Interview by Caitlin Oliver
What led to the creation of Red vs. Blue?
Booze and videogames. The original idea for RvB came back in the summer of 2002 when we were working on a website we used to run called Drunk Gamers. We started the site to write humorous reviews of booze and videogames and to try and scam free videogames from various publishers. Burnie wrote about the Xbox and since at the time the best game on the Xbox was Halo, he wrote about Halo a lot. Eventually he started making weekly gameplay tip videos and while they were cool to watch, they were the only thing on the site that wasn’t intended to be funny. So Burnie had the idea to try and write a comedic script to go along with the videos and then he decided to make the videos appear letterbox by putting black bars over the HUD and gun. We thought the idea looked cool and we decided to make it a regular feature on Drunk Gamers. We never did anything with the idea. Six months later, after two and a half years of work, Drunk Gamers died. In January 2003, a week after we decided to quit work on Drunk Gamers, we got an email from Computer Gaming World magazine and they were asking for permission to put another video we had worked on (an Apple Switch commercial parody) on the CD that they distributed with their magazine. When we found out that they intended to mail the CD to 500,000 people we decided that it would be a shame to not have a website to direct all those people to. We looked over all the ideas we had and figured that maybe we should do something with that RvB idea. So we re-encoded that old Apple Switch parody to point people to redvsblue.com at the end of it and we got to work on making our first episode. The site launched in April 2003 and much to our surprise it seemed like people liked it.
Where in the world does the name “Rooster Teeth” come from?
The trailer that we originally made for the series involved a narrator getting into a fight with someone subtitling what he was saying. Eventually the subtitler calls the narrator a “cockbite”. It seemed like a funny word and many people seemed to latch on to it so we wanted to name our production company after it. We then realized that people would probably be uncomfortable explaining credit card charges and checks to a company called “Cock Bite Productions”, so we replaced Cock with Rooster and Bite with Teeth and voila, Rooster Teeth Productions.
So, what’s the process of making an episode of Red vs. Blue like from script to screen? How long does it take to get a finished product?
When we are working on a season of RvB we have milestones we like to reach during that season and we work each week to try and reach them. Typically the scripts are written on Saturday and Sunday and given to the voice actors on Monday. The voice actors record their lines and turn them back in on Monday night or early Tuesday. Tuesday is spent laying down all the audio tracks into our editing software (Adobe Premiere Pro 1.5). We then record all the video to match up to the audio on Wednesday and Thursday nights and have a finished video by Friday morning, then the whole process starts again. It currently takes three or four people about 30-40 hours each to make a five to six minute video. Seasons one and two each took about six months total to be released from the time we released the first episode to the last episode.
Is there anything in particular that most influences your work? Any movies, voice actors or comics in particular?
There is definitely a wide range of movies and directors that we take inspiration from but it’s a pretty long list. I don’t think we take too much direct influence from any one or two people but rather take influence from a range of work that we all happen to enjoy.
What are the high and low points in the creation of any given episode of Red vs. Blue for you?
The biggest high point for me is being able to do this as my full time job. It’s great to work from home with a bunch of old friends. That being said though, that is probably also the biggest low point. When we’re in production I can easily spend up to 80 hours a week working on RvB and I don’t get to see the sun or my friends who are not involved in RvB.
How supportive has Microsoft been of your work? Have they said there was anything in particular you wouldn’t be able to do or that they frowned upon you doing? Do you have to run anything by them before you release it or have they, at any point, tried to red light something you’ve produced?
When we initially launched the series our plan was to try and fly under the radar and hope that Microsoft would never contact us. That lasted until Episode 2. Microsoft contacted us and they were really very supportive. They gave us the boiler plate shown at the end of every episode (stating that Halo is copyrighted by them) and have even commissioned us to create some videos for them. They have never tried to exert any creative control over the series or asked us to do things or not do things in the series. They of course do exercise some creative control in the videos that they commission us to make, but that is of course understandable.
Are there any particular episodes or scenes from Red vs. Blue that you would consider your favorite? Why?
My favorites include the scene in episode 6 where the Warthog is playing Tejano music and jumps over the hill, the flashback to Sidewinder in episode 10 and most of episode 38. I liked episode 6 because there was just something funny about having Tejano music be ominous...it was kind of like in Jaws when that ominous John Williams music would play right before Jaws attacked...but it was Tejano and a Warthog. I liked the episode 10 flashback because we had a chance to let some of our friends do voices in it (Private Mickey and Private Jimmy) and it was our first opportunity to work in a map other than Blood Gulch. Finally, episode 38 was just so much work that it was good to finally see a finished product hit the internet. We spent a lot of time working on that episode and I was very proud of the end result.
Do you have any thoughts on the rapidly growing popularity of the show and what kind of effect, if any, does that have upon you?
It has been really strange. Any time I go to a store like Best Buy, Gamestop, or Fry’s it seems like I can’t go in and buy something without getting recognized by the employees and asked for autographs. I’m not complaining by a long shot, I enjoy it, it’s just that I don’t think I’m anybody special and that people shouldn’t make a big deal out of running into me. It’s always a really humbling experience to meet people who watch the series in person like that. Another weird thing that I’ve caught myself doing is that any time I pass by a place selling magazines I always find myself thinking “Oh, do I need to buy any magazines or newspapers that we’re in?” Then I pause and think about how ridiculous that comment is.
Has Rooster Teeth Productions got any upcoming projects in the works - machinima or otherwise? Have you considered projects involving games other than Halo?
As a matter of fact we just recently announced a new series that we are going to be creating using The Sims 2. The new project is a series called “The Strangerhood”. You can download those videos at www.strangerhood.com. We are constantly looking at new games and trying to figure out if we can make machinima in them and as a matter of fact we have even made some test videos using other games but we have never had too much success and we never released any of those test videos.
Is there any sort of advice that you would give to aspiring machinima directors?
The advice I would give to people working on a new machinima project would be that they need to have lots of patience. We get frustrated pretty frequently and think about trying to take the easy way out in some shots but we always remain patient and sometimes work on a shot for hours at a time.