The History Behind the Internet’s Oldest Still Streaming Web Series

Photo Source: Courtesy Rooster Teeth Productions

Miles Luna, at the time merely a writer for Web series “Red vs. Blue,” was at a barbecue hosted by the show’s creator and director, Burnie Burns. As Burns—co-founder of digital content platform Rooster Teeth—was grilling sausages, he turned to the former intern and asked if he’d like to take over the helm of the growing Internet sensation. Luna didn’t have to think long.

“When Burnie asks if you want to take over ‘Red vs. Blue,’ you say yes,” he says, because history’s longest-running Web series is massively popular—500,000 people tune in per episode, according to Luna. It premiered its 13th season April 1, exactly 12 years after its debut on the Rooster Teeth network.

The series is the result of combining machinima, or digital puppeteering, as Luna calls it, and animation. “By manipulating the controller you can make the characters seem like they’re talking, they’re walking,” he explains. In the case of “Red vs. Blue,” the Web series uses graphics from popular video game “Halo” to show the everyday lives of soldiers depicted on the sci-fi, first-person shooter game.

“They’re so commonplace and relatable, and thrown in these ridiculous situations,” Luna says about the soldiers. “One character died twice, became a ghost, and then became artificial intelligence; another became pregnant with an alien baby.”

While the series is often ridiculous, it still deals with weighty issues such as the effect of war on societies, the life of a mercenary, and the horrors of post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Red vs. Blue” is streamed, with paid sponsors getting extra goodies like early episodes, higher resolution quality, and director’s commentary. Seasons are later edited into movies and released on DVD and Blu-ray. The first two seasons are also available for streaming on Netflix.

Originally, “Red vs. Blue” was a small operation: some guys, a few Xboxes, and enough controllers for the lot. But as the series grew, so did the production team.

“We have 30 people working on ‘Red vs. Blue’ in total; everyone from producers to interns to animators, models, concept artists, fight choreographers—it’s grown so much,” Luna says. “Every year, we say, ‘We’ve mastered this technique, let’s add a new layer to this.’ It probably makes our lives a living hell, but it makes for a cool show.” Luna says the first episode of Season 13 was entirely animated and took months to create.

But the hard work is worth it to please the show’s devoted audience. “We have strong fans from military groups. They’ll get a little bit of Internet time and they’ll use it to watch new episodes,” he says. “That’s so humbling to know that we have a connection with very brave people in very dangerous places.”

With the end of Season 13, a trilogy is completed in the “Red vs. Blue” universe. Luna is not entirely sure what’s in store for the narrative, but he can say, “It’ll be really awesome and really, really stupid.”

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