. Cause the second the crew arrived, the toys were placed on it, then no pictures allowed!
This was fairly big. At a total of 16 feet wide, by 9 feet deep. Just the way I like it :)


Thursday, 14 April 2016

The World, in miniature!

I looove miniatures! The best part is that they leave the shop when were done!
This build has us working on 3 separate environments. Some of the build portions in the shop, might not get covered very well, but I will show the finals in the studio.

The first build is a city landscape for the commercial. That means buildings, and a few at that.
4.5, 4x8 sheets of 1/4" styrene to be exact! These building are relatively low detail, as they can't overshadow the kids toy that their filming. They range in height from 8" to 48" tall. Our Techno cnc made short work of all the pieces. I cut all the 1/4" styrene with the single flute Amana cutter from Tools Today. I have been using this cutter for everything plastic, over the last year, and it's still kick n' ass!
This is about as complicated as the buildings get! They're only 3 sided though. Largely for budget reasons, but mostly cause they gotta stick a bunch of lights in them all.
I had the cnc cut the panels to size, then used our angle jig to router the mitre corners. Some tape as a mitre fold, flooded with methelyne, and BAM, a new building!

All said and done, it took about 3 days to cut, assemble, make windows, and eventually paint. Beat that Trump!
The windows were all numbered, so it would make sense after painting, as a lot of them were individuals. For the most part, I used .030" PETG sheets, with the standard peel and stick window frosting. After that, we used clear shipping tape to fasten them to the inside.
On the larger buildings, I used translucent coroplast. I really liked the corrugated lines from it!
Man, we got a lot to do..........

But while I'm doing that, If you haven't voted for my short film Endlewood, PLEASE head on over to the  My Road Reel website, and vote!!! I'm gearing up to shoot my 40 minute film, and winning this competition would change this next film for me! Just click on the title card below, and it'll whisk you on over there!


Thanks for stopping by, and THANKS for voting for us!!

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

LG G5!

Well, well, well..............Look who showed up! HA HA HA!

The start of the New Year was kind of a weird one at our shop. We had a few builds, but they ALL had NDA's. This obviously sucks for someone who wants to share the work they do! In fact, I still have an NDA on a Canadian series for 2 more years, even though the show no longer runs. Crazy!

The other stuff that kept me busy, work wise, was some prototype development, which of course, I am unable to share with you guys either.

However, we can now start to post about some things that we ARE able to show! WOO- HOO!

One such job was for some online media for the LG G5 phone.

This was the basic setup....

  (photo ripped from the web from http://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/lg-introduces-canadian-pro-basketball-star-cory-joseph-as-official-ambassador-of-lg-g5-smartphone-574459661.html  

 We basically needed to build a rig to spin 2 basketballs, and time was pretty tight! Like 2 days tight!

I didn't even really have time to draw up the plans, I just kinda dove into it, developing as I went!
The rig needed to be basic to operate, as I wasn't going to be running it, and it sort of had to look good, because the joke was that the rig would be visible in the shot.

First up, I decided that the motors would be 2 corded power drills. The hopes was that the variable speed trigger could be used to vary the speed of the balls spinning.

I welded up a simple structure to hold the whole thing together. This was a piece of 2" steel tube. I went with 2" because the main cross bar that supports the whole thing is 2" tubing as well. This would become the horizontal mount that would get clamped to the the main crossbar. I then welded a vertical length of 1" tubing that will house the shaft that spins the ball. As a final step, I welded two 1/4" steel rods to be able to zip tie the power drills to.
Once the assembly was finished, I drew up a bunch of bearing blocks in Aspire, then cut them on the CNC. I cut them from rigid PVC, and made the opening tight enough that I had to hammer in the bearings.

The shaft that is going to eventually spin the balls was a length of 1/4-20 threaded rod. Something that is very plentiful at the shop!

I then machined up a concave plate that fit the basketball perfectly! This was done from 3/4" pvc foam. Strong and light enough for the job.

I punched a hole into the center of the basketball, and used a big fender washer, slipped through an additional slit in the ball.
I then assembled the craziness, with a crap-ton of silicone! In hopes to combat any air leakage,  as we might need to add air to the ball to retain it's shape. After the glue dried, one ball leaked, but held it's shape OK, so I'm good with it :)

I assembled the final assemblies, and mounted the drills to the top. This however is PRETTY not hot looking.......................
So I drew up a motor cover, and cut it from 1/4" black PVC Sintra. This solved the obvious problem of the drills being visible. Once that was done, I wrapped some brushed aluminum vinyl around the shaft tube, and the whole thing looked great!
 At the shop, the rig worked great! I let it run for over an hour, and everything was golden.
I delivered it off, and everyone loved it!

However, I got a call a while later that the studio tests were proving not as awesome as the shop.
Controlling the speed from the drill trigger, at over 8 feet high, was not going to work, and one of the rigs started to develop a nasty ball wobble. This intern started the stands vibrating, thus creating more wobble in both balls now........................Doh.

So before heading back to the studio, I had to come up with a plan. But now the rig was gone, and I was all alone, scared and cold. HMMMMMM.........
The bright side was that our client Tom, is noooo dummy by any stretch, and he diagnosed the wobble as coming from between the ball mounting plate, and the bearing. The 1/4-20" rod was starting to bend at that point.

I decided to machine an additional bearing plate that would clamp to the 1" tubing, and support 3 bearings, that would push down on the plate at the top of the ball.
I cut the plate from 2 pieces of 3/4" Lexan, so it would sit as square on the shaft as possible. This solved the wobble problem VERY effectively!
To solve the variable speed issue, I wired up a couple of 600W dimmers to outlets, and put them into separate junction boxes with 25 foot cords. This means the drills could be locked wide open, and the dimmers could vary the voltage running to them.

They loved it, and I no longer had wobbly balls.....................................

In fact The end clients liked it so much, they asked if we could run it at the LG G5 launch party in Toronto! Who cold say no to a launch party! It was going to get used as a photo op.

The party was great! It was held in the Old Fermenting Cellar in the Old Distillery District, a pretty happening district for sure! Jody and I both attended, cause me by myself spells social embarrassment! HA HA!

The rig ran great! The first 1.5 hours was a bit fidgety with the speeds, as they seemed to slowly creep up faster and faster. But, after the drills became SUPER warm, they seemed to level out, and didn't really need any tweaking for the rest of the night!

Canadian actor Michael Seater was there, that was pretty cool. Our daughter used to watch his show Life With Derek religiously when she was younger, so Jody spotted him right away! 

It was a great build, even with the new, last minute bearing plate we had to add!
And I don't often get to enjoy a pretty happening party after a build, so I loved it!

And as a side note, I have discussed before that I'm moving into shooting films, and writing scripts as a side passion for me.

So with that being said, I would love for you guys to head over to the My Rode Reel film contest I entered.
 I submitted our 3 minute short film Endlewood, and would REALLY be grateful if you could vote for it on their site!!

Please, please................ 
I'm going to hound you all until the deadline..........................

Thanks for coming back, and thanks for voting!!