The guys over at Rooster Teeth Productions have got a lot on their plates lately: They are finishing up season 10 of their hit machinima-fueled series “Red vs. Blue.” They’re the subjects of the first three episodes of the brand new Machinima series “Infonaut,” which documents the modern age’s subcultures, proprietors, dangers and vices. And on top of all that, they have to explain to their friends and families what “Rooster Teeth” actually means (Spoilers: Your local youth pastor won’t be psyched about it).
I caught up with Rooster Teeth co-founder Burnie Burns, and naturally, the conversation drifted towards “Halo 4,” hitting aliens with cars, and of course, everyone’s favorite “Red vs. Blue” Spartans.
Episode one of “Infonaut,” titled “Red vs. Blue vs. Hollywood,” is live now; you can check it out below.
I read that Rooster Teeth is a euphemism for “cockbite.” Is any of this true?
Burnie Burns: Yeah, it is. The first video we put online, we had that insult in the video, and it became this kind of touchstone for the audience; they just started quoting it everywhere. When we went to make the actual production company we decided to register that, but the state of Texas wouldn’t let us register “Cockbite Production Inc.,” so we decided on Rooster Teeth instead.
What makes someone a “cockbite?”
I have no idea; [laughs] just two words that sounded funny together in my opinion. That was a joke I made back in August of 2002; little did I understand the power of internet branding.
So “cockbite” has become a real internet touchstone?
Yeah, the product that we make and the t-shirts and the DVDs, it was one of those early decisions that you make as a young company that sort of cascades with your career.
Right now, endlessly at dinner parties we have to answer what Rooster Teeth means. We have to talk around the subject constantly. I just say it’s just a funny thing people say online.
Did you guys really start your first project drunkgamers.com just to get free video games?
Yeah, we got one free video game. It was called “Blinkx: The Time Sweeper,” it was an original Xbox game about a time-traveling cat who uses a vacuum cleaner as a weapon. Because we got it for free, we gave it a perfect score.
What will these first episodes of Machinima’s “Infonaut” series be about?
I don’t know what that certain episode is about, but I know the piece in general is about covering the history of Rooster Teeth and what we do. It’s going to be a three-episode series, so I imagine the first episode you’re going to see an introduction into the major players at Rooster Teeth and also the primary productions we work on.
How long does it take to make an episode of “Red vs. Blue?”
When we first started doing it, the first five seasons we produced it with two or three guys working on it, and we could do a 5-minute episode over the course of about a week while we worked day jobs. Now the production is a little more advanced, and some of our intense action sequences will have a team of about twenty or thirty animators that can work for a month at a time on just one episode.
If you could be any member of Noble Team from “Halo: Reach,” who would you be?
I would be Jun because no one really knows what happened to him. There is a weird chance he may have survived Reach, and I would like to have at least a chance of getting off a planet that was being destroyed by the Covenant.
What is your best Halo multiplayer killstreak?
I had the most amount of multiplayer games across “Halo 2.” I had about 25,000 twenty kills and 25,000 ten deaths. So my kill/death ratio across fifty death and kills I was within ten. So, it was almost like a perfect one to one on my kill/death ratio, which is not great, but it was crazy to me how close they were together. When we first made the game type grifball, I got a “killionaire,” which was the craziest thing ever; it was finally a game type I could excel at.
How have you seen the medium of machinima grow since you started doing it professionally in 2002?
I think the biggest thing I’ve seen happen is machinima in general has moved away from a narrative storytelling device and more into a commentary sort of thing where people will do gameplay with commentary. Back when we started doing machinima, there wasn’t really a lot of that stuff. It was more like people wanting to tell some kind of story. I’d actually like to see machinima get more back towards its roots in that way, people flexing their writing skills and trying to tell a piece of fiction.
How excited is everyone at Rooster Teeth about “Halo 4” and all the new machinima assets it will come with?
I mean we are super excited. We had our RTX convention this year down in Austin where we had about 5,000 fans come out back when 343 debuted Forge for “Halo 4,” and it was really cool to see that stuff for the first time. It is always great and refreshing that the world where we shoot the show — “Red vs. Blue” — they refresh it once every few years. It makes new storylines, and it reinvigorates us to keep making the show better.
What makes up a good piece of machinima?
If it is pure machinima and basically the game, someone who uses what is available in the environment is always impressive. You know, take a door and repurpose it, take a space and change it into something else just by the context of the writing, not just the camera or the editing tricks, but more so with the creative use of the visual assets available.
Why does it seem like everyone on Xbox Live is a either a horrible racist or horribly homophobic?
I don’t think that is just unique to Xbox Live; I think that is a product of just people interfacing with each other on an anonymous basis. Not just the person who is anonymous feels free to do that but also the anonymity of the person who they are saying it to. It is like this double-blind interaction where people will do or say anything to get a reaction. There are a lot of times where I meet people on forums, and they just seem like the most acerbic, horrible people, then I meet them in real life and it’s not what they are about. It’s like “You’re this asshole that was posting all this stuff?” and they just seem like a laid-back person.
You’re driving on a lonely highway, and you hit an alien with your car — what do you do?
Is it dead?
No, it’s wounded but breathing.
I would probably put the alien behind the wheel of the car and push it off a cliff, and then it is completely the alien’s fault. It will seem like a natural thing. The alien came to Earth, took a car out for a joyride, it drove off a cliff. It’s embarrassing for humans, and it’s embarrassing for aliens. That way you avoid any kind of international incident, or intergalactic incident. I wouldn’t want to be the cause of something like that.
What’s coming up for Rooster Teeth in the next year?
Right out of the gate we are wrapping up season 10. We have a 14-disc box set and a 14-disc Blu-ray set that are coming out for the holiday season. We are working on a new game show, which is a gaming competition with a $10,000 first prize; we’ve never done anything like that before. Then later this winter, we are going to be filming a narrative series, a post-apocalyptic thing. We are also bringing back our really popular show “Immersion,” where we test video game concepts in real life.