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Machinima masters

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Company

Rooster Teeth Productions
Buda, Texas

Challenge

Create several unique machinima series on a shoestring budget

Solution

Use Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects, Adobe Audition, Encore DVD, Illustrator CS, and Photoshop CS software for machinima projects

Benefits

  • Created two unique video series that are shown on the Internet, in theaters, and at the Sundance Film Festival
  • Became profitable based on DVD sales
  • Worked efficiently due to integration among Adobe software applications

Toolkit

Rooster Teeth Productions creates hit machinima series using Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects, Adobe Audition, Encore DVD, Illustrator CS, and Photoshop CS software

Burnie Burns and Matt Hullum of Rooster Teeth
Productions

Burnie Burns and Matt Hullum of Rooster Teeth Productions rarely take things too seriously. Fortunately, their lighthearted approach is paying off not only for them, but for audiences worldwide as well. The two are the comic geniuses behind the hilarious machinima series "Red Vs. Blue," appearing weekly on the Internet.

Based on the popular Xbox video game "Halo," "Red Vs. Blue" has gone from being a fledgling concept to a full-time, profitable venture for Rooster Teeth Productions. The series consists of five minutes of 3D animated game play video, distributed over the Internet each week. "Red Vs. Blue" is also shown in theaters around the world — including Australia, the United States, Germany, England, and France — to crowds of hundreds of people. Adding to the buzz, Rooster Teeth showcased an episode of the series at the Sundance Film Festival in 2005.

Rooster Teeth also creates an online machinima series called 'The Strangerhood" based on "The Sims 2" from Electronic Arts. "The Strangerhood" is centered on a group of eclectic characters all suffering from amnesia. For reasons unknown to them, they have been gathered together in a mysteriously remote suburban neighborhood. Throughout the season, the characters attempt to figure out who they are, why they have been brought together, how they can live with each other, and just exactly who is behind their bizarre situation.

Technology behind the title

As 3D game-based filmmaking experts, Burns and Hullum know it takes more than just humor to produce machinima. It also takes sophisticated technology and skill. The video and audio editing and production solution behind Rooster Teeth's successful machinima projects includes Adobe® Premiere® Pro, After Effects®, Adobe Audition®, Encore® DVD, Illustrator® CS, and Photoshop® CS software.

Burnie Burns

Matt Hullum


Burnie Burns (left) and Matt Hullum (right) are considered machinima masters who use Adobe video software to produce their work. They and the other contributors at Rooster Teeth have gone from operating on a shoestring to making a good living based on sales of “Red vs. Blue” DVDs created using Adobe Encore DVD.


“Today, Adobe video software and Illustrator CS give us a great professional feature set at a price that's very affordable for a small studio like ours.“

-Matt Hullum,
creative director, Rooster Teeth Productions

"Burnie and I have been using Adobe Premiere and Adobe Photoshop since 1997, when we co-created an independent feature film called 'The Schedule,'" says Hullum, creative director for Rooster Teeth Productions. "Today, Adobe video software and Illustrator CS give us a great professional feature set at a price that's very affordable for a small studio like ours."

Hot new filmmaking trend

Machinima, or 3D game-based filmmaking, is the convergence of filmmaking, animation, and game development. It applies real-world filmmaking techniques within an interactive virtual space where humans, scripts, or artificial intelligence control the characters and events. By combining the techniques of filmmaking, animation, and the technology of real-time 3D game engines, machinima enables cost- and time-efficient filmmaking with a large degree of creative control.

To create "Red Vs. Blue" and "The Strangerhood," Rooster Teeth captures and controls game play footage from the video game. Artists use four Xbox systems, two televisions, and one computer with a Canopus video capture card. The video signal from one Xbox feeds into the capture card.

The Rooster Teeth creative team takes control of the game characters. What the main character sees is what is captured. Rooster Teeth voice actors record conversation and control the characters' movements based on a script. The process is closely related to puppeteering or live-action shooting; the Rooster Teeth staff makes the characters act and talk, while capturing it all on a computer.

Gus Sorola

Jason Saldana

Geoff Fink


Gus Sorola, Jason Saldana, and Geoff Fink contribute their time and talents to Rooster Teeth's unique publishing projects. All of them wield Adobe video software to bring machinima projects to fruition.

An integrated suite of tools

Once game play is captured, the creative team dives into Adobe video software to edit each weekly series. Artists wield Adobe Premiere Pro to capture and edit video, After Effects for all visual effects (VFX) work, Adobe Audition for audio editing, and Encore DVD to master DVDs. Graphics elements such as text and backgrounds are produced in either Illustrator CS or Photoshop CS and composited into the final piece using Adobe Premiere Pro.

The Edit Original function and project embedding in Adobe software help VFX artists and video editors at Rooster Teeth work smoothly as a team. Updates made in either After Effects or Adobe Premiere Pro are immediately reflected in everyone's files.

"The integration of Adobe video software is excellent," says Hullum. "For instance, we can bring layered Photoshop files into Adobe Premiere Pro and never have to worry about issues with pixel aspect ratios, a problem that can arise when using other editing systems."

Putting it all together in Adobe Premiere Pro

Artists can combine materials of various resolutions in the Adobe Premiere Pro timeline with ease, an essential ingredient in the studio's production work because "The Sims 2" outputs game play to a different resolution than "Halo," for instance. In addition, "Red Vs. Blue" is shown on large screens in theaters and at venues like Sundance, making high-resolution production and output crucial.

Adobe Premiere Pro also accepts a multitude of different audio formats that can be easily combined on the timeline. This is important because Rooster Teeth receives music for its soundtracks from all over the world in many different file formats, including AIF, WAV, and MP3.

"Adobe Premiere Pro gives us a high degree of flexibility in terms of combining video resolutions and audio formats," says Burns, creator of "Red Vs. Blue." "That's vital for this type of filmmaking."

A smiling Burnie Burns

Burnie Burns created “Red vs. Blue,” a hit that appears on the Internet and is available on DVD. He and his team use the full complement of Adobe video software to produce the series and deliver it on the web and DVD.


“Adobe Premiere Pro gives us a high degree of flexibility in terms of combining video resolutions and audio formats. That's vital for this type of filmmaking.”

-Burnie Burns,
creator, Red vs. Blue

The Rooster Teeth creative team edits audio for "Red Vs. Blue" using Adobe Audition, and artists use the software to give characters' voices a tinny sound, as if the sounds were actually emanating from the spacesuit helmets worn by the characters. During the first season, Rooster Teeth operated on a tight budget, and often recorded voice actors in remote locations over a speakerphone. The team used Adobe Audition to edit the audio to match the quality of voice actors recorded locally. "Adobe Audition software's filters and editing functions made it easy to match audio, regardless of recording conditions," says Hullum.

Wrapping up the season

At the end of each season, Rooster Teeth uses Adobe Encore DVD to produce a DVD of the previous season's episodes. "The DVDs are the most critical thing of all," jokes Burns. "Without them, we'd starve to death."

According to Hullum, Encore DVD was easy to learn and use. No one at Rooster Teeth had ever made a DVD prior to the first "Red Vs. Blue" DVD. "Adobe Encore DVD is point-and-shoot software," says Hullum. "The Paper Clip tool makes attaching assets to links very simple. The familiar Adobe interface helps you get started quickly. Even adding audio commentary and secret menus — tasks that would be considered very complex — are easy to accomplish."

For Burns and Hullum, Adobe video software and Illustrator have become essential ingredients in the continued success of a venture that began at a desk in a bedroom. The young, talented artists at Rooster Teeth have garnered a loyal following and become financially successful using Adobe video software. "Adobe video software is awesome," says Hullum. "We couldn't do what we do without it."