Georgia Tech - 26 Apr 2007 (censored)

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Event poster

On April 26, 2007, The Brothers Chaps appeared at a talk at the Multimedia Studio of Georgia Tech. The event was scheduled to include Q&A, background info, a Flash demo and more.

The event took place in the Library on the Georgia Tech campus. It was organized by Alison Valk and Joel Linderman. It took place in the multimedia studio that houses all of their high end multimedia software and equipment, as well as being "homebase" for the Georgia Tech iMovieFest. The studio is currently decked out as "Mario-land" and discussions have taken place regarding the possibility of doing a Homestar Runner theme for the summer months.

Due to various programs on campus and the high interest of many of the students there in Flash animation, Alison and Joel felt The Brothers Chaps would be ideal speakers. Alison focused on the idea of collaborating with her management to bring in some "nontraditional speakers" to the library, such as "the guys from Homestar Runner".



Part I: Demo

{The video fades in to a shot of the event poster, where it lingers for a few seconds before cross-fading to the Georgia Tech Multimedia Studio. Ryan, Matt and Mike are sitting near a row of computers, and Alison and Joel are standing behind them. Mike has his laptop in front of him, which is connected to a projector displaying his monitor on a screen to his left. The audience surrounds them on three sides.}

ALISON VALK: —he heads up the Multimedia Studio here, and uh, we are really, really lucky to have the guys from Homestar Runner here. Um, if you don't know what Homestar Runner is, it is one of the most popular, uh, Flash-animated cartoons on the web, and, uh, these guys have been written up in the New York Times, Wired, been interviewed for All Things Considered. Um, you guys have worked with They Might Be Giants, is that right?


ALISON: And anyways, but, um, well, I mean...we're really, really lucky to have them here. They're going to, uh, do a Flash demo for us and answer a few questions that you guys might have. So, without further ado, Mike and Matt Chapman.

MIKE: Thanks, Alison.


MATT CHAPMAN: And this, this is Ryan, uh, Sterritt. {Points to Ryan on his right} He works with us and does, uh, authors all our DVDs and does all our video stuff also.

MIKE: Um...Matt?

MATT: Hi everybody.

MIKE: Um, thanks for having us by the way, guys. This place is pretty awesome. Uh, Alison was trying to get me to do it, and I am generally really, uh, nervous about doing this kind of stuff, but when she showed me pictures of how it's all decked out like Mario Land, I decided it would make me feel very comfortable, which it really hasn't because I'm still pretty nervous, but anyway...

{Some members of the audience let out a collective "Awwww..."}

MIKE: Um...

MATT: It's good to be back in the Mushroom Kingdom.

MIKE: {Laughs} And the last time I was on the Georgia Tech campus was probably in like 1986 for the Science Olympiad when, uh, which was just kind of math— mathletes kind of, but uh, I had to do this event called Bottle Music where you filled up bottles with different amounts of water and make a song hitting them with a spoon and I didn't want to do it, so we pushed the kid that was holding our box of bottles so that they broke so that we didn't have to compete.


MIKE: Um, so...

MATT: Good job!

MIKE: Yeah. {Laughs}

MATT: One time I went to Bobby Cremin's basketball camp in fourth grade. It was a stay-overnight camp.

MIKE: {Laughs}

MATT: It was awesome. And these kinds trying to get met to cuss and I wasn't cussing yet.

MIKE: {Laughs}

MATT: {With Mike laughing throughout} And they were like, "Say a cuss." And they were like, "You never cuss, Chapman," and I was like, "You don't know, I cuss all the time. What are you talking about?" And they were like, "Well then, say a cuss word," and so, uh, so that everything would be okay, and I would still go to heaven, I was like, I go, "Shet," and in— in my head it was S — H — E — T, but they totally bought it and thought I said "****" and then I was cool.


MIKE: Um, so anyway, we do a website called We've been doing it for seven, over seven years now, and it is, uh, it's pretty much been our sole job for like the last five now. Um, and it's just Flash-animated cartoons on the web. We make money by selling T-shirts. We don't have any ads on the site or anything like that. The only revenue is from people buying shirts and DVDs and the merchandise that we sell, uh, on the site. Um, and so anyway, we were just, they asked us to just to do a little demo about how we do stuff, and it's pretty funny because all these computers are decked out and much nicer than the computers that we make Homestar on. Um, we use Flash 5, which, I think, they're on Flash 8 now, so the version of Flash we use is about four, four years outdated. Um, for various lazy reasons, mostly, just not wanting to, uh, you know, get used to the minor changes and interface and things like that.

MATT: Well, we definitely work faster. There's, uh, several things that we can do way faster in Flash 5 than we can in 8. Uh, we, we publish everything in Flash 8 because it compresses everything so much more. Like, we'll make a cartoon in Flash 5, and it'll be, like, one and a half megs, and then you put it in Flash 8, and it's 700k or something, so it, it really makes a difference, so, uh, to keep bandwidth under control, we do that sort of thing. But, um...

{Mike brings up Flash 5 on the screen. The animation window is blank except for an image of Homestar on the far right.}

MIKE: So there's beautiful Flash 5, and it was back before Adobe sued Macromedia, so they could have tabbed folders over here. {Starts clicking around the tabs in the right-hand menus in the Flash interface}

MATT: Yeah, that's another—

MIKE: {simultaneously} That's another thing we like.

MATT: Well, I guess now that they've merged, or, you know, that, that Adobe bought Macromedia, the next version of Flash supposedly is going to bring back the little tabs over there, but that's, that was one of the biggest reasons why we kept using 5 was because it was so much easier to use from an organizational standpoint. Um...

MIKE: So I was just going to show, what we generally do is we've got, um, you know, several hundred cartoons at this point, so obviously we don't need to redraw all the characters for every cartoon. We can reuse graphics, so I'll just open up this library. Um...something that has, say, the background in it. And, um... {peruses through library}

MATT: We never organize things in folders because that would make it too easy to find.

MIKE: Yeah, so there's just like 200 something items.

MATT and MIKE: {simultaneously} There it is, "Ground".

MIKE: So I'll make a thing down here and drag it in. {Drags an image of the Field onto the animation window} And sky is for some reason called "Sky2".


MIKE: "Sky2". It's been called "Sky2", that symbol probably for six years for no reason. We've never changed it to just "Sky". {drags an image of the sky down and arranges it behind the Field} And then we also have a, uh...little border that we put over everything to give everything a nice rounded edge. {Places a black rectangular border with rounded corners over the animation window. } Because round things are nice.

MATT: Homestar's on top of the border.

MIKE: Well, I'll drag the border up in front of him. {Rearranges the border so that it's in front of Homestar} So, anyway, um, this is the magic of making Homestar walk. So we've got this "walk" clip. {Plays a looping clip of Homestar walking} It's its own ten-frame graphic that just loops, and so we'll just tween it from there to there, and then at that point I've already broken him apart into four, um, layers, with each part being on a layer. And I'll flip that foot and make him so that he's sort of facing that way. And we animate everything at 12 frames a second, um—

MATT: —cause that's what you did in 1999.

MIKE: In 1999, that's, that's all—

MATT: —all the Internet could handle.

MIKE: Um, and that's how we learned to animate, so we have rarely...done a few things at 18 or 24 frames a second, and of course it takes us way longer, so we, we stick with 12. Um...

MATT: Its funny we, for when we do DVDs, there's a, we do a, a fake FBI warning thing at the beginning, you know, like the one from the '80s with that fading background, and then one of the characters will always come out over it, and in order for that fadey background to look good in Flash, we'd have to make it at 30 frames per second, and I think that was just easy, too, because all video's at 30 frames, obviously, or 29.97 or whatever. And, uh, and so then we have to animate the characters at 30 frames per second, and that's a huge pain in the ass.

MIKE: Yeah.

MATT: It's just like, it takes, like, The Cheat...

MIKE: {simultaneously} Yeah. It takes like three days.

MATT: ...usually, like, The Cheat, when he turns around, it's, like, two frames, and he just goes, like, "doink" and flips around the other side, so this way we'd have to, like, make some real frame of The Cheat turning. And, anyways, it's a, it's, we're, we're glad that the things were the way they were in '99. So we, uh, definitely makes it much quicker. Plus we do, you know, we're trying to make a three- to five-minute cartoon pretty much every week, and so animating it at 12 frames per second definitely makes that possible. I feel like if we tried to animate quicker, at least for us, I'm sure there's people that can, that do it, but for us, that's, that's the way we can get something done.

{Mike, who has been modifying with the animation the entire time Matt's been talking, now plays it. Homestar walks in from the right and stops in the middle of the animation window.}

MIKE: {dryly} So, did you see that, guys? Look, he's stopped walking. Isn't that amazing?


MIKE: And this is a, this is a, a trick that Matt patented, it's called the "Doink", where it just kind of goes up and down when you're transitioning from one thing to another, just make him kind of pop up a little bit. For some reason, it makes it look better.

MATT: We learned that poeople call that in the cartooning industry, we met a guy that just graduated from SCAD, and it's called "squash and stretch" {Mike laughs} in the animation industry. But I was like, "No, that's doinking."


MIKE: And that's another thing, we, um...

MATT: "You can't fool me."

MIKE: We're totally self-taught animators and illustrators. Uh, I was a photography major at uh, University of Georgia, and Matt went to film school at Florida State, um, and then we both kind of realized we didn't want to do that as our careers and just started teaching ourselves Photoshop and Illustrator and Flash. And Homestar was originally just a, a tool, something to learn Flash with because we were going to try to get jobs, you know, making banner ads for, you know, or whatever was the, um, Flash-animated—

MATT: Yeah, I got one of those jobs.

MIKE: Yeah, Matt, Matt worked at MindSpring and then, which became EarthLink, um, for several years.

MATT: Made some sweet banner ads for EarthLink.

MIKE: Yeah, we just discovered, uh, buried in some EarthLink pages, there's still some icons that you made like six years ago or something.

MATT: If you go to the EarthLink personal start page in the acounting section, or banking section, there's a few of my icons still up there. {Laughter} I was proud. My legacy lives on. {Laughter} I'm not going to show my kids Homestar Runner when they grow up. I'm going to be, like, {raises voice to higher pitch} "Hey, you know what your dad did? He made this, this, like, market sign that has a, one graph going up and it's red, and the green graph is going down." Which is wrong, cause the green graph should probably be growing.

{Matt turns to Mike, who's still editing the Flash clip.}

MATT: So are you going to make him say a line?

MIKE: We're going to make him say a line of dialogue, and I will—

MATT: {Who had briefly interrupted} Sorry.

MIKE: No no no no.

MATT: I was just going to say why, uh, this is one of the things that we love about Flash, uh, 5, and again, there's, there's probably several things. We've tried to have people tell us this, like, oh, you know, you can do that in Flash 8, we just didn't know how to do it. This is something that I don't think you can do, is that...

HOMESTAR RUNNER: {on screen} Oh, hello.

MATT: Like, show him, so like, um...

MIKE: Um, so his head is here on frame 2. Another thing that, you know, people know Flash, if you make everything a symbol and put every symbol on its own layer, it just makes things a lot easier from an organizational standpoint. So, um, to make Homestar talk, he's got three faces: closed mouth, that mouth, and that mouth. The "O" mouth.

MATT: The roundy mouth.

MIKE: The roundy mouth, squarey mouth, and closed mouth. So it's really easy to animate. We accidentally made all these characters very easy to animate. Most of them don't have arms or legs. Several of them don't have mouths or anything like that. We, you know, created the characters in 1996 before we were every going to animate them, so we totally lucked out. The characters that do have arms and, like, elbows and things, you know, we just tend not to put into cartoons very much.

MATT: {Laughs} That's why Bubs is always behind a concession stand.

MIKE: Yeah.

MATT: So you don't have to mess with his legs.

MIKE: Bubs's frickin' elbows. Um, but, so anyway, it's three frames, and I've got it set to single frame at 1, so when he's not talking, it's just going to stay closed. If I put, not on that frame...if I put a key frame and make it go to frame 3, that's his "O" mouth, and so I can just click on this frame. And this is one of the things that's different between Flash 8 and Flash 5. In Flash 5, I can just click on these frames, and I can still hear the sound. {Clicks in individual frames, producing a frame's worth of dialogue with each click.} So I know right there he's stopped saying "oh", and so I can put that, and he's starting to say "heh", so I can make that. And then I can just cut and paste. He's saying "oh". {Starts rapidly cutting and pasting frames.} Right now, I'm just cut-and-pasting frames rather than keep going back down here to type in frame 2 or 3. I know which ones are which.

MATT: We don't neessarily, we, most of you can probably, that do Flash animation can probably animate way better than we can, and we're, so we're not saying this is how you have to do it. But this is, this is just our process.

MIKE: I don't even know what he's saying here, so it would help if I listened to the soundbite {Laughter} so I knew what he was saying.

MATT: We recorded this right before we left.

{Mike plays the audio clip.}

HOMESTAR RUNNER: {on sceen} Oh, hello guys. This is my talk and mouth move.

MIKE: "This is my talk and mouth move" is what it sounds like he's saying..."Hello guys." And do we have volume? {Turns up the volume and continues cutting and pasting mouth movements to the audio clips}

MATT: There we go.

MIKE: So I can just sit here and click until he starts to say "my."

MATT: So yeah in, uh, Flash, uh...

MIKE: In Flash 8, I would have to sit here and do that. {drags the marker across the audio clip}

MATT: Yeah, if you drag it across, you'll hear the sound, but when you click on the frame, you don't here that one little, like, you know, frame's worth of sound, which is, makes it so much easier when you're lip-syncing dialogue. Um, and that's, that's, like, that alone is one of the reasons why we, we still use this five-year-old, six-year-old version of Flash.

MIKE: So he's saying "mouth," so I'll get the "m"— or the "o". "Mouth" ... "Great times."

MATT: That's another thing with, with Homestar, uh, in doing it at 12 frames per second, I mean, uh, you could, we could add a mouth, you know, a half-closed mouth, or, like a, another in between the "o" and the, the square mouth or something like that, but like, it actually, at 12 frames per second, I mean, you're not going to get that much more in between. You're not going to see that much more.

MIKE: Yeah, its already hard enough now. Sometimes you have to decide where he closes his mouth, because he sort of closes his mouth halfway in between two frames.

{Mike finishes syncing Homestar's mouth movements to the audio and now plays the entire clip.}

HOMESTAR RUNNER: {on screen} Oh, hello guys. This is my talk and mouth move. Great times.


MATT: There you go.

MIKE: {still modifying the animation} And so what I would do probably is go ahead and give him a little...and he's kind of...So I can make him move around a little bit, maybe. For an interesting line, like...

{Mike plays the clip again.}

HOMESTAR RUNNER: {on screen} Oh, hello guys. {doinks} This is {leans forward} my {turns his upper body around} talk— {resumes his normal posture as the audience laughs}

MIKE: I might try a little harder to make that look better, but...actually, I might, I probably wouldn't try. Matt's generally a better animator, so that anytime you see really, like, just like, "Hi, I'm Strong Bad" animation, that's me, and Matt will make him, like, move around a litle moreI'm just trying to plow through these things. . {Laughs} Matt, generally, I do about, like, I don't know, 70%—

MATT: 75

MIKE: —60 to 75% of the cartoon I do, and then Matt does any complicated scene with a lot of characters where there's actually some kind of action other than just characters talking Matt will do, and spend, like, five days on them, and then I'll just plow through the rest of the cartoon. Um...

MATT: And Mike also, while I'm recording stuff, Mike starts to do, you know, the rest of the cartoon, so I'll be—

MIKE: Yeah, I'll do—

MATT: —recording the dialogue and breaking apart and all that stuff, and then Mike's just getting busy on starting the cartoon or placing scenes.

MIKE: Doing new graphics, if there's any unique, you know, new drawings, we try to reuse stuff as much as possible, but inevitably, there's going to be some objects or backgrounds or something that we need to draw new.

MATT: We'll start out a week and be like, "All right, this, you know, last week was rough. We did, like, three all-nighters to get this cartoon done, so it's, this one will try and stick with just," you know, not to make it jokes we've done before, but just, "oh, all take place in Bubs' Concession Stand or places we've already established," and then inevitably, we end up, like, inventing a movie theater for this cartoon, or, like, having some new thing happen that we have to make a bunch of new graphics, or, um...We're always shooting ourselves in the foot that way.

MIKE: Um...What else, Matt?

MATT: Why don't you just show, show them that uh, the cartoon, so show them something in, in action a little more.

MIKE: Um, like "The Accent"?

MATT: {simultaneously} The accent one, yeah.

MIKE: So this is—

MATT: We have a, an HTML?

MIKE: I do. Why don't you tell them what this is?

MATT: Uh, so this is just, uh, we're putting out another DVD, uh, it's time, we're, we've gotten another 30 Strong Bad E-mails done, and so we're, we've, we've compiled them onto a, uh, DVD at that point, uh, and add them with extra features and commentary and all that crap, and so, we try to put, you know, bonus stuff on it to make it worthwhile, and, uh, so this is a, a bonus e-mail that's going on the new Strong Bad E-mail DVD.

MIKE: This is a question that Strong Bad gets asked a lot, and so we've finally just, as a bonus thing, we've decided we'd answer it. Um...

{Plays the Strong Bad E-mail Accent.}

MIKE: So that's that. That's kind of a, um—

{Mike is interrupted as everybody applauds.}

MIKE: That's what we do. That's, Strong Bad E-mails are the cartoons we do probably, I don't know, two or three out of every four updates is one of those. We've done, uh, 170-something at this point? {Turns to Matt.}

MATT: Mmmm hmmm.

MIKE: Um, over the last five or six years. Um, making Strong Bad's head waggle around in front of the text and making the text animate, that's one of the, my specialties. That is really not fun to animate text being typed across the screen. But, um, anyway...

MATT: We've tried to, we've tried a couple of times to figure out a way to automate that, but Flash can't, can't look at a wav file and, uh, and, like, interpret what it is. We were like, wanted to figure out a way where we could just bring in the the sound file of Strong Bad and just have it be like, okay, when he gets loud, his head goes up.

MIKE: {laughs}

MATT: When he gets soft, his head waggles And then we could just, like, plug it in and the action script would do the rest, but nobody could, nobody could figure that out for us. Um...

MIKE: I found a few things laying around my file fol-, uh, my folder that we've never done anything with, and most of them, I don't even know why I made them.

{Mike plays a looping animation that shows Homestar leaping up into the air and then turning around and falling back to the ground head-first. He's wearing a yellow helmet covering his eyes and matching kneepads.}

MATT: What's this one?

MIKE: It's just Homestar, just with a helmet and kneepads on flying up in the air.


MATT: What is that from?

MIKE: I don't know. {Laughs}

MATT: That, a nice {inaudible}. That's from uh, from uh...

{Offscreen, an audience member suggests "monster truck."}

MATT: Monster truck one, yeah?

MIKE: Yeah.

MATT: Who said that? {Offscreen, an audience member behind the Brothers Chaps says "yeah" and raises his hand.} Nice.


MIKE: Impressive. Um...

MATT: That's another thing, is there's a, uh, there's a Wikipeda, a Home-, it's its own thing, a Homestar Wiki online, that is, uh, amazing and ridiculous and kind of frightening.


MATT: And uh, and we use it, like, anytime they have, like, a, a drive, they'll have a drive because it's all just, uh, whatever, just people volunteering to do it, and so that their cost of bandwidth and everything is, is just, uh, out of pocket, and so anytime they have a drive, we try and donate to it, because we use it probably more than—

{Stops and laughs along with the audience at another looping animation clip that Mike is playing. This one shows a squat, boxy Homestar falling headfirst into a line with three other identical Homestars and a similarly-shaped Strong Bad. He then bounces across the screen with the words "Going Away" in the background.}

MATT: It's going away!

MIKE: Another thing I made for no reason.


MATT: Yeah. But so, we uh, we use that wiki all the time because we'll be like, we'll look, you know, start to make a cartoon and be like, "All right, what's the one where Bubs has a toilet brush? Why he has a toilet brush in some cartoon?" and then, uh, so you just look up toilet brush on the, uh...What is that?

{Mike and the audience laugh at a looping animation of a sketch of Homestar doing the Keep On Truckin' walk.}

MIKE: I'm not done animating that, though.

MATT: That's the Keep On Trucking guy. Yeah, uh...isn't that from that sketchbook drawing?

MIKE: Yeah, there's a sketchbook drawing Matt made of that, and I just decided to, I havent gotten very far, but I at least got the rough—

MATT: You're keeping all these secrets from me.

MIKE: Yeah, this is the one I, I found this this morning. I had no idea why I made it or what it is.

{Mike plays a looping animation of a squat, black-and-white shaded Strong Bad shaded in blue punching the air in a ready fighting position. The audience laughs}

MIKE: It's called "SB style".

MATT: Let's make a t-shirt of that.

MIKE: {Laughs}

MATT: I like that.

MIKE: Um...Yeah, uh, and then there's the...

{Mike tries to open up a file in Flash 5 but receives an error message.}

MATT: Oh, that's in Flash 8.

MIKE: Yeah...We're gonna do one where it looks like, it's kind of a rough animatic, you know, you see the pencil in-between drawings of, like, Disney cartoons and stuff before they...

{Mike plays a looping animation that shows a sketch of Strong Bad bobbing his head to the side.}

MATT: Is that all it does?

MIKE: That's all it does. {Laughs with audience.} I spent like, five minutes on that one. But I was just making sure it could work, and it looked, you know, looked okay.

MATT: How to draw Strong Bad the Marvel way.

MIKE: Yeah {Laughs.}....Um, by the way, anyone if you've got questions during this, you can feel free to ask questions now.

MATT: Yeah, are we done showing other things we need to show?

MIKE: Um...

MATT: Show them that, show them the, uh, the, uh, the Atari game real quick.

MIKE: Oh yeah.

MATT: You have that?

MIKE: That's one of our, um...lifelong dreams. We've got a friend who programs, uh, games for the 2600, and he actually makes cartridges and so, I don't know, we started talking to him three or four years ago, and we wanted to, you know, actually make an Atari game, you know, 2004 or whatever. Still hasn't come out yet, so it'll be even funnier when it comes out in in 2012...

MATT: {Laughs with audience.}

MIKE: ...producing that, the Atari 2600 game. {Staring at his computer.} Um, how do I do this?

MATT: Uh, just...uh, I guess try and drag it on top of it, try and drag "HS" onto that... {Windows error sound plays.} Ah, no.

MIKE: Can I just do this?

MATT: {inaudible} {Windows error sound plays} I don't know. Ah, you probably have to install it.

MIKE: Yeah.

MATT: You can't do it.

MIKE: All right. Sorry. False alarm. But anyway, its um, you know really is on a, a cartridge and so we, with the graphics, we're like, uh, 8 by 8 grid of asterisks that you had to...

MATT: Yeah, so he sent us, he'd be like, "Here, make some graphics and send us the template," and it was just a text file that had, yeah, it was like, there was like 16 by 8 gr-, sideways grid of asterisks, and then you made the stuff you wanted to be pixels be, uh, dashes instead or something, and so you're making them sideways and stretched out, and then he'd put them in the game, and then it's like, "Oh, there's Strong Sad." That's pretty cool.

MIKE: Um, this is the, um, Georgia Tech reference on the site. We made a video game that's tried to be, like, the worst video game ever, {Audience laughs} and, um, it was like track-and-field, one of those games where you have to mash buttons really fast, but it was a race-walking game, and, um...

{The camera pans out to reveal that the game in question is 50K Racewalker.}

MIKE: You have to press left and right alternately, but you can't go too fast or you foot fault, and literally, it would take like a day to win, to go 50 K.

MATT: Oh, no, more than that!

MIKE: It's like several days—

MATT: —three weeks—

MIKE: —or something. But anyway, so we made it so, for no reason, you can totally customize the way the character looked. And uh....

MATT: Only the, the only fun part of the game.

MIKE: And there's four or five um, four or five people that we made, uh, where if you make it look a certain way, and I think it'

{Mike selects these colors for the runner's shirt, shorts and shoes respectively. The words "Luke Schenscher" appear on the bottom of the screen.}

MIKE: ...I think that's right. Yeah, it becomes Luke Sen-, Luke Schenscher, who was the—

{The audience laughs.}

MIKE: —center for Tech a few years ago. Um...

MATT: There's, there's a, what, there's...

MIKE: So then here's playing it. Oh wait.


{Mike faults. The audience lets out a collective "Awwwww".}

MATT: Awwwwww! You kick its ***.

MIKE: Now watch how long... {Faults and the audience laughs} Damn! I want to at least get to...yeah, this next hash mark...


MATT: Gooooo!

{Mike reaches the hash mark.}

MIKE: And that's point one {Faults and laughs} oh one, so that's a hundreth of one kilometer, so that's, like, 1/5000 of the game or something.


MATT: We eventually made it to where, if you get to, if you get to, if you actually do a whole kilometer, then, uh, like, the screen starts to black out, and he walks into blackness.

MIKE: Oh yeah.

MATT: It's like, oh, we didn't program this far. {Audience laughs.} We added that one when somebody, like, e-mailed us a few days later and was like, "Hey, I got up to three kilometers," and we're like, "Wait! Really?"—

MIKE: {Laughs}

MATT: —"People are doing that?" {Mike gets to 0.02km, then faults.} So we figured we should add something.

MIKE: Anyway—

MATT: And that's, uh—

MIKE: So you gotta, you gotta factor in a few faults, too, cause it sits, sits you there for like five seconds after you make a foot fault.

MATT: Um...What else? What was the, oh yeah, there was some e-mail where, where someone announces Strong Bad as "The Ramblin' Wreck of E-mail Check".

MIKE: Yeah.

MATT: Which is, that's the only other, we tried to figure out if there were any Georgia Tech references on the website.

MIKE: Which is pretty good because there's no, like, Georgia references or Florida State. I mean, it's not like we've got references to everything.

MATT: There's one that's, you know, where somebody, they're from Tallahassee, and he pronounces it "Gainesville".

{Mike and the audience laugh.}

MATT: ...just to piss off... Um, so let's take questions.

MIKE: Questions.

MATT: We, we're out of things to show.

MIKE: Yeah, we're done.

Part II: Q & A

Q: Where did y'all come up with the idea for Trogdor?

MIKE: Trogdor. Um...

MATT: It's based on, uh, Ed Emberley drawing books, um, which is the, these things when we were kids, a series of drawing books where it's like "draw", you know, to draw an alligator, you draw a, a um, uh, triangle and you draw a rectangle and a bunch of triangles on the back for the scales and two lines, you know, and broke it all down. And so originally the email was gonna be mostly about like how to draw crappy drawings, and um, and so it was Strong Bad's version of that doing this, this dragon. And, um, we had somewhere, we tried to find it, actually, to bring it up here, um, just the sheet of Mike and I trying to draw worse dragons than the others, so it's just a sheet of terribly drawn dragons.


MIKE: You can see—

MATT: —And we just decided on that one.

MIKE: Yeah you can see like the sort of the evolution of, you know, like, "Oh, well we like the beefy arm sticking out of the back and we", you know, so it's sort of like 20 or 30 different variations, some of which are pretty hilarious. Some of them are just flat out alligators, like, crocodiles.

MATT: And then the, the, it's funny, though, because the song at the end of it was a complete afterthought, sort of. Like, we had, were making the e-mail, and essentially it was an e-mail about bad drawings. It was more like this illustration e-mail, and then Mike was, um—

MIKE: —We're—

MATT: —finishing up the e-mail? We had worked all night, so it was, like, breakfast, and I was in the kitchen making eggs, I think, and, uh, and started, and just started, started singing that song, like, as a joke, just singing this Trogdor song, and Mike was like, "Well, now we have to make that."


MATT: And so then we made the, the end. Um, you know...

MIKE: Here's, um, something else I forgot to show. The, um, There's a fake, um, heavy metal band that's Strong Bad's favorite band called Limozeen.

{Someone in the audience shouts "whoo"}

MIKE: And so, um, in making, we made a real album and had to make some fake album covers, and one {laughs} one of the things I made was that I wanted to make, uh, Limozeen, like, doing, like, gang symbols out of fingers, and so I tried to do it. And originally the idea was going to be, like, a hot woman—

MATT: —with like red—

MIKE: —with like red fingernails—

MATT: —Yeah.—

MIKE: —and, like, make spelling Limozeen with her fingers somehow, so I did a test to see how it would look, and...

MATT: It's the most obscene....

{Laughter washes out their speech. The camera pans to the screen to show an image of the word "LIMOZEEN" spelled out with cut-outs of photos of a person's fingers.}

MATT: It's so gross.

MIKE: And, like, the "e"s are all fat and stubby!

{More laughter.}

MIKE: It just looks—

MATT: —for the Saw movies.

MIKE: Yeah. I thought we might get arrested if we publish that.

MATT: That is pornographic. I don't know why.

MIKE: Yeah.

MATT: ...Obscene...Uh any other, anybody else have a question? No?....

Q: Who does the voices?

MATT: {raises his hand} I do.

Q: Guitar Hero II, you've got this song in there. So, um, how did that come about?

MATT: Um, the guy from Harmonix, Alex Rigopulos, uh, just e-mailed. He's a big fan, and, uh, e-mailed us and was like, "Hey, would you guys be willing to put a, you know, a track in as a bonus track?" He asked about, uh, one of, the song, Trogdor song, uh, Guitar Hero II for the Playstation 2 as, uh, as an unlockable track. And uh, so yeah, they were just fans and contacted us, which was pretty awesome. And uh, what else happened with that? Um, oh, it's funny, cause he, I was like, you know, you know, wanted to, like, repay the favor, and I was like, "Well, is there anything? You know, I'll send you whatever," and he was like, "Oh, I've already got everything," and I was like, "Oh, I'll send you some t-shirts and some DVDs," and he was like, "I've already gotten it all".


MATT: "Really? All of the t-shirts?" and he was like, "Well, kind of, pretty much." So that was pretty cool to find out that. Most of the stuff, we've, we've rarely sought out any of the cool collaborations that we've been able to do over the years and have just lucked out that people were psyched and, and contacted us which was so...It's a nice, lazy, totally like, um, what do you call it, uh, non-confrontational way to do it. Sit there and wait for cool people to come to you. {Mike laughs.} That's the moral...Uh, anybody else? {Points.} Yes.

Q: Uh, I know a lot of Flash and webcomic sites now, it's becoming common for creators to have a news or a blog page where they just talk about pending projects, things going on in their personal lives, they answer questions from the fans, things like that. They have a comments section. Have you guys ever thought about adding a page like that to your site?

MATT: {Turning to Mike} We were just...

MIKE: Yeah, we, just, just talked about that in the last week or two.

MATT: But what we wanted to make it was the Excuses Blog, and we would only update it when we don't update the website.


MATT: Because we always, always have a really good reason. We never just, like, blow it off. It's always, like, we're working on, like, we're working on some other project, or, like, there's something going on in our lives like—

MIKE: —having a baby or something. {Laughs.}

MATT: {Smiling and pointing to Mike.} Yeah, and so, uh, we were just like, "We need to start the Excuses Blog section," and just, like, every time we don't update it, it's like, "Hey, look, you know, maybe it's, show a little bit of what we're, the other thing we're working on, or something," or like, "We need to take this week off to work on the DVD." Uh, like, like the week when we made that "Accent" e-mail, it just sucks, like, we made this awesome e-mail, and then the next Monday we had to make another cartoon for it, and it was like, "No, we just made a cartoon.—"

MIKE: —So, yeah, we—

MATT: "—Now we have to make two." Uh, so we, we're thinking about it. Uh, because it's the sort of thing where we felt like it would sort of appease people if they knew that, like, you know, so the, maybe hate mail wouldn't come in—


MATT: —when we don't update, and, uh, and people wouldn't be pissed off, like, "Oh, I'm not going back to Homestar anymore, man, they don't update anymore," or something like that which, uh...So, maybe. The Excuses Blog. Look, look for it in '07.

MIKE: {leaning over and pointing to his right} Question behind someone. I can't see...yep?

Q: Um, I know you guys have worked with They Might Be Giants several times in the past. Are you all going to keep collaborating?

MIKE: Yep.

MATT: {Turns to Mike} We're trying to, you don't have any, can we show a small clip of that? We can turn the audio down. Maybe they wouldn't care about that.

MIKE: Yeah.

MATT: We don't know. It's so cool working with them. It's, it's another thing that they just came to us, which was amazing. Like, in the same day we got a package from, uh, from, um, Jim Mallon, who is one of the producers of Mystery Science Theater. He operated Gypsy—I don't know of anybody knows—uh, and he sent us a Tom Servo, so in the same day, we got a Tom Servo puppet and then got an e-mail from John Linnell from They Might Be Giants, and we were just, like, uh, could have died the next day and been happy. Uh...


MATT: So, um, but they're so cool! They're really laid back and, like, just never, we've never had any contacts or agreements in any of the stuff we've done, I mean, like, we made a video for them. It was on MTV. It's on DVDs. Their stuff, you know, their song is on our DVD, and, like, they've never made us sign any of those things, so it's funny, cause we're working on this thing for them now, and I, I have no idea, we haven't, we haven't talked about whether we're getting paid for it. We haven't, uh, there's been no discussion of contract, or we didn't have to sign a non-disclosure agreement or anything, so it's funny. I was like, I'd like to show, just sort of show...

MIKE: It's just—

MATT: {Simultaneously} You can let it play for a little bit.

MIKE: It's uh, a k—

MATT: —the song, the song might be, maybe they wouldn't want people to hear the song.

{The camera pans upward to reveal the music video being played. The first scene shows and overhead shot of cars racing down a figure-eight track. Cut to a boy in a red cap and blue coat and pants ice skating in a figure eight and moving toward the camera.}

MIKE: It's a kid's, they've got some kid's DVDs. There's one called "Here Come the ABCs" and this's called, "Here comes the 123s," and so...

{Someone in the audience lets out an "Awww." The scene cuts to an overhead shot of the skating boy.}

MIKE:'s a video for that.

{The camera cuts to a wide overhead shot to show several small figures skating on a frozen pond, some of which are etching a figure eight into the ice.}

MATT: The number eight.

MIKE: And so, it's just lots of racecar driving and kids ice skating...

{Cut to an overhead shot of racecars racing around a figure-eight racetrack in the middle of a desert as a bird flies overhead.}

MIKE: ...things like that.

{Cut to a driver-side view of one of the racecars. As the car races along the track, a turn left sign springs up in his windshield. The screen then goes blank as Mike closes the music video.}

MIKE: This was actually something we animated at 18 frames—

MATT: —oh yeah—

MIKE: —um, kind of just to, cause we knew—

MATT: —the robot, show 'em the robot.

MIKE: Oh, the robot. Matt's proud of his robot.

{Matt laughs}

MIKE: Don't nobody talk about these robots on your blog now.

{Mike starts rapidly fast-forwarding through scenes in the music video.}

MATT: But so hopefully, I mean, yes, we're actively doing this for them right now, and hopefully, I mean, it's been cool cause they've treated us like, not just like some kids that at one time did something with these guys, like, they, like, treat us like we're, like, they want to collaborate with us, which has been, like, hugely boundmoving and awesome, so hopefully, you know, we'll continue to work with them.

MIKE: Hey Matt, here are your robots.

{The scene has frozen on an image of a spaceship following the path of a sideways rainbow figure eight in space.}

MATT: Oh, awesome. Thanks, Mike. I wanted them to see them.

{The scene shows four robots standing in a row on a glowing purple grid against a dark blue sky. One by one, the robots fold up into a shape, the first and third into a circle that's two-thirds complete and the second and fourth into small rectangles. The four then merge together to form the number 8, which then sprouts a robot head, two arms, and two legs. The robot then flies upward with its left fist raised. Laughter.}

MATT: Yeah. They're kind of Tron transformer robots. Um, uh any other questions?...Yes.

Q: It's probably to be expected, but I know a lot of us probably want to hear some of the voices.

{Laughter as Matt grins humbly}

MATT: Um, sure, does somebody have a question for a character? That's always easy, easier to do than to just start talking like them. Do you have a question for a character?...{as several audience members start talking at once} Yeah, put your money where your mouth is. What?

Q: {Several members of the audience speak up at once} How do you type with boxing gloves on?

MATT: That's a, that's the last question you should ask.


Q: {The same student who asked Matt to do voices} How does the Cheat do voices for his own cartoons?

STRONG BAD: That's what I'd like to know, because from what I can tell, the guy's got two throats.


STRONG BAD: There's this one throat, it's, like, monkeys, you know, that can't talk, like, no matter what. Their vocal cords can't support human speech, you know, and I would, from what I, I've, you know, and I've had to pull stuff out of this throat several times, and he chokes on things and stuff, and it doesn't look like he could talk. And then all of a sudden, he starts making cartoons and he do-, he goes into this secret room when he does the voices, so I never see how he does it. And he comes out, and he sounds just like this:

{Matt looks at Mike.}

PBTC STRONG BAD: Hi, Strong Bad. I can do it all the time.


STRONG BAD: It's amazing. I don't know how he does it.


MATT: {Points} Yeah.

Q: I have a question for Homestar.

MATT: Oh. {Laughs with audience} Does anybody have any more questions for human people?

MIKE: {raises his hand} 'Cause I'll leave if not.

Q: {Same audience member} Did, did he, did he ever get a new cow lamp?

HOMESTAR RUNNER: Um, I've been to every thrift store and vintage store and antique store in the country, {voice raises as if on the verge of tears} and I've not found another cow lamp. {voice returns to normal} So if anyone wants to make me a custom cow lamp, uh, that would be great. Uh, just so you know, it's made of out, like, dried, I don't know if it's animal skin or something, and it has the leather, like, binding around the top. It was three of those with, like, caveman drawings of, of cows. It was my favorite lamp.

MATT: {Pointing} Did, did you have a, a human question?

Q: Yeah. Speaking of voices, what do you do for recording voices?

MATT: Uh, we, uh, have a little, uh, like, a, a sound room, a fairly, it's not soundproof by any means, but it's better than, better than sitting in front of the computer in our old crappy apartment, which is what we used to do. Um, and so we've run into, we just have a decent, you know, um, mike. We've got, um, it's, whatever, a low impedance one that, like, you know, after like three feet, it just stops recording sound. Uh, and, uh, and we go, we go to USB Preamp, uh, that M-Audio makes, um, which is great. It's got XLR and quarter-inch inputs, and that just goes USB into the computer, and we use, uh, {laughs} I, again, we use, like, a five-year-old copy of Cool Edit Pro to do, uh, all the stuff. Now it's all Adobe Audition, and we also have new versions of that, but, um, and that's just, that's worked out for us, so...

MIKE: Um...

MATT: Nothing fancy.

MIKE: It's good that it doesn't record sound after about three feet, because then old recordings, when we had an apartment together, you could hear me, like, doing the dishes. There's one sound—

MATT: —Find the, find the, uh, find the worms. Squishiness.

MIKE: Oh, the worms... {starts looking for the file}

MATT: Uh, do you have the main page or something? {turns to audience} There's a wor-, there's a sound of this, like {makes squishing noises} of, like, squishing, uh, that we've used forever, and you can hear, I think, {points to Mike} you recorded that sound, actually.

MIKE: Yeah.

MATT: And you can hear me whistling in the background. And we still use it, it's great. I've tried to sort of get the whistle out of it, but I kind of like that.

MIKE: Which one is that?

MATT: ...whistle. Uh, what's the, the...

{Audience member suggests the Halloween Main Page.}

MATT: Is there anyone from the Wiki here? {Turns toward screen, where Mike has the Wiki page "Main Pages" up} Yeah, see, main, main pages. Which is the Halloween one?

MIKE: Graveyard. Seven.

MATT: Seven! Okay, there you go.


MATT: See, that's what we do, like, as, as we're making cartoons, we'll do that about a hundred times. There is worm, so crank it, crank it.

{The camera pans up to the screen as Mike turns up the volume.}

MATT: Look at, listen at the end, you'll hear, you'll hear, uh, me whistling.

{Mike plays the squishy sound heard when the mouse passes over "Toons" or "Games" on Homestar Runner Main Page 7. At the end of the sound clip is a faint whistle. The audience laughs. Mike plays the sound again. More laughter.}

MATT: So that's, uh...

{Mike closes the main page window, revealing another window with Strong Bad and The Cheat standing in Homestar's house. Homestar's broken cow lamp is on the floor, and Strong Bad's face is sticking out from the side of his head.}

MIKE: There's one working now—

MATT: —sound has improved.

MIKE: There's one where you can clearly hear a truck driving by because the window was open. We had this apartment that no air conditioning, I mean, it was just awful in the summertime, so you just had the window open, and you could hear dogs barking and trucks driving by and stuff.

MATT: {Gets out of his chair and points at the screen} Look, there's a goof. The—

MIKE: —What?—

MATT: —shadow of Homestar's little table is going over the cow lamp.

MIKE: Oh, yeah.

{Matt returns to his chair as Mike moves the image of the cow lamp slightly to the right.}

MIKE: {playfully} Not anymore...


MATT: that. Uh, any other questions?

Q: Is there any, um, Easter eggs that we don't know about yet?

MATT: Probably not. I don't think, I think it, with, I know with the advent of the Wiki, there's nothing, we can't hide anything. It's, it's funny, because people started watching it, um, like they watch it full screen, and so you can see all this other crap that we kind of don't want you to see on the side that's just, like, you know, the edges of graphics and things, and so like. when Homestar walks in, and he just disappears, you know, when he, like, leaves the frame or whatever, and so if you watch it, and it's nice to watch it full screen, I understand, but they, you get all this extra crap that kinda makes the cartoon ugly, and so that's why for a while, we made that border huge, like, the symbol was gigantic so that, like, when you, even if you watched it all the way, like, it's still black on the edges if you watch it full screen. Um, but so, uh, because people are, they just start poking around, they, like, you know, decompile our Flash files and look at stuff, and so we've started adding a few things here and there for the, the, the nerds that do that stuff—


MATT: —And so there's one where these two Homestars appear, uh, like, it appears that there's two Homestars, like, you can barely see the edge of his feet on that side of the frame, like, that's in the actual cartoon, but then, so then to make it consistent with, uh, in the universe, one of them has a mustache, but you only see it if you, like, decompile the Flash thing and be like, "Oh, that's Homestar with a mustache." Um, and then, what else? There's something where recently Strong Bad almost showed you his, uh, a picture. People always ask about the character's parents, and we just, that's something that we don't want to touch, We're just like, "Who cares what their parents look like?"

MIKE: {Turns to Matt} Is it, is it this one? Which one is it?

MATT: It's, no, it's the chair. He gets the new chair.

MIKE: Oh. Chair.

MATT: And so he, uh, we decided we, we would, he acts like he's showing you his parents, but something's in the way, so you can't see this photograph, and so, uh if you decompile it, though, and look at that symbol, it says, it's like "Nice try" or something like that on it, uh, knowing that people were going to do it. We've had to, the Easter eggs have had to go into this, like, technical Flash level just to hide stuff. {points to an audience member} Yeah?

Q: Is that why you guys did the, uh, the widescreen for the special e-mail, I think it was, maybe it was the hundredth one?

MATT: Oh, the virus one.

MIKE: No, no, it was—

MATT: Yeah, it was—

MIKE: —hundred, hundredth—

Q: {Same audience member} Where, where he goes, "Whoa, where have you been?" and he said, "I al-, I'm always here."

MATT: Right.

Q: {Same audience member} "I think I've lived here."

MATT: {Laughs} Yeah, exactly.

MIKE: I don't have that e-mail.

MATT: You don't have one hundred on here?

MIKE: No, one sixty-two. I was looking for the, uh, "Nice Try Dodongo."

MATT: Oh, oh.

{Audience member says "It's on the Wiki."}

MATT: It is?

{Same audience member says "Yeah." Mike laughs.}

MATT: If we don't have it here, look on the Wiki.


MATT: Anybody else. {Points} Yeah?

Q: Will there be more Peasant's Quest games?

MATT: We were just, we went on a big long walk yesterday and were talking about the future of Peasant's Quest. So, it's a long, I mean, it takes a long time to do that one. It took us, like, six months to make or something but yeah, hell yeah.

MIKE: Peasant's quest is a, um, King's Quest-like graphic text adventure, and most of our video games and most of the games we make on the side are intentionally, like, 1985- to 1989-era graphics.

MATT: We try to make them fun, unlike the one we, we showed you.

MIKE: {Laughing} Yeah.

MATT: They look like old graphics. We're trying to actually make—

MIKE: They're more fun than that one, but anyway, uh, yeah, so, I was just lamenting the fact, I think it's been almost three years since the first one came out, and we, you know, just not gotten around. It, it was like a six month pro-, you know, uh, process to make the whole thing, so... We'll make another one.

MATT: When we have time.

MIKE: Yeah.

MATT: {Turns around and points behind him} Yeah, somebody else over here?

Q: Where's Stinkoman level 10?

{Mike laughs}

MATT: That's also coming. Now, it will probably will come before Peasant's Quest, actually. That's totally in the works, and, and, uh, what we're going to do is add, uh, maybe add difficulty levels and midpoints to each of the levels too, because people were always complaining that it was too annoying and hard, so we're going to add midpoints to the level and maybe difficulty levels so maybe people will actually play it. Uh...

MIKE: Here's a Stinkoman theme song that we've never used. {Plays an audio file as the camera pans upward to the screen.}

DA VINCI's NOTEBOOK: {singing}
Stinkoman {A silhouette of Stinkoman posing is superimposed behind the "Stinkoman 20X6" title.}
Stinkoman {The scene pans left to a silhouette of Stinkoman running. The same title starts out small in front of the silhouette and grows increasingly larger.}
Fight fight fight fight fight {With each "fight," the scene switches to Stinkoman in a different running or fighting pose. The scene cuts to a blank white screen at the end.}
Challenge challenge challenge challenge challenge

MIKE: I didn't do any more animation.

...Reggie XD6 {Brief cut to Stinkoman in a fighting pose pulling out his knife, then back to the blank screen.}
All over the universe, the victims he has {inaudible}
Number one. Double deuce.

MIKE: {Stops the audio file} Anyway, some people—

MATT: The guys from Da Vinci's Notebook who is this, uh, um, these aca-, humorous a cappella band that I, that's kind of broken up now?

MIKE: Yeah.

MATT: Uh, did that a long time ago. They're the same guys who did this, uh, cartoon called the "Ballad of the Sneak" on the website. {Points} Uh, yes?

Q: How do you all do the writing?

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