Red vs. Blue



Red vs. Blue: The Blood Gulch Chronicles, sometimes abbreviated as RvB, is a comic science fiction video series created by Rooster Teeth Productions and distributed primarily through the Internet and DVD. The series chronicles the story of two opposing teams of soldiers fighting a civil war in the middle of a desolate box canyon, in a parody of first-person shooter (FPS) games, military life, and science fiction films. Initially intended to be a short series of six to eight episodes, the project quickly and unexpectedly achieved significant popularity following its April 1, 2003 Internet premiere. Therefore, Rooster Teeth decided to extend the series, whose fourth season ended on April 1, 2006.

Red vs. Blue emerged from Burnie Burns' voice-over-enhanced gameplay videos of Bungie Studios' FPS video game Halo: Combat Evolved. The series is primarily produced using machinima technique of synchronizing video footage from a game to pre-recorded dialogue and other audio. Footage is mostly from the multiplayer modes of Halo: Combat Evolved and its sequel, Halo 2, on the Microsoft Xbox video game console.

Both within the machinima movement and among film critics, Red vs. Blue has been generally well-received. Praised for its originality, the series has won four awards from the Academy of Machinima Arts & Sciences. It has been credited with bringing new popularity to machinima, helping it to gain more mainstream exposure, and attracting more people to the art form. Graham Leggat, former director of communications for Lincoln Center's film society, described Red vs. Blue as "truly as sophisticated as Samuel Beckett". Although episodes continue to be released online, the four currently completed seasons are also available on DVD, making the series one of the first commercially released and successful machinima products.

Red vs. Blue tells the story of the Red and Blue Teams, two groups of soldiers engaged in a civil war. Each team occupies a small base in a box canyon known as Blood Gulch. According to Simmons (Gustavo Sorola), one of the Red Team soldiers, each team's base exists only in response to the other team's base. Although both teams generally dislike each other and have standing orders to defeat their opponents and capture their flag, neither team's soldiers are usually motivated to fight each other. Teammates have an array of eccentric personalities and often create more problems for each other than for their enemies.

The main Red vs. Blue storyline spans four seasons, and a fifth season was planned to premiere in July 2006. Rooster Teeth also periodically releases self-referential public service announcements (PSAs) and holiday-themed videos, which are generally unrelated to the main storyline. In these videos, the members of both teams still act in-character, except during introductions that refer to the Red vs. Blue series itself. On June 16, 2006, Burns announced a five-part mini-series, Red vs. Blue: Out of Mind, which chronicles the adventures of the mercenary Tex (Kathleen Zuelch) after her disappearance in season 4. The mini-series premiered exclusively on the Xbox Live Marketplace, but Rooster Teeth has also made it available on their official site.

Although the background of Red vs. Blue is primarily taken from Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2, its creators consciously limit connections to Bungie's Halo fictional universe. A video made for E3 2003 portrays Master Chief, the protagonist of the Halo series, as a larger-than-life member of the army, and the Red vs. Blue trailer and first episode establish that the series is set between the events of the two games. Beyond these references, however, the series follows an independent storyline, which, according to Burns, is intended to make it accessible to those unfamiliar with the games. For example, even though the season 4 cast includes a character from the alien Covenant Elite race, Rooster Teeth never portrays that character in its original Halo context.

Season 1

The indifference in Blood Gulch is disrupted by the introduction of new players to the "conflict". Donut (Dan Godwin) enters the fray on the Red Team. On his first day, he captures the Blue flag when his new teammates, Grif (Geoff Ramsey) and Simmons, send him on a fool's errand during the absence of the team leader, Sarge (Matt Hullum). Meanwhile, a rookie named Caboose (Joel Heyman) and a battle tank named Sheila (Yomary Cruz) join the Blue Team and accidentally kill the group's self-appointed leader, Church (Burnie Burns). At the request of Tucker (Jason Saldaña) and Caboose, Blue Command hires a mercenary named Tex to help. Church briefly returns as a ghost to warn his teammates about Tex, who soon arrives and attacks the Reds. After severely injuring Donut, Tex succeeds in returning the Blue flag, but is captured by the Reds. Church again appears to the Blues to explain that Tex is actually his former girlfriend, whose mind is partially controlled by a psychotic artificial intelligence (AI). He organizes a rescue mission that succeeds after some difficulties. In an attempt to keep Tex stationed in Blood Gulch long enough for him to remove the AI from her head, Church possesses the Red Team's robot, Lopez (Burnie Burns), to warn them of Tex's impending attack. He fails and, much to his horror, she is killed in action by Donut in revenge for her previous attack. Church runs to her side, stealing Lopez's body in the process.

Season 2

Three months after Tex's death, DuFresne (Matt Hullum), a medic who is soon nicknamed "Doc", arrives in the canyon. On loan to both armies due to a lack of resources, he checks on the Blue Team just before the Reds attack. After the skirmish, the Blues surrender and give Doc as a hostage to the Reds, who soon tire of his personality and ditch him in the middle of the canyon. Meanwhile, Church continues to attempt to acclimate himself to his new, stolen robot body but eventually loses control of it. Tex returns as a ghost and informs the Blues that her evil, megalomaniacal AI, O'Malley (Joel Heyman, later Matt Hullum), had jumped to Caboose right before her death, thereby explaining his recent aggressive behavior. Church and Tex possess Caboose and force out O'Malley, but the AI survives by taking control of Doc. Later, Donut is captured by the Blues during a reconnaissance mission, and Sarge is forced to build two new robot bodies for Church and Tex in exchange for his return. Meanwhile, Sheila and Lopez form their own robot army and join the exchange in order to conquer the Blues. This culminates in a Mexican standoff, during which Tucker discovers that both teams are apparently secretly controlled by the same Command; the Reds and Blues have the same contact, a man named Vic (Burnie Burns). O'Malley suddenly appears, kidnaps Lopez, and escapes with him through a teleporter. The Red and Blue Teams call a truce and form two-man teams to pursue O'Malley. However, the teleporter malfunctions, and the teams become scattered across various locations outside Blood Gulch.

Season 3

Sarge and Caboose manage to escape from immortal, respawning, flag-obsessed Red and Blue soldiers ("Grunts") in Battle Creek. On behalf of Vic, O'Malley hires a mercenary named Wyoming (Matt Hullum) to kill Tucker to preserve the secrecy of the apparent conspiracy. After Simmons repairs the teleporter, the Red and Blue Teams regroup on Sidewinder and confront O'Malley. However, a reality-shattering bomb destroys the present and propels everyone, except Church, into the future (represented by Halo 2); Church is thrown into the past (represented by Marathon 2 and Marathon Infinity). In the future, the Reds and Blues battle O'Malley at his new fortress but become trapped inside with an active time bomb, who is later revealed to a be a sentient, foul-mouthed entity named Andy (Nathan Zellner). In the distant past, Church learns of The Great Prophecy from Gary, a computer. This prophecy states that, in the future, a blue being known as The Great Destroyer will use The Great Weapon to bring The Great Doom to billions of people. Believing that the prophesied blue being is Caboose, Church travels forward in time to Blood Gulch, in the recent past. He then attempts to prevent the problems that the teams had encountered in the previous two seasons, and, in turn, the events leading up to The Great Doom. However, in a causality loop, Church realizes that his own actions cause these issues. Eventually abandoning the idea of changing the past, he travels to Sidewinder and rejoins the main group as the explosion occurs, thus propelling himself into the future with everyone else. He arrives just in time to ask Gary, who still remains in the fortress, to stop Andy from destructing. Shortly after, O'Malley lays siege to his captured fortress with an army of robots, only to have them obliterated by an unknown being, who then confronts O'Malley himself. Unknown to the Blues, the Reds leave mid-battle in search of a mysterious distress call and arrive back at Blood Gulch, much to Grif's dismay. The season ends on a cliffhanger as a creature creeps up on an unsuspecting Church.

Season 4

As the Red Team re-explores Blood Gulch, Simmons' insistence that Sheila still roams the canyon leads to his exile from the group. In retaliation, he paints himself mostly blue, takes command of the empty Blue Base and Sheila, and captures Grif. Back at the fortress, the Blue Team attempts to confront the new Alien (Nathan Zellner), only to experience humiliating defeats until Caboose manages to befriend him. With Andy translating, the Alien reveals that he is on a sacred quest to save his people and has come to the fortress to retrieve The Great Weapon, an energy sword. However, because Tucker accidentally discovered the weapon first, only he can use it. Threatening to kill everyone otherwise, the Alien forces Tucker, Andy, and Caboose to partake of his quest; Tex trails and later joins them. The team eventually finds a temple occupied by the Grunts from Battle Creek. As Tex defeats them, Tucker uses the sword to open a gate to a flying ship, of which the Alien quickly takes command. Wyoming suddenly re-appears, however, and shoots the ship down, thus killing the Alien, before fleeing with Tex in pursuit.

Meanwhile, Church returns to the Blue Base in Blood Gulch and encounters the blue Simmons, whom he pretends not to recognize, and accidentally contacts Vic Jr. (Burnie Burns), a distant descendant of Vic who scoffs at Church's mention of Blue Command. Simmons returns to the Red Base to relay information learned from Vic Jr. about the war, and Tucker, Caboose, and Andy return to the gulch and inform Church of the events at the temple. However, Tucker becomes ill for an unknown reason, and Church calls Doc, whom O'Malley still controls, for help. On his arrival, O'Malley exchanges Doc's aid for something to be named later. The Reds find Lopez, who had returned to the canyon with O'Malley, and discover that important instructions that Red Command has placed inside Lopez's head can only be played in Spanish. While Church confirms Doc's diagnosis that Tucker is pregnant, Sarge distracts Caboose and steals Andy to translate the plans, which turn out to be unhelpful. Upon hearing of Andy’s disappearance, Church becomes enraged at the whole situation and confronts the Reds with Sheila; in response, Sarge radios Command for reinforcements. Andy reveals that the Alien had the ability to impregnate others with parasitic embryos, and, off-screen, Tucker gives birth to a creature heard speaking in a high-pitched alien language. Caboose informs Church that O'Malley had left Doc after Sarge had contacted Command. As Church runs back to the Blue Base, a ship crashes into the gulch, right on top of Donut.

Out of Mind

Set after the events of episode 71, the Out of Mind mini-series follows Tex's pursuit of Wyoming. As the former tracks the latter to O'Malley's base from episode 73, the story then flashes back to detail the implantation of the AI Omega into Tex. After the flashback, Tex enlists another soldier from the same implantation process, York, to help infiltrate the base. As they do so, they are caught in a firefight with Wyoming and two others. York is fatally wounded, but Tex, with the aid of Delta (York's AI), manages to corner Wyoming and extract information about O'Malley from him. The mini-series ends there.

Red vs. Blue features characters whose personalities are skewed in different ways and to varying degrees. These quirks and the ways that they interact and conflict with each other drive much of the plot and humor. The series has revolved around eight main characters, four on each team. Several other characters, both team-affiliated and unaffiliated, human and non-human, have played significant roles at various points in the story.

Sarge is the staff sergeant and leader of the Blood Gulch Red Team. A military man with a Southern United States accent, he is the only Blood Gulch soldier on either team consistently serious about the Red versus Blue civil war. His sociopathic battle plans often entail unnecessary casualties in his own men. In particular, a common planned outcome is the death of Grif, who is habitually lazy, irresponsible, and uninsightful. These characteristics earn him the disrespect and ridicule of both Sarge and Simmons, Sarge's sycophantic, insecure right-hand man. Despite this, Simmons and Grif are often seen together, either chatting or bickering. Donut, the eager rookie who joins the team in episode 3, tends to annoy his teammates with his naïveté, garrulousness, and cheerfulness and becomes more effeminate and childish as the series progresses.

On the other side of the canyon, Church is the cynical de facto leader of the Blue Team. Often shouldering the responsibility of actually solving the various crises that the Blood Gulch teams encounter, he often ends up taking their brunt, leaving him increasingly disillusioned and antisocial. His serious, reasoned approach conflicts with the personalities of Tucker and Caboose. The former is snide, averse to work and battle, and obsessed with women; the latter, although physically strong, exhibits varying degrees of stupidity and childishness throughout the series. Rounding out the Blue Team is Tex, Church's former girlfriend who is hired by Blue Command to join the team as a mercenary in episode 10. Able to eliminate entire teams of soldiers by herself, she is described as "the most lethal soldier in Blood Gulch".

Significant supporting characters:

* Lopez: A robot built by Sarge that, due to a damaged voice card, can only speak Spanish.

* Sheila: The AI inside the Blue Team's tank.

* Doc: A medic who exhibits extreme pacifism.

* O'Malley: An evil, megalomaniacal AI who can travel from host to host via radio.

* Andy: A bomb built by Tex to destroy O'Malley. He also translates for the Alien.

* Alien: A creature who leads most of the Blue Team on a "sacred quest".

* Gary: A computer terminal built to maintain knowledge of The Great Prophecy.

* Wyoming: A freelancer hired to kill Tucker.

* Vic: A sardonic, unhelpful communications officer.

* Vic Jr.: A distant descendant of Vic who is also a sardonic, unhelpful communications officer.

* York: a former infiltration specialist, from Tex's division, recruited by Tex to infiltrate Wyoming at a base.

* Delta: The AI assigned to York in the same process in which Omega/O'Malley is assigned to Tex.

Red vs. Blue emerged from Burnie Burns's voiceover-enhanced gameplay videos that he created for a website called drunkgamers.com, which was run by Geoff Fink (later Geoff Ramsey) and Gustavo Sorola. Having played Halo: Combat Evolved extensively, the drunkgamers crew discussed one day whether the Warthog, an automobile in the game, actually looked more like a cat. This discussion, re-created in episode 2, was "the spark for the whole series". With the idea that a full story could be developed, Burns created a trailer for Red vs. Blue, but it was largely ignored, and, for unrelated reasons, drunkgamers soon closed. Four months later, Computer Gaming World contacted Ramsey for permission to include a drunkgamers video in a CD to be distributed with the magazine. Ramsey granted permission, but he and Burns felt that they needed a website to take advantage of the exposure from Computer Gaming World. As a result, they resurrected the Red vs. Blue project and re-released the trailer to coincide with the Computer Gaming World issue. The first episode proper was released on April 1, 2003.

Rooster Teeth was initially unaware of the machinima movement. Co-producer Matt Hullum stated in an interview with GameSpy in 2004, "When we first started Red vs. Blue we thought we were completely original. We never imagined that there were other people out there using video games to make movies, much less that it was a new art form with a hard to pronounce name and an official organization."

The nature of Red vs. Blue was different from Burns's initial expectation. A partial character introduction released between the original trailer and the first episode featured extensive action and violence and was set to Limp Bizkit's song "Break Stuff". However, as the project developed, the crew realized that it was going to focus more on situation comedy rather than on the heavy action initially implied. Indeed, although the series parodies video games, Ramsey noted, "We try not to make it too much of an inside joke. And I think we use more bureaucracy and military humor than anything else, which everybody working in an office can identify with." Rooster Teeth noted that Red vs. Blue has a wide variety of influences, including Homestar Runner, Penny Arcade, and possibly Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Rooster Teeth also initially envisioned the project to be short, but the series grew beyond their expectations. Burns and Ramsey had preconceived a list of jokes for Red vs. Blue and initially planned the series to last between six and eight episodes. By episode 8, however, they realized that the series had fleshed out more than expected; they had covered only about one third of their original joke list. Later in season 1, Burns estimated a series of 22 episodes; however, driven by the series' popularity, he realized that there was more potential story than could be covered in that length, and was able to conceive an extension of the season 1 plot. Just before the debut of season 4, Ramsey's only indication of final series length was that Rooster Teeth planned "to make as many episodes as they can".

The writing process for the series has changed over time. Early in season 1, Burns wrote the episode scripts from week to week, with minimal planning in advance; major plot events were conceived shortly before they were filmed. For the second season, Matt Hullum became a main writer. A rough plot outline is now written before a season begins, although the actual content of an individual episode is still decided on a more short-term basis. Because Red vs. Blue is loosely based on the Halo universe, Rooster Teeth encountered some difficulties when trying to synchronize events in the series with the release of Halo 2.

Aside from a few scenes created using Marathon Infinity, Marathon 2, and the PC version of Halo, Red vs. Blue is mostly filmed with interconnected Xbox consoles. As the series title suggests, the videos are largely set in the Halo map Blood Gulch and its Halo 2 counterpart, Coagulation. However, some episodes have been filmed on other maps, including Sidewinder from Halo and Zanzibar from Halo 2. Within a multiplayer game session, the people controlling the avatars "puppet" their characters, moving them around, firing weapons, and performing other actions as dictated by the script, and in synchronization with the episode's dialogue, which is recorded ahead of time.

The "camera" is simply another player, whose first-person perspective is recorded raw to a computer. As the recording occurs within the game, a few different bugs and post-production techniques have been exploited in order to achieve desired visual effects. In particular, Adobe Premiere Pro is used to edit the audio and video together, impose letterboxing to hide the camera player's head-up display, add the title and fade-to-black screens, and create some visual effects that cannot be accomplished in-game.

Red vs. Blue attracted interest immediately; the first episode had 20,000 downloads within a day. Shortly after episode 2, Bungie Studios contacted Rooster Teeth. The crew had feared that any contact from Bungie would be to force an end to the project, but Bungie enjoyed the videos and was supportive; one staff member called the production "kind of brilliant". A deal was arranged to ensure that the series could continue to use Bungie's game properties legally, without license fees and without creative guidelines from Microsoft, Bungie's parent company, except for specifically commissioned videos. Red vs. Blue continued to attract more attention, and, by April 2004, Kevin J. Delaney of The Wall Street Journal estimated that weekly viewership was between 650,000 and 1,000,000. In a 2006 interview, Strange Company founder Hugh Hancock called the series probably "the most successful machinima productions" and estimated that it was generating almost US$200,000 annually.

Red vs. Blue was widely acclaimed within the machinima industry. The first season won awards for Best Picture, Best Independent Machinima Film, and Best Writing at the Academy of Machinima Arts & Sciences' 2003 Machinima Film Festival. Two years later, at the 2005 festival, the third season won an award for Best Independent Machinima and was nominated for five others.

Among film critics, the response was generally positive. Darren Waters of BBC News Online called Red vs. Blue "riotously funny" and "reminiscent of the anarchic energy of South Park". Reviewing the three season DVDs for Cinema Strikes Back, Charlie Prince wrote, "Red vs. Blue is hysterical in large part because all the characters are morons, and so the seemingly intense conflict with the opposing base doesn't exactly work the way you'd think it would." Leggat described the series as "part locker-room humor, part Beckett-like absurdist tragicomedy, part wicked vivisection of game culture and sci-fi action films and games". Ed Halter of The Village Voice dismissed the humor as shallow and described the first season as "Clerks-meets-Star Wars". Leggat defended the humor, arguing, "The literary analog is absurdist drama."

Another common criticism of Red vs. Blue was that its season 3 plot was too far-fetched and out-of-character. Charlie Prince wrote, "By the third season, however, the Red vs. Blue idea seems to be running out of steam.… It's not funny so much as just odd." Writing for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Wilma Jandoc agreed that the first part of "season 3… throws the teams into a ridiculous situation and has limited member interactions, leading to a lack of witty dialogue." In an about.com review of the season 4 DVD, writer Eric Qualls noted that season 3 was "a little too long, and too complicated, and the jokes were a bit too far apart." Nevertheless, both Prince and Jandoc expressed optimism that the series would improve from this low point, and Qualls stated that the fourth season had "returned to the series' roots" as "some of the funniest stuff you’ll ever see".

Rooster Teeth Productions has created special Red vs. Blue videos for various events. For example, Microsoft has commissioned Red vs. Blue videos for Xbox demo kiosks found in game stores and for a developer conference. Barenaked Ladies has also commissioned videos for their concerts. Other videos have been specifically created for gaming magazines, including Electronic Gaming Monthly and Computer Gaming World; gaming conventions, including E3 and the Penny Arcade Expo; and the Sundance Film Festival.

Red vs. Blue has also received praise from soldiers stationed in the Middle East. An August 2005 blog entry by Kimi Matsuzaki of 1UP.com displays photographs of soldiers holding various weapons, as well as copies of the first and second season Red vs. Blue DVDs. Geoff Ramsey later stated in an interview, "We get a lot of merchandise and DVDs out to Iraq and get a lot of great e-mails back."

Red vs. Blue is widely credited with attracting public attention to machinima. Although examples had existed since the 1990s, Clive Thompson credits Red vs. Blue as "the first to break out of the underground". Tavares, Gil, and Roque call it machinima's "first big success". Thompson notes that "Microsoft has been so strangely solicitous that when it was developing the sequel to Halo last year, the designers actually inserted a special command — a joystick button that makes a soldier lower his weapon — designed solely to make it easier for Rooster Teeth to do dialogue." The series has inspired other machinima productions, including The Codex and Sponsors vs Freeloaders.

In the machinima industry, the series has been mentioned as the most successful example of the trend towards serial distribution. According to Hugh Hancock, this format allows for gradual improvement as a result of viewer feedback, and gives viewers a reason to return for future videos. In fact, Hancock argues that this model was necessary for Red vs. Blue's success: "Sunday night is Red vs. Blue night, just as (in the UK) Thursday used to be Buffy. Had RvB released their films as single downloads of an hour and a half, they'd have had nowhere near the success they currently enjoy."

Videos are released in QuickTime (QT), DivX, and, starting with episode 26, Windows Media Video (WMV) formats. All released episodes of the most recent season are freely available from the official site, in 360-by-240 resolution (except 320-by-240 for WMV). A few episodes from the previous seasons are available from a rolling archive; each week, the videos are rotated to the next set. This setup is intended to help to control bandwidth costs; as of September 2005, the official Rooster Teeth website was serving 400 terabytes of data monthly. However, nearly all freely released episodes of Red vs. Blue are also available from websites such as Machinima.com, PlanetMirror, Archive.org, FilePlanet, Google Video, and YouTube.

Members of the official website can gain sponsor status for a fee of US$10 every six months. Sponsors can access videos a few days before the general public release, higher-resolution (720-by-480 for QT and DivX, 640-by-480 for WMV) versions of the videos, and special content released only to sponsors. Additionally, while the public archive is limited to rotating sets of videos, sponsors can access content from previous seasons at any time.

Although it is distributed serially over the Internet, Red vs. Blue is also one of the first commercially released products made using machinima, as opposed to a product merely containing machinima. DVDs of the four completed seasons are sold through Rooster Teeth's official website, as well as at some GameStop and Hot Topic stores in the United States. Each season is released on DVD within two months of that season's final episode. For the DVDs, the episodes of the main storyline are edited together to play continuously as a full-length film. Because the episodes as individually released often contain dialogue that continues into or past the fade to black at the end of the video, Rooster Teeth either removes that dialogue entirely or films extra footage to replace the original fade to black.

A third version of the season is further edited for time for showing at the Lincoln Center and at other film festivals. In a 2005 interview, Burns noted that the first season, normally 75 minutes in length, was cut to 55 minutes for these venues, with an entire episode omitted. Burns also noted in a website news post that the 135-minute season 3 DVD version had to be shortened to "a watchable-in-a-theater runtime of 100 minutes".Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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