BUDA, Texas ?Ã³ A group of futuristic soldiers wearing red armor stands on one side of a virtual canyon, discussing philosophy. Why are they there? What are they fighting for?
On the other side of the canyon, a team of blue soldiers stands around doing the same thing. TheyÃre locked in a battle no one ever wins.
The two teams of soldiers are the stars of an online comedy series called Ã¬Red vs. BlueÃ® at www.redvsblue.com. Burnie Burns, the showÃs creator, uses the video game Ã¬HaloÃ® as the animation and then records voices over the scenes.
Ã¬IÃve played video games my whole life, and now I actually feel like IÃm part of the video-game industry,Ã® Burns said.
Burns and his friends have been making the series Ã¬Red vs. BlueÃ® for more than three years. The show, which is produced in an apartment in Buda, has five seasons and 78 episodes so far.
He said the Ã¬Red vs. BlueÃ® humor has evolved to the point at which people who do not play video games can understand the jokes. The show has featured a Spanish-speaking robot none of the characters can understand and a tank no one knows how to drive.
Burns compared the animation of his show to the movie Ã¬Toy Story.Ã® Except, he needs 12 other people, three Xbox video game consoles and 40-50 hours to make one five-minute weekly episode.
In Ã¬Halo,Ã® everything is seen in the first-person perspective of the character being used. Burns said the creators devote one Xbox to a character who serves as the showÃs cameraman. The audience views all the scenes taking place from the cameramanÃs point of view.
Using Xbox controllers, Burns and his friends make their characters walk and move their heads to give the impression they are talking.
Everything is recorded and edited by a computer. Voices, audio and visual effects are then added.
Ã¬ItÃs technically 3D animation,Ã® Burns said, Ã¬but itÃs done in real time on the fly.Ã®
BurnsÃ experience in film dates back to when he was a student at the University of Texas. He and friends Matt Hullman and Joel Heyman created a film called Ã¬The ScheduleÃ® in 1996.
After presenting their movie at several film festivals, Heyman and Hullman decided to pursue careers in Hollywood. Burns, a computer science student, got a technology support job in Austin, Texas.
He brainstormed Ã¬Red vs. BlueÃ® while writing video game reviews in 2002 for a Web site called www.drunkgamers.com. In trying to write a funny review for Ã¬Halo,Ã® Burns tried turning it into a video with voiceovers.
Ã¬I thought, ÃWow this could actually be a movie,ÃÃ® Burns said. Ã¬So that was kind of the ÃRed vs. BlueÃ moment.Ã®
With help from Hullman, Heyman, and BurnsÃ www.drunkgamers.com coworkers Gustavo Sorola and Geoff Fink, Ã¬Red vs. BlueÃ® began on April 1, 2003.
In less than two weeks, Ã¬Red vs. BlueÃ® had about 250,000 online visits. Burns said the former Web site, www.drunkgamers.com, had about 3,000 visitors a day while it was online.
Ã¬WeÃd done a bunch of different stuff, plugging away and doing stuff that nobody noticed, and then it was just this one thing that completely took off,Ã® Burns said. Ã¬It exceeded our wildest expectations in about 10 minutes.Ã®
But the fans werenÃt the only ones noticing. Less than a month after the first episode was released, Bungie Studios, the creator of Ã¬Halo,Ã® called Burns about the show.
Ã¬We were gathering stuff up to go talk to them, and then Bungie called us, and they were great,Ã® Burns said. Ã¬They said, ÃWe really like what you guys are doing, and we just want to make sure that you do it right.ÃÃ®
The result was a contract with Microsoft Corp., the company that owns Bungie Studios. Burns said he is not allowed to discuss the details of the contract but said he, Hullman, Sorola, Fink and Jason Saldana have no jobs outside the Ã¬Red vs. BlueÃ® project.
Ã¬ThereÃs not too many day jobs where you get to play video games all day, just hang out with friends and make stupid jokes,Ã® Hullman said.