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Interview with Rufus Cubed Productions, creators of 'Return'

Mike D'Anna

With the latest WoW movie contest looming on the horizon, we take this opportunity to present you an interview with Terran Justice & BrotherVoltaire, the guys at Rufus Cubed Productions, creators of the acclaimed WoW machinima film 'Return'. The film was a sensation at the latest Blizzcon, and if you haven't seen it yet, do yourself a favor & check it out!

WoW Insider: So, first of all, a little about you guys; where are you from & what do you do?

TerranJustice: Well we're from Seattle. And we both work Technical support day jobs.

BrotherVoltaire: Pays the bills it does.

WoW Insider: Have you been working with machinima for long?

BrotherVoltaire: Return was our first attempt at Machinima.
BrotherVoltaire: We started production on September 6th 2005.

TerranJustice: But we've been filmmakers for about 10 years.

Continued after the break...

WoW Insider: I see; what formats did you work in before this?

TerranJustice: DV dating back to VHS. Done one film on 8mm but nothing spectacular.

BrotherVoltaire: Before Return we'd done very little serious dramatic work.
BrotherVoltaire: In a nut-shell, comedy shorts for the web were our craft.

TerranJustice: We've been working with Digital Editing since its early commercial days ... about 1998.  We've quite a bit of experience since then doing odd professional jobs for independent contract.

WoW Insider: How did the idea to create Return come about?

TerranJustice: I'll let BV field that one

BrotherVoltaire: I was sitting at home on vacation on my birthday (6th of September) when it occurred to me that Return had to be done. The story comes from our experiences as a dedicated roleplaying guild in Asheron's Call, Dark Age of Camelot, Shadowbane, and WoW.
BrotherVoltaire: Even further back that was born from some pen 'n paper stuff

WoW Insider: When you decided to create the film, what were your first steps in learning how to work within the machinima format?%uFFFD Did you try out various capture methods & software?

TerranJustice: We'd already acquired a pretty well outfitted setup for editing video and such over the years, but capturing in game was a challenge.%uFFFD I'd already owned "Fraps" from a short period where I enjoyed recording videos of our guild downing Onyxia or melting horde faces.
TerranJustice: But I can solidly say that probably the first week of production was entirely dedicated to learning the tech and working out the kinks.
TerranJustice: Most of what we used we found on user forums pertaining to World of Warcraft ... we didn't really research Machinima itself as a basis of study.

WoW Insider: I can identify...%uFFFD Did the two of you collaborate on the story?%uFFFD And did you have a complete story in script form before you started production?

BrotherVoltaire: We collaborate in nearly every facet of production on all our works. This is always in different capacities though. While I wrote the basic story out in a rough screenplay format, Terran edited it with many crucial additions.

TerranJustice: We tend to work primarily in certain capacities while the other contributes, both creatively and technically.

BrotherVoltaire: We had a complete screenplay to work with, but as always, when we hit the road, things changed along the way.

TerranJustice: Not too much for this specific production though, comparative to our former works.

BrotherVoltaire: Machinima writes itself in some respects because of the nature of the medium.
BrotherVoltaire: Some things are far easier than live-action while others can be impossible or nearly so.

WoW Insider: Did you approach the production of Return like you would have any other film?%uFFFD I.E. was it storyboarded & were shot lists made?%uFFFD

BrotherVoltaire: *cough*

TerranJustice: Hehe.

BrotherVoltaire: (I'm really coughing, sorry)

WoW Insider: Hehe.
WoW Insider: If that's a no, then...

TerranJustice: In our previous films we'd always had a sort of run and gun methodology to our camerawork especially, and Return was no exception.

WoW Insider: Did you "shoot" the footage in-game using players as actors, or did you manipulate the engine after the fact to create your shots?

TerranJustice: We did a little bit of everything you could probably imagine ;)
TerranJustice: Without actually going in and reprogramming or custom scripting the game.

WoW Insider: How did you 'direct' the actors in-game?

TerranJustice: All of our actors were in house

BrotherVoltaire: ...minus the two that weren't ;)

TerranJustice: We communicated verbally.
TerranJustice: They don't count.
TerranJustice: Shhhhh.

BrotherVoltaire: Hehe
BrotherVoltaire: We had one old guild mate help and a personal friend or two.

WoW Insider: How many people were involved in any one shot?%uFFFD What was the most at one time?

BrotherVoltaire: 3 .
BrotherVoltaire: That's movie magic baby.

WoW Insider: Was the voice recording done before or after the main production? And who did you use for voice talent?

TerranJustice: Before recording.
TerranJustice: All the voice actors were Rufus Cubed associates who had been involved in other films.
TerranJustice: Ezra, primarily ;)
TerranJustice: The voices were all recorded, with the exceptions of pickups, before any film was shot.
TerranJustice: In fact, the entire audio timeline was assembled into a Radio-show style bit before we started rolling film.

BrotherVoltaire: We wanted to approach it using some animation techniques.

WoW Insider: So you did do some solid pre-production, after all. How long did it take to shoot/create all the footage?

TerranJustice: Shooting probably took a solid two weekends plus some evenings during the week
TerranJustice: We got to do a lot of preproduction while I figured out how to make fraps run properly on my machine ;)
TerranJustice: Probably contributed to the success of the product
TerranJustice: Right =)  It was all going on simultaneously
TerranJustice: We felt having the audio done first was crucial to the film having a natural feel.

WoW Insider: I see.%uFFFD Once everything was recorded, how tough was the editing process?

BrotherVoltaire: Editing was the great bear to overcome in this project
BrotherVoltaire: that's pretty normal though

WoW Insider: preachin' to the choir...

BrotherVoltaire: just even more so for this

TerranJustice: hehe

BrotherVoltaire: Terran is pretty savvy with his tools.

WoW Insider: Who handled most of the editing?

TerranJustice: I did all the editing and visual effects
TerranJustice: Ezra did all the sound effects and foley.

WoW Insider: What tools did you use?%uFFFD

TerranJustice: The Adobe Video collection, for the most part.
TerranJustice: Every tool there is
TerranJustice: Premiere, After Effects, Audition.
TerranJustice: And a really old version of Steinberg Cubase, which is a multitrack MIDI sequencer we used for certain sound effects work.

BrotherVoltaire: It's like fine wine.
BrotherVoltaire: A tasty and familiar aged friend.

WoW Insider: What were some obstacles you ran into during editing?%uFFFD Any reshoots come up or script changes that came about as a result?

TerranJustice: Surprisingly, we had very few changes to the script after we really started rolling
TerranJustice: A couple lines were shortened
TerranJustice: But most of the technical difficulty stemmed from difficulty maintaining good capture rates ... which I just yesterday resolved on my computer.%uFFFD (Dust your Heatsinks everybody ... just do it)

WoW Insider: How did you decide on the music?

TerranJustice: Hehe ...
TerranJustice: The music was almost the first thing decided.
TerranJustice: The audio timeline that was constructed prior to shooting included all the songs we'd planned to use, and only had two changeups during the course of production.

WoW Insider: so from start to finish, how long did production take?

TerranJustice: Sept 6th - Sept 23rd ... about 70 hours for me and Ez both.

WoW Insider: When the film was finally released, obviously it was well-received by the community, but were you happy with the final result & its reception?

BrotherVoltaire: Frankly, blown away.
BrotherVoltaire: By the reception.

TerranJustice: We couldn't have possibly anticipated the reaction it received, nor the scope of the audience that has seen it.

BrotherVoltaire: I can't say I'm 100% satisfied with how Return plays, but I am pleased :)

TerranJustice: It wasn't until Hugh Hancock of posted about return "Restoring his faith in Machinima" that we'd really realized that we'd stumbled upon something huge.

WoW Insider: So with the success of Return, is a follow-up in the works?

BrotherVoltaire: Follow-up planned would be a severe understatment.
BrotherVoltaire: We can't divulge all details at this time.
BrotherVoltaire: but Return is on a path right now to potentially advance the machinima, gaming, and entertainment world in general.

TerranJustice: Big announcement pertaining to that looms on the near horizon.

BrotherVoltaire: God willing that's precisely what will happen, we're about dying right now to just spill the beans
BrotherVoltaire: but we must be quiet :)
BrotherVoltaire: ....
BrotherVoltaire: As mice.
BrotherVoltaire: Tip-toeing.

WoW Insider: Fair enough; looking forward to it, though.
WoW Insider: Any final words about the film you'd like to say?

BrotherVoltaire: I'd like to say thank you thank you, thank you to everyone who has enabled us to make Return and to the fans who were willing to let the story touch them.

TerranJustice: And thank you to Blizzard for creating a world so vivid as to empower us to realize our cinematic visions as we'd never have been able to without their product ;)

WoW Insider: Excellent; and thanks for your time guys.%uFFFD Look forward to seeing more from Rufus Cubed in the future!

BrotherVoltaire: Thank you sir!

Be sure and check out Rufus Cubed's official website for more on Return!

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