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Talking With Sarge: An Interview With Rooster Teeth's Matt Hullum

With the tenth season of Red vs. Blue already in the books – and an eleventh already in production – the web series has become one of Rooster Teeth's most popular.  And why not?  With its endearing characters and humorous situations – not to mention the addition of Elijah Wood to the cast – it's become a phenomenon for millions of Halo fans.  And the numbers are sure to go on the rise now that Halo 4 is making the rounds.

To commemorate the tenth season of the series, Rooster Teeth has released a huge box set for the series, culminating all the episodes, along with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews.  (You can buy the tenth season separately on Blu-Ray as well.)  We caught up with Rooster Teeth CEO Matt Hullum, who also voices Sarge and writes and directs various episodes of Red vs. Blue, to get his perspective on the series, as well as what may be next.

Red

It's hard to believe that Red vs. Blue has been going on for so long.  Did you expect it to grow in popularity like it did?

Matt: Absolutely! We're incredibly conceited! Actually, it wasn't even in our wildest expectations. We were only going to make 6 episodes originally. Now it's 10 years later and we just released our 200th episode for the season 10 finale. Hard to believe.

What inspired you to put together Rooster Teeth in the first place?  And furthermore, how'd you get the name for the company?

Matt: A love of poultry and the dental arts. Burnie (voice of "Church"), Joel (voice of "Caboose") and I made an indie feature film together in college and always wanted to keep working together, even though that film didn't go anywhere. Burnie met Gus (voice of "Simmons") and Geoff (voice of "Grif") at his day job and they started messing around trying to make videos using video games. Burnie made a really hilarious Red vs. Blue trailer in 2002 that featured a joke with an unusual dirty word, and that went kind of viral went it hit the Internet. Rooster Teeth is actually a euphemism for that phrase, since we couldn't put the dirty joke itself on our business cards. Watch the original trailer and you'll see what I mean.

Walk us through the process of putting together an episode of Red vs. Blue.  Do you record the voices then perform actions in the game, or the other way around?

Matt: The first half of production is done like traditional animation. We write the scripts and then record all the voices and edit them together like a radio play. The second half, when doing machinima, is done more like live-action filmmaking. We record the video game footage trying to act out or puppeteer our characters to match the pre-recorded audio. Everything is done in multiple takes until we get it right, like you would shooting a live movie. Of course the process for our animated segments is much more involved and takes a lot of people and time.

Red

Did you experience any problems putting together the first episodes of the series?  Glitches or anything like that, or trying to find that "perfect angle" for characters?

Matt: Well, we had no idea what we were doing so everything was guesswork. It turned out later that the "feature" we used to lower the weapons (so that characters could appear to talk normally to each other) was considered a "bug" by the game developer, Bungie. They were going to take it out of the next version of the game and we begged them to leave it in.

How did you go about developing the characters for the series?  Did you all just get together and be like, "OK, this guy's a noob."

Matt: That's kind of how the original stories were written. A bunch of us talking about funny things about the game became conversations between the characters. The characters are sort of based on ourselves, but they've developed over the years into their own. For instance, I am much more manly and heroic in real life than my character, Sarge, but I wanted to show his vulnerable side and demonstrate my incredible acting range.

How did Elijah Wood get involved with the project?  That's major news.

Matt: I know! I still can't believe he's in season 10! He did an incredible job as Sigma. I had met him a long time ago when I worked on one of his movies "The Faculty" that was shot here in Austin. Then years later we got reintroduced to him through some mutual friends in town and he came over and visited our studio. Burnie just asked him if he would consider playing the cool bad guy part in season 10 and Elijah was all for it.

Red

How much fun is it to voice the character of Sarge?  Does it get tiring at all?  And do fans ask you to do it at events and panels?

Matt: It is fun, and doing it live is always a blast because fans don't expect it. Although last time I was at an event I did one brief personalized recording for a fan, and then I look up and see a thousand phones and video cameras waving in my face from everyone else who wanted me to call their cousin a dirtbag. It was a lot of fun, but my voice is still hoarse from that one.

What can fans expect from the release of the season 10 DVD/Blu-Ray set?  Any surprises?

Matt: Yes, there are some awesome surprises in the Blu-Ray set. I don't want to spoil anything of course, but we had access to some cool stuff so we did some cool stuff with it. Is that vague enough?

We also noticed the massive Blu-Ray box set that chronicles the entire series.  Is this a "labor of love" to the truly dedicated fans or what?

Matt: Absolutely. It's been ten years now that we wake up every morning and think how is this possible? We are nothing without our fans. Whenever we make our DVDs or Blu-rays or box sets we always keep them in mind because we want them to have a special experience. We're the kind of guys that like to have all the cool bonus features and extras on DVDs we buy, so we want our own productions to be even more jam-packed with amazing content that isn't on our website or anywhere else. We went absolutely crazy with this new box set and put in everything. We even went back to our original files and remastered all of the audio for every season in 5.1 surround sound. This is without a doubt the most ambitious thing we've ever made. I don't know how we got it done, but every single person at Rooster Teeth contributed and we are all very proud of it.

Red

Finally, with Halo 4 upon us, can we expect bigger and better things for Red vs. Blue?  Or can you say yet?

Matt: Always bigger, always better, but first we're just going to kick back and play Halo 4 for a while. Then maybe a nap. Then season 11.

Check out the RVBX: Red vs. Blue Blu-Ray box set, along with season 10, now. And learn more about Rooster Teeth at http://www.roosterteeth.com!

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Robert Workman
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