Saturday, October 22, 2011

Burnie Burns:The Viral Video Legend

Burnie Burns, one of the founders of Rooster Teeth Productions, was invited to come speak during Mass Communication Week this year.

Burns is most notably famous for his Red vs. Blue series and his contributions to machinima, both of which I had never heard of before this week. I did some research on Burns and his production company, Rooster Teeth Productions before the interview, but I did wonder what I would get out of this lecture, considering I have never played a Halo or heard of this guy. Let me just tell you-I severely underestimated the value of this lecture.

Before we get started- a brief overview of Burns line of work.

Red vs. Blue is a web series based around the video game Halo and was created by Burns and his crew. Although the Internet was in its early stages during the creation of Red vs. Blue, once the series was on the web, it gained popularity quickly. The machinima production Red vs. Blue now has over 1 billion views worldwide since its conception in 2003. The series was the first of its kind to use video game characters to tell a narrative story, and machinima technology to give the story visual components. Since then Burns has gone on to produce, write and create many other projects.

The Red vs. Blue series has become successful in the web world, but Burns and his crew did experience obstacles along the way first and largest of which became how to get the videos out where people could see them.

This, for me, was one of the most interesting parts of the interview. When Burns began talking about the inability to find a web host to get the episodes of Red vs. Blue onto the web, I began to call my whole Internet existence into question (kind of an exaggeration, but partially true). Whenever I make a video I want my friends to see, I just hop on YouTube, upload it and wait to see how many hits it gets. But when was the last time anyone thought about a world without YouTube? However, this was Burns reality.

Then a student came to the mic and said something that put everything into perspective regarding host sites in general.

The student thanked Burns for his contributions to the viral world and told him how much he enjoyed Red vs. Blue, and then he said, ‘ thank you also Mr. Burns for creating material that ultimately created YouTube.’ My first thought was, this guy did not create YouTube, what is this kid talking about? However, the more I thought about it, the more I felt that the student was right.

He wasn’t saying that Burns had created YouTube in the literal sense, but more so saying that because of series like Red vs. Blue there came a need for hosting sites like YouTube- because of what Burns was creating there was a need for sites like this- sites that are not connecting billions of people to billions of other people’s music, blogs and lives really. Who knows, without the creation of these sites, Burns career may have turned out a lot differently.

One of my other favorite parts of the interview was when Burns began talking about how he hires people, and then show the audience a video of a guy he hired playing a video game and cursing at the screen because he was terrible at it. It was hilarious, and I think he won the award for most “F bombs” dropped in a single interview.

I was thankful that I got to hear the Burnie Burns interview, because I didn’t realize this at the time, but he’s kind of a big deal. During the interview, Cindy Royal mentioned that there were 900 people watching the live stream and I saw that the interview got up to 8900 hits on the web after the fact. Crazy!

Burns was charming and intelligent and I found his words applicable and insightful. His use of media and persistence of excellence in his projects definitely made me a fan.

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