This week, NMR caught up with Super Power Beat Down and Bat in the Sun Productions creator Aaron Shoenke to talk about their latest and greatest episode: Batman versus Darth Vader.
Just as a refresher, can you tell us more about Super Power Beat Down?:
Aaron: Super Power Beat Down is a web series that me and my father created, and our company, Bat in the Sun, creates and produces. Basically, we take two super-powered legends, whether its from comic books, television, movies, books, or anything (else), and have the fans debate and then we create kind of a fun live-action battle where we go at it, very much like the show Deadliest Warrior that was on SpikeTV.
A few of the stunt guys were on that, I was on that. I played the Apache, the Spartan, and the main Pirate. One of the stunt coordinators was the stunt coordinator on that show, so a lot of us were just like, “Hey this is a cool idea, let’s just keep doing it.”
This last episode seems to have divided the fanbase, who were you secretly rooting for?
It’s always tough. I am a huge Batman fan, he’s one of my favorite characters. I think there are certain incarnations of Batman that could beat Vader, and that there are certain incarnations of Batman that could not beat Vader. Personally, the Batman I like, the one that is a detective who should be solving child kidnappings and drug-cargo shipping, you know, I don’t think that Batman could beat Vader.
The Batman that hangs out with the Justice League that can beat Superman, that can beat Green Lantern, yeah, he could beat Darth Vader, but then you start to get very science fiction-y, so that’s why we let the fans vote. I think it would be somewhat arrogant for me to define what Batman is. What Batman is to me is not what Batman is to you. I would like to see Batman win, and we are doing an alternate ending.
On the same aspect, Vader is this badass who just — we’ve never really seen him do anything badass. In the movies, he never does anything that is over-the-top fantastical and I think a lot of that has to do with the limitations of ’70’s effects. I think if we had Vader now-a-days, we (would) see a lot of cool stuff which is what we were trying to do — 100 percent of the badass Vader that we thought him to be.
Either way, I’m a big Star Wars fan too, so I was happy with the ending.
Can you tell us about some of the challenges that you faced while producing the video?
The biggest thing is, when creating this thing, is that there’s so many challenges. One is making so that it makes sense to where the simple story structure of it works. How Batman was able to do what he needed to do, and trying to incorporate what the fans want to see. My father and I will sit down many, many times and just go, “Well Batman can do this …” or “Well Vader can do that …” and “How can we get this …” and the fans want to see the lightsaber battle, so how do we work it in to where it makes sense to where fans won’t be like “Well that’s dumb, it can’t work.”
You have to work from a cinematic standpoint and a continuity standpoint. Being huge fans of the characters, it’s fun to kind of go in there, figure out and be like “How is Batman going to fight Vader who has the Force?” and talk about outsmarting him.
I’ve heard that Batman is one of the hardest characters to write for because he is so smart that you have to try and literally be as smart as this fictional character, and go against even greater fictional things, so “How can Batman do these things?” From a story standpoint, that’s where the challenges would be.
Also you run into things like budget with not a huge team like big budget movies have, which the movies have like billions of people, but you still like to dream big and still have to deliver on all the things that the characters can do.
If you’re going to do Superman, you have to show him fly, you have to show him doing all these things. You can’t short-change the audience because of your own production shortcomings. It’s kind of fun to bite off more than you can chew.
With Batman/Vader one of the biggest challenges was all of the effects. There were 115 shots total, and 102 of them required visual effects.
I saw that, so did that mean for this case, was your post production time far longer than your shooting time?
Yeah, we shot the whole thing in three days which was quick. Actually, it was more like two and a half days but the post production as far as editing, music, sound, and of course the effects was about four months. It was difficult because a lot of us are dealing with personal issues, going back and forth, and trying to manage.
I know that our effects guy, his name is Nikolay Zankovoy, he actually lives in Russia. He is our one effects artist. He does EVERYTHING.
One effects artist? That’s incredible.
Every effect involved was done by one guy.
And it seems like you guys put out a video a month, is that correct?
Well, it’s more like every three months. We released two videos while working on Batman/Vader because we knew it was such a huge undertaking, but he’s incredible. He’s so talented. There are so many things, usually there’s different sections between people. Some people do 3-D rendering, this person does textures, he does it all.
He works fast and he works hard. At one point, he apologizing(ly) took a day off and was like, “Yeah, I’ve taken three days off in the past four months.” And I was just like, “Oh my gosh!” but he really understands the urgency and the deadlines we’re trying to meet. He’s just all-around amazing.
Between him and my father, who does all of the sound. I mean he does 100 percent of the sound you hear. It’s all added in. Everything, from footsteps to lightsabers to explosions to glass shattering, he does it all, and he does all of the original music. He’s the composer, so he comes in and does all of the different themes. Between the three of us and outside of that we have our extremely talented team, it’s really amazing how you have quality over quantity with our team and we really have a passion for the characters.
We put our heart and soul into the project, so we’re really excited to see that it’s everywhere and that it’s loved, and that Bat in the Sun, that’s our production company, (is) getting the recognition for creating something that we want to share with the world, and it was a lot of fun. You know, from one fan to another.
Do you guys ever add any Easter Eggs for fans in the videos?
We try to do and incorporate a lot of stuff, like when Batman is flying, Oracle says, “Superman is being held on that small moon,” and “That isn’t a moon.” The way that the camera will cross-fade and pan up is very Star Wars or the pan down when Vader walks away. There’s a lot of little things that we put in there because we are big fans of Star Wars and Batman. It definitely pulls a lot from each character’s lineage, and you want to honor and respect that because they are these two iconic characters.
I notice that the next episode, you’re pitting The Green Ranger versus Ryu. Will Jason David Frank be making an appearance?
Oh yes, he made an appearance when we did Scorpion. It was an Easter Egg at the end of the credits where, spoilers, he takes his helmet off and reveals that ‘Oh it’s Jason!’ and fans were super excited. He did a lot of those cool ‘hyahs!’ that are very recognizable. In this one, he wanted to be more involved, and Jason is so there for his fans. That’s why we work together so much, he really understands that it’s about the process of rewarding the fans.
The fight actually starts off with Ryu, in a street fight, and he’s beating these guys. We have the original actor who played Vega in the Street Fighter movie and so we have Ryu as the winner and “Do we have any other challengers?”
That’s when Tommy Oliver teleports down and is like “I challenge you!”
So we get this whole big Ryu/Tommy fight before he morphs, and we get the whole “Morphin Time, Dragonzord” kind of thing. It’s really cool. The fans will like it and I was a Power Ranger fan when I was a kid and it’s super cool.
Can you tell us who you’re rooting for in the fight? Are you okay with revealing that a little early?
Who do I personally want to win?
So far we’ve had more votes on this episode than we have had on any other episode. I mean personally, I would be rooting for the Green Ranger because I was a bigger Power Ranger fan than Street Fighter, so I would like to see the Green Ranger win, but we’ll see. I mean the voting isn’t over yet and each one has been going back and forth. I’ve been surprised at seeing the ferocity in the voting. It’s fun to watch, no one ever really gets to see that except for myself and the team.
Do you guys ever place bets?
We don’t really place bets as much as like … well, beforehand, my father and I are like “Alright, who do you think is going to win voting on this?” and we’ve been right most of the time, but sometimes we’re like “Wow, this person won, I did not see that coming” and are really surprised by it. It’s all fictional, so I’m not hurt either way by it. It’s a fictional character based on fictional continuity based on fictional ideas. I think it’s just fun to watch. It’s not like they really die, you know?
Would you consider collaborating with other YouTube personalities for these roles?
It depends, I mean we’re all for collaborating with different things and are open to different opportunities. The big thing with the show in terms of acting, and why it works so well with Jason, is that all the actors on the show are all actor/stunt guys. Stunts is such an important thing, and when you talk to stunt guys, you definitely see that their skill is intense and extreme in their ability. You can’t just bring in someone off the street who can’t fight, and have them pick it up in a week. Then you also got to fit the visual look of the character, that’s a big thing for the fans.
There’s so many little things that the fans want to see. So if you meet someone and that fits them, then that’s great. Like the actor who played Batman, Kevin Porter, he’s 6’5”, a martial artist, has the voice, the look, the moves and I know the fans really love him as Batman. It’s important to hit all of those points, and live up to the fans’ expectations. You know, the fans deserve it, the characters deserve it.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Bat in the Sun is very proud of all of our beatdowns, expecially this one. It’s really a team effort, and while I try to be the spokesperson for the team, everyone has their purpose and contribution that is so huge. If you were to take away any of those, it would be insane.
New Media Rockstars would like to thank Aaron Shoenke for taking the time to speak with us. If you want to see more Super Power Beat Down, be sure to check it out here.