RTX 2019: ‘Red vs. Blue’ Panel Shows the Audience Behind the Machinima Scenes

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Red vs. Blue

Red vs. Blue is a comedic, science fiction webseries created by Rooster Teeth using an animation style called machinima centered around Halo. Machinima is the use of computer graphics engines, most often video games, to create a cinematic production. So far, Red vs. Blue spans 17 seasons and five mini-series along with a handful of non-canonical holiday specials, making it the longest running ever. Although not the first web series to use machinima, it is often the first series that is attributed to bringing machinima into popular media.

The Red vs. Blue panel at Rooster Teeth Expo 2019 (RTX) featured Miles Luna, Jason Weight, Josh Ornelas, Austin Clark, Greg Slagel, Matt Hullum, and Burnie Burns. Red vs. Blue has come far from its first episodes created in Halo: Combat Evolved’s Blood Gulch. The panelists spoke about the early days of the webseries, but also spoke on the current season and the future of the series.

From the start of the panel, the audience got an inside view of the difficulties that machinima presented back in Halo: Combat Evolved. At the time, they were limited to a single arena: Blood Gulch. This limited the vehicles and props available to them. It was a constrictive set-up but often situations with high limitations inspire great creativity, resulting in the wonderful first few seasons of Red vs. Blue.

However, since machinima is ultimately limited by the computer graphics engines you use, very simple actions that we take for granted in other forms of animation. To put it simply, just a character sitting down would never be achievable for Red vs. Blue because characters don’t sit in Halo. Considering the series is limited by Halo mechanics, there are further considerations when animating different seasons in different games since Red vs. Blue spans a multitude of games in the Halo franchise. As such, mechanics change from game to game so there are often new problems that come up. When asked which Halo game the panelists would prefer to animate Red vs. Blue in, everyone agreed that Halo 3 was the best for the job. The introduction of theater mode in the Halo series was also revolutionary for Red vs. Blue machinima.

Red vs. Blue

An interesting question was brought up: “Do the Red vs. Blue animators ever just reuse old scenes, especially when it comes to flashbacks or time travel (such as in the new season)?”

This question was interesting to consider given that Red vs. Blue spans so many seasons and a handful of Halo games. Overall, the answer was no, unless it’s for quick flashbacks. In general, it’s difficult to reuse old captures because technology has vastly improved since Red vs. Blue’s early seasons. As such, there is a very noticeable difference in video quality so scenes relating back to old seasons have to be reshot. In fact, for some of the scenes in season 17, they had to call up old voice actors from previous seasons to come in and record. This was, in part, why the time traveling in season 17 was very hard.

With 17 seasons, there’s definitely a question about how hard it is to keep the continuity in check. The panelists agreed that the worst thing about season 17 was the time travel and trying to keep in mind all of the previous seasons’ content. However, Burnie brought up an interesting point to this talk about continuity, Red vs. Blue has been set up in a way where certain seasons offer endings for the series.

At these points, such as the end of season 5, the story is wrapped up and the viewer can decide whether or not to continue watching the series. These endpoints are also very handy jump points where new storylines have been created to continue the series. They allow a bit of flexibility for the direction of the season and series.

Red vs. Blue

Voice acting was brought up in the panel. In particular, the fact that some of the voices have changed over the years. Sarge’s voice, voiced by Hullum, and, in particular, Church’s voice, voiced by Burns, have changed. Burns talks about the fact that he can’t reach the high pitches Church’s voice gets to when it cracks and that he couldn’t do that voice for more than a few takes. Miles brings to light a similar experience where he can’t do David’s voice for Camp Camp for more than a few hours because of how it taxes his voice. The character is quite eccentric and happy all the time so requires a very high pitch. But this change in voice acting is particularly noticeable when considering flashbacks. Ultimately, they’ve tried to find a good middle ground between the current voices and older voices in flashbacks.

At one point, an attendee had a question about the production of a possible Red vs. Blue movie, it has been 17 seasons after all. There was no outright rejection but there isn’t one currently planned. In fact, Burns and the other panelists seemed to be pretty open to it. So perhaps we’ll get one in the future.

Another exciting future possibility is what will come with Halo Infinite. The panelists, and even the audience, were excited for the new game because it brings back the old armor. The revitalization of the old armor is not only great because is reminiscent of older seasons but it’ll definitely make things easier for cosplay. However, with this new game, the Red vs. Blue crew is going to have to play around with the mechanics again to see what’s the same, what’s different, and what’s at their disposal now.

The panel was certainly enlightening about the production of the current season and past seasons. Although there wasn’t much talk about the future of Red vs. Blue, the new directors, Ornelas and Clark, and writer, Jason Weight, seemed to have fun creating season 17. They’ve done such a good job that I hope that they continue to have a hand in the future creation of Red vs. Blue seasons.