One of our own needs help…

A very talented friend of mine, Greg Dubuque, who’s been in the business for many years and is a truly gifted artist is in need of help fighting MS and his daughter’s illness as well. Friends of his have set up a fund on
Please, give if you can.

From the site:
As some of you are already aware, early in 2014, after years of fighting and ignoring a range of symptoms he attributed to fatigue and age, Greg was diagnosed with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis, a form of MS with no remission stage and a steady worsening of neurological functions. This would have been a hard blow for anyone, but as an artist and a single father of two wonderful kids, it was all the more devastating. His doctors are working him toward a possible treatment plan, but it will be a long and expensive road.

If this wasn’t enough of a challenge, Greg’s young daughter was recently diagnosed with Ventricular Tachycardia this past September after a frightening trip to the ER. She has since undergone a cardiac ablation procedure, followed by surgery for an implanted defibrillator.

MS is the type of illness that is an artist’s worst nightmare, but even though Greg’s ability to provide for his kids has been crippled by this physically impairing disease, he has the strength, faith, and the belief in himself to fight and overcome it. Meanwhile, the current financial, emotional, and physical strain has taken its toll as medical bills have grown rapidly, so this fundraiser page was created with the hopes of easing some of the immediate financial burden from both his daughter’s medical expenses, as well as the cost of Greg’s future treatment options so he can continue to be the best dad for his kids.

Any amount, no matter how small, that you would like to contribute will go directly to Greg and his kids to help with medical bills, groceries, and basic living expenses.

AI Spotlight: Mike and Wayne

Today’s Spotlight comes to us from Florida in the form of a film called Mike and Wayne  about two guys who attempt to rob a liquor store to no avail. It’s well animated, well designed and it’s choice of palette colors is particularly refreshing.

Mike&Wayne_01AI: So let’s start out by having you introduce yourself and tell us a little about where you’ve come from to get you to this make this film.
Esteban: Hey! My name is Esteban Valdez, I’m the Founder of Echo Bridge Pictures and we’re an animation production company based in St Petersburg, Fla. and since our start we’ve worked on some incredibly high profile projects and respected names in the business like FOX, FXX, CBBeeies, UMG and Edelman. We’re focused on 2D production for music videos, commercials, corporate and educational videos, short and feature films, documentaries and episodic shows for television and the web.
I started back in 2000 working at small shops in and around Boston, MA. In late 2010 I planted some roots in St Pete and founded the studio. Since then Echo Bridge has grown to be an artist driven studio where we work pretty damn hard everyday to do what many other people thought was only possible in LA and NYC.


AI: Some good credits! So tell us what “Mike and Wayne” is about and who are these little blue guys?
Esteban: It’s about these two dumbasses named Mike & Wayne. They’re the titular characters of our new short film who are not the sharpest knives in the proverbial drawer. Their mission is simple: get rich quick by robbin’ and stealin’. Their target: the local liquor store. What our fearless (anti)heroes don’t know is that the Cornah Store has the best defenses imagination can provide. Follow Mike & Wayne as they strive to make their dreams come true and are met with spectacular failure. All for your enjoyment.


AI: Sounds like an interesting concept. I particularly liked the style and your choice of color. The backgrounds are beautiful too!
 Thanks! Well, a lot of the inspiration came from indie comics and zines and when it came to color I felt it only best to keep with that feel. What was challenging about it too was that it’s both easy to see mistakes cause there’s no place to hide those mishaps and the work can also disappear if the values aren’t probably separated.  And with everything packed with detail as it is it pushed us artistically.

Maybe we’re just artistic masochists because we’re always looking to do something we haven’t done and that challenges us.  We don’t do easy around these parts.

AI: So how did the idea for the film come about?
Esteban: The idea had been swimming around in my head/sketchbook for a few years, mostly inspired by the classic Tom & Jerry cartoons and the styling of Daniel Clowes and Robert Crumb. To make something simple and in your face without having to be so overly developed and processed… I like to think of Mike & Wayne as a punk rock tune. Edgy, fast paced, no bullshit, and raw. And much like punk, it wasn’t about satisfying others ­ it’s about making something that we liked, that made us laugh. Art’s so subjective and if you’re trying to please every demographic you’re going to end up with something you don’t enjoy looking at or love doing.


AI: Who worked on the film?
Esteban: I wrote the original premise and provided art and animation direction, however for this project we really took a different approach than we normally do on client work. We got everyone together and pitched ideas around for scenarios. The ideas that made us laugh the most is what made it into the film so all in all there’s a little bit of each of us throughout the film. When it came to the audio portion that was done mostly by my good friend and former band mate, Mark Mniece. He and I had some serious back and forth trying to get things just right. Then Mark did what he did best and mixed us his best work on that track.

AI: What technology was used in it’s creation?
Esteban: We used Storyboard Pro 4 for storyboards and animatics, Flash CS5 for preproduction and production, Premiere CS5 for post, Reason and ProTools for audio production using a Fender Highway One Bass, Gibson SG Guitar through an Apogee Ensemble and Korg Keyboard for additional instruments. All our planning, coordinating, scheduling, tracking and file management was done through Basecamp and all things finance wise was handled via Quickbooks by myself and our accountant.

AI: How was it funded?
Esteban: The film was financed by the studio (Echo Bridge). It was expensive, but the end result is something we’re all really happy with.

AI: What is the end result for the film as in will you put it in festivals or was it just a personal piece you did for fun?
Esteban: The short film has been submitted to roughly 20 festivals worldwide and we’re really hoping it does well. In the meantime the next 5 episodes are already in pre­production, and we’ve recently signed on with the Channel Frederator Network to produce a 12 episode season of Mike & Wayne. A couple of broadcast networks have also shown high interest in Mike & Wayne, but we feel that the nature of the project is best suited for the net.
We’re really working hard to make sure that each cartoon is constantly raising the bar, getting crazier and out ­there. So far, the reviews we’ve been getting from people we’ve shown this too has been nothing short of awesome and we’re really pumped to be producing something of our own.
Stay tuned!


Spotlight: Nassos Vakalis

What is the film about and what led you to make it?

The film is 10-minute allegorical depiction of the sociopolitical situation in the world as we have been experiencing it over the years or to be more specific from the time man formed the first structured societies. It doesn’t try to give a political view but rather examines the effects of social injustice and the breakdown of power. It is titled “Dinner For Few”. During dinner, “the system” works like a well-oiled machine. It solely feeds the select few who eventually, foolishly consume all the resources while the rest survive on scraps from the table. Inevitably, when the supply is depleted, the struggle for what remains leads to catastrophic change. Sadly, the offspring of this profound transition turns out not to be a sign of hope, but the spitting image of the parents. “Dinner For Few” was inspired by the economic recession affecting South European countries like Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal. I grew up in Greece, where part of my family and most of my friends still live. “Dinner For Few” not only reflects my deep concern of the social and economic developments during the crisis but also highlights the inevitable and cyclical nature of the human affairs throughout history.

Who worked on the film? (Writer? Director? Animators? Compositors? Voices?)

This has been one of my own personal projects. I came up with the idea as I was talking to a friend on the phone about the economic situation in Greece which has been deteriorating over the years. We talked about outdoor tavern cats stealing food from the table and that became the core idea around the film. I wrote the idea to a script adding some drama and details to emphasize the allegorical meaning of the story. I also directed the film and served as a lead artist. Soon after starting working on the models I found Eva Vomhoff from Germany who had a few pointers on the use of a specific plug-in. I showed her what I wanted to do and she quickly joined the team as the technical director and later as an animator in the film. Besides her excellent models and riggs she took it upon herself to animate most of the cats as well as the tiger that appears at the end of the film. This pretty much sums the people who worked at the technical and visual part of the film. Like my previous film I tried to stay away from dialogue. The main characters of the film are mainly pigs and cats so they do some “animal” sounds but there is nothing specific about them besides the tone of their voice which expresses their feelings at the particular scenes. So there was no need for actors to do voices. Besides myself and Eva there is a larger group of people who worked on the sound and music part of the film. I have asked Kostas Christides, a talented young music composer with credits in many Hollywood and Greek movies, to write an original music score. He composed something which was so effective that we end up going to Bratislava and recorded a 70 musician’s orchestra which we later mixed here in Los Angeles to finalize the music score of the film. I created a short video about his approach and the making of the music which you can view at youtube. While Kostas was working on the music I hired two very talented sound design artists from Greece Kostas Fylaktidis and Ioannis Giannakopoulos to work on the sound design of the film which they later mixed with Kostas’s music to a very effective surround sound track.

What technology was used in its creation?

In my effort to keep the budget under control the film uses off the shelf 3d animation software and plug-ins. Most of the programs we used are inexpensive and definitely not what most people will expect we used, but I think they programs worked pretty well and the outcome is effective. I started the work in Carrar3d a relatively inexpensive 3d application but later when Eva joined the team we moved our rigging and animation to Messiah studio. All the technical work was done there and after the animation approvals it was transferred via a MMD plug-in to Carrara3d for layout and rendering. The film employs a nontraditional CG rendering look. It uses flat graphic colors with dark outlines and hard shadows. This stylistic approach is more relevant to the theme of the story and is reminiscent to the hand drawn 2d animation style in comparison to the photo-realistic renderings we are used to see in many contemporary CG animations. The film’s finale includes a bloodshed sequence animated in a cut out graphic approach using only red and black silhouettes. In order to achieve the 2d look I created a simple pipeline that treats the animation and achieves the result. This treatment had two parts. One was the rendering look which is as mentioned earlier is flat, graphic and with an outline and the other was the animation itself. As far as the look a lot of effort was taken so the outline doesn’t look mechanical or generated by a 3d outliner. For this I created a special Photoshop action that flares the line to a thick and thin quality. This involved the vectorization of the line with a low tolerance path and then coloring it and rasterizing it. For the animation I found a way of adjusting the MDD files in Carrara3d by adding in-betweens almost in a 2d fashion. This took some of the smoothness out of the curves and made the movement more 2d like. Last but not least some water effects were done in Blender which is a free software.  All post work and composting was done in Adobe After Effects SC6 and the editing was done in Premier Pro.

How was it funded?

I funded the film with my own money. Initially I thought I could do a kickstarter campaign but soon I felt that this was possibly a waste of time and I wanted to put my efforts into the film rather than trying to finance it so I never started the campaign. In the beginning the film had little experiences anyway. My only other team member, Eva Vomhoff was volunteering her work and I only needed a new computer to handle the requirements of the film. I started the work on my Mac but a few months later I transferred everything to a PC environment so I needed a new PC with a good graphics card. Most of the cost went to the production of the music and sound design. This included the fee to book the orchestra, mixing the various orchestra takes and the final sound design and mix. There are some additional experiences on producing the final DCP prints, Blu-rays, DVD and submitting the film to festivals or doing promotions. The actual cost end up around 16.000 dollars though I’m sure some more expenses  will come up soon as the film needs more prints, promotions and advertisement.

What is the end result for the film? Series? festival? theatrical? Awards?

I hope to be able to send this film to as many festivals as I can. In reality there is not anything more someone can do with a short film. I also hope I will be able to submit it to the Academy for consideration. To do this I must win either a qualifying festival or do the required screenings at a Los Angeles cinema. There is some interest in Greece to see if the film can be placed before a feature and get a theatrical release there but is kind of early to think about that. When the film finishes the festival rounds I hope I can put it online or in one of the platforms people can download it for a small fee. For the moment though I would like to invite people to visit the Facebook page like it and share the trailer. This is a tremendous help for the film because it generates publicity.