AIDAN 5: Between SF, Film Noir And Pencils – An Interview With Ben Bays


»But ul­ti­mately I think that en­ter­tain­ment is still the same as it was 100 ye­ars ago: au­di­en­ces want to hear a good story told well. And as long as the Earth keeps spin­ning, people like me will tune in to watch those well-told sto­ries re­gard­less of what de­li­very plat­form they ar­rive on. The web just made it con­ve­ni­ent for more people to get in the game.«

A short time ago I ran across so­me­thing in the vast spaces of the WWW that is cal­led AI­DAN 5, it is one of the web­se­ries that are pop­ping up all over the in­ter­net. What ma­kes it spe­cial: it is ba­sed on a short­film of the same name that won a con­test – plus it is crea­ted as live ac­tion com­bi­ned with pen­cil-drawn sce­nery. AI­DAN 5 is pure sci­ence fic­tion but also has a healthy dose of film noir.

For me as an old fan of SF who also li­kes the clas­sic mas­ters of sus­pense and crime Ham­mett and Chand­ler this is quite so­me­thing and so it was only nor­mal to send a mail with a bunch of ques­ti­ons to the United Sta­tes. You will find the an­s­wers in this ar­ti­cle.

Logo AIDAN 5

Phan­ta­News: The most im­port­ant ques­tion first: in short words (we’ll ela­bo­rate la­ter) – what is AI­DAN5?

Ben Bays: Ai­dan 5 is a fu­tu­ris­tic sci-fi/ film noir web se­ries about a de­tec­tive who has to solve the mys­tery be­hind the se­rial kil­lings of his own clo­nes. It’s uni­que style is done with live ac­tion pho­to­gra­phy and il­lus­tra­ted en­vi­ron­ments.

And the se­cond is of course: who is it who an­s­wers my no­sey ques­ti­ons? :)

Ben Bays, Exe­cu­tive Pro­du­cer & Wri­ter.


Who is the main team be­hind the web­se­ries? Is it the same that made the short­film?

Ai­dan 5 was crea­ted by John Jack­son and Tim Bald­win for the 48-hour film con­test and the over­all style was il­lus­tra­ted by Ben Brown. I got in­vol­ved with turning it into a web se­ries be­cause I saw what they had done in just 48 hours and was to­tally blown away. Most of the same cast and crew are now in­vol­ved in the se­ries, but we have also brought on board many new ta­len­ted in­di­vi­du­als as well.

What in­spi­red you? To me it seems I see hints of pulp, film noir and – of course – co­mic?

Johnny has al­ways been a fan of those gen­res, spe­ci­fi­cally the old Re­pu­blic se­ri­als, the gol­den age of co­mics and of course, black and white film noir. (He men­ti­ons Hum­phrey Bo­gart in the Mal­tese Fal­con as his prime ex­am­ple.)

He grew up watching a lot of those ol­der clas­sics ex­po­sing him to the art of film, but what re­ally fu­e­led his ima­gi­na­tion were films such as Star Wars, Rai­ders of the Lost Ark, Close in En­coun­ters, E.T. and Blade Run­ner. Mo­vies with vi­sual spect­a­cle, great cha­rac­ters and won­der­fully ima­gi­na­tive sto­ries, many of which were ori­gi­nally in­spi­red from those ear­lier clas­sics.


Why com­bine the film noir-set­ting with sci­ence fic­tion? How did you come up with the idea?

Part of the 48-hour con­test re­qui­res the filmma­kers to draw a genre at ran­dom out of a hat. Tim and Johnny re­cei­ved sci-fi and they im­me­dia­tely be­gan wri­ting the script that night.

Johnny knew he was go­ing to shoot ever­y­thing on green screen and he also knew he wan­ted to stay away from ali­ens, ray guns and space­ships.

Loo­king to do so­me­thing a little more groun­ded, they even­tually sett­led on the idea of clo­n­ing told through a gritty noir crime drama. But I think Johnny’s no­tion of fa­shio­n­ing the back­grounds with crude pen­cil sket­ched drawings is what re­ally made it stand out above the rest of the films in the con­test.

AIDAN 5The amal­ga­ma­tion of live-ac­tion and pen­cil-pain­ted sce­nery is a very nice idea – and the re­sul­ting ef­fect is sty­lish and quite stun­ning. How did you come up with that?

Johnny was worried about do­ing a film in 48 hours and not being able to find sui­ta­ble lo­ca­ti­ons that fit their un­k­nown genre, so he de­ci­ded in ad­vance to film ever­y­thing on green screen and draw his lo­ca­ti­ons in post. So re­ally it was a style born out of the need to solve a pro­blem.

Ben Brown, one of his co-workers, is an ac­com­plis­hed illustrator/After Ef­fects ar­tist and Johnny knew that Ben could seam­lessly blend the world to­ge­ther while matching his live ac­tion pho­to­gra­phy. Then, they could be free to write and shoot any­thing they wan­ted, ma­king the world fit wha­te­ver genre they were gi­ven. When Johnny lear­ned they were go­ing to be do­ing sci-fi, he felt it was se­ren­di­pi­tous be­cause com­bi­ning that genre with their sty­li­s­tic choice see­med to serve the story very well.

How dif­fi­cult was/is it to do the web­se­ries? How long was it in the ma­king and what bud­get are you working on? And how many people are in­vol­ved in crea­ting the epi­so­des?

Ad­ap­t­ing the short into a se­ries was much more dif­fi­cult than we ori­gi­nally an­ti­ci­pa­ted. We thought we would build it on the 48-hour mo­del and crank out the epi­so­des in re­cord time, but we were overly am­bi­tious du­ring the script wri­ting phase and it en­ded up ta­king us quite a bit lon­ger. All to­ge­ther, from con­cept to com­ple­tion, se­a­son one took over 50 people and 2 and a half ye­ars to com­plete. And it was made com­ple­tely wi­thout any bud­get in our spare time.


Was it a pro­blem to put a team to­ge­ther or were people ram­pa­ging your stu­dio doors yel­ling „Me! Me!“? :) Or do you do such things re­gu­larly any­way?

We had a pretty good tur­nout of vol­un­te­ers who were fa­mi­liar with the suc­cess of the ori­gi­nal short. I think they ge­nui­nely li­ked the con­cept and re­spon­ded to it in the same way that I did. It has been a chal­lenge to keep the out­put at a con­sis­tent and sustainable le­vel du­ring the past two ye­ars, es­pe­cially since ever­yone is working on this for free in their spare time. But we’re used to working on low bud­get pro­jects and we just keep plug­ging along with whoever is wil­ling to throw their hat in the ring with us.

How was it done? Could you ex­pand a little on the tech and equip­ment you use to create the epi­so­des? I guess it’s mostly green­screen and chroma-key­ing? What soft­ware was used for edit­ing?


We shot all of the live ac­tion ele­ments on green screen (whe­re­ver we could find so­meone to let us use their space — so­me­ti­mes in Johnny’s ga­rage) and fil­med the ent­ire se­ries using two Pa­na­so­nic HVX-200s. We then edi­ted with Avid Me­dia Com­po­ser and did all of the com­po­sit­ing in Adobe Af­ter Ef­fects.

How long is the aver­age time it ta­kes to create an epi­sode? Do you do this full time or as a hobby? How are you fun­ded?

I’d say, on aver­age it ta­kes about 1–2 months to com­plete an epi­sode. — Alt­hough it’s hard for us to say since we have many dif­fe­rent people working on mul­ti­ple epi­so­des at a time with sche­du­les of­ten over­lap­ping. — Ai­dan 5 isn’t set up like a tra­di­tio­nal pro­duc­tion work­flow, it’s very much the ga­rage band of filmma­king.

We cer­tainly wish we could be do­ing this full time, but we all have to work around our day jobs and fa­mi­lies while fin­ding time for Ai­dan 5 on nights and weekends. That being said, we cer­tainly don’t think of this as a hobby. The ent­ire team is made up of crea­tive pro­fes­sio­nals working in the in­dus­try and Ai­dan 5 was sim­ply a way for us to make the kind of pro­ject we al­ways wan­ted.

Ai­dan 5 cur­rently has no fun­ding, so if you hap­pen to know of an­yone, give me a call. ;-)

AIDAN 5How are the re­s­pon­ses and re­views by the unf­or­gi­ving web-crowd so far?

So far, the re­s­ponse has been very po­si­tive. We seem to have struck a cord with our au­di­ence and while there can cer­tainly be a bit of tre­pi­da­tion put­ting your baby out there for all the world to see, we’ve also dis­co­vered that the web-crowd is an ama­zingly ta­len­ted and crea­tive com­mu­nity that are all in the same boat as we are. — Try­ing to create so­me­thing with little or no re­sour­ces. It’s been eye-opening and very re­war­ding.

There are 15 we­b­i­so­des plan­ned for the first se­a­son of AI­DAN5. Will there be a se­cond se­a­son af­ter that or are you plan­ning so­me­thing dif­fe­rent? Are there par­al­lel pro­jects? Or al­re­ady too ti­red to do more of this? :)

Yes, there are two ad­di­tio­nal se­a­sons plan­ned af­ter this one. In fact, we spe­ci­fi­cally wrote our story to span three se­a­sons. We hope that the re­s­ponse and view­ership be­co­mes large en­ough to al­low us to make se­a­sons 2 and 3 and fi­nish the story. While we are proud of the vol­un­te­ers who have hel­ped us thus far, it would be very dif­fi­cult to do this again wi­thout some kind of fun­ding. — Other­wise all of our spou­ses and child­ren will di­sown us. :-)

At what rate will the epi­so­des be re­leased?

Every other Fri­day.

AIDAN 5Web­se­ries and we­b­i­so­des have quite an im­pact at the mo­ment and are sprou­ting all over the web. Do you think they are here to stay or just a tem­porary pheno­me­non? Are they the fu­ture of en­ter­tain­ment or just one more way to en­ter­tain? :)

That’s a great ques­tion and I think only time will tell on this one. I do think web se­ries are here to stay, and they’re be­co­m­ing more so­phi­s­ti­ca­ted every day. Main­stream web TV for your li­ving room is de­fi­ni­tely co­m­ing (ac­tually it’s al­re­ady here) and I think it’s not com­ple­tely out­lan­dish to think that the old broad­cast mo­del could even­tually go away.

But ul­ti­mately I think that en­ter­tain­ment is still the same as it was 100 ye­ars ago: au­di­en­ces want to hear a good story told well. And as long as the Earth keeps spin­ning, people like me will tune in to watch those well-told sto­ries re­gard­less of what de­li­very plat­form they ar­rive on. The web just made it con­ve­ni­ent for more people to get in the game.

Thank you for your time, now you have the uni­que chance to say so­me­thing of grave im­port­ance to our re­a­ders… :)

ummm… watch Ai­dan 5 and share it with your fri­ends! :)




AI­DAN 5-Web­site:

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Stefan Holzhauer

AutorIn: Stefan Holzhauer

Meist harm­lo­ser Nerd mit na­tür­li­cher Af­fi­ni­tät zu Pi­xeln, Bytes, Buch­sta­ben und Zahn­rä­dern. Kon­su­miert zu­viel SF und Fan­tasy und schreibt seit 1999 on­line dar­über.

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