Failed filmmaker, video game reviewer uses Halo to create popular online series


BUDA, Texas ?ó 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. Theyíre locked in a battle no one ever wins.

The two teams of soldiers are the stars of an online comedy series called ìRed vs. Blueî at Burnie Burns, the showís creator, uses the video game ìHaloî as the animation and then records voices over the scenes.

ìIíve played video games my whole life, and now I actually feel like Iím part of the video-game industry,î Burns said.

Burns and his friends have been making the series ìRed vs. Blueî 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 ìRed vs. Blueî 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 ìToy Story.î Except, he needs 12 other people, three Xbox video game consoles and 40-50 hours to make one five-minute weekly episode.

In ìHalo,î 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 showís cameraman. The audience views all the scenes taking place from the cameramanís 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.

ìItís technically 3D animation,î Burns said, ìbut itís done in real time on the fly.î

Burnsí 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 ìThe Scheduleî 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 ìRed vs. Blueî while writing video game reviews in 2002 for a Web site called In trying to write a funny review for ìHalo,î Burns tried turning it into a video with voiceovers.

ìI thought, ÃWow this could actually be a movie,íî Burns said. ìSo that was kind of the ÃRed vs. Blueí moment.î

With help from Hullman, Heyman, and Burnsí coworkers Gustavo Sorola and Geoff Fink, ìRed vs. Blueî began on April 1, 2003.

In less than two weeks, ìRed vs. Blueî had about 250,000 online visits. Burns said the former Web site,, had about 3,000 visitors a day while it was online.

ìWeíd 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,î Burns said. ìIt exceeded our wildest expectations in about 10 minutes.î

But the fans werenít the only ones noticing. Less than a month after the first episode was released, Bungie Studios, the creator of ìHalo,î called Burns about the show.

ìWe were gathering stuff up to go talk to them, and then Bungie called us, and they were great,î Burns said. ìThey said, ÃWe really like what you guys are doing, and we just want to make sure that you do it right.íî

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 ìRed vs. Blueî project.

ìThereís not too many day jobs where you get to play video games all day, just hang out with friends and make stupid jokes,î Hullman said.