The new web series “Aperture R&D” is the latest project from Wayside Creations, the team behind the hit “Fallout: Nuka Break.” The masterminds behind the latest project–which drops viewers into a live-action, multiversal version of “Portal,” focuses on a pair of ambitious (if not exactly talented) scientists, Nik and Charles, struggling heroically to win the Lab of the Month award for their team. Shenanigans, as they will, ensue.
With the series making its debut today via Machinima, we spoke with director Vince Talenti and “Aperture R&D” creator/writer Zack Finfrock about the tricky business of telling stories when all of the characters are dead, the importance of canon (and when to ignore it), and the problems of using a scale Companion Cube.
MTV Multiplayer: How long has Aperture R & D been in development? How long have you been working on this?
Vince Talenti: We started in early October. Preproduction was about three weeks, and the actual production was 5 days.
Multiplayer: Why was this the right project for you to tackle after your previous success with web series?
Zack Finfrock: It’s a story I’ve had in my brain for a little while now, and it’s a simple concept—one location you can film and really it was just there to test our comedic chops. We haven’t done a pure comedy before like this.
Talenti: And it gave us a chance to produce another video game web series and both of us thought “Portal” would be perfect.
Multiplayer: Since the workplace comedy has a lot of antecedents, I can see how this would be an appealing angle to approach “Aperture” from. Can you talk about that a little and exploring a world where all of the characters are already dead?
Finrock: [Laughs] Actually, this will be explained in the first episode via an animated intro. But we’re actually thinking maybe the entire “Portal” universe in consideration with this. We’re not just dealing with the “Portal” story; we’re dealing with the multiverse that was created with the ability for the player to create a level for the game.
When that was introduced, it introduced an entire multiverse concept. And they had Cave Johnson narrate the whole thing with 30 minutes of new stuff. And we’re actually using that concept in the multiverse to set up our characters where GLaDOS and the events of “Portal 2” actually haven’t happened.
Multiplayer: Can you talk about the new characters? I understand it’s a race to get the lab of the year award.
Finrock: It focuses on a handful of brand new character created to fit in the “Portal” universe, only because being fans of games as we are, the only way we’d have a GLaDOS or a Cave Johnson is if we got a hold of J. K. Simmons to do the voice of Cave Johnson or something like that. We want to keep it as true as possible.
As for here, we have a lab full of 40 scientists, the main characters being Nik and Charles, two scientists are not necessarily the greatest pair in the laboratory. But the focus is on them really trying to think outside of the box compared to the rest of the group, which is not saying much in when it comes to the “Portal” universe.
Multiplayer: There is some idiosyncratic science going on and you guys explore that in the series right?
Finrock: Yeah, the series does explore all of the mechanics and other things that are in the game like the portals guns, the portals, the Companion Cubes. We took everything that was already in the game and took that as the basis of what we should expand upon. So there’s not so much doing new stuff as it is using stuff that is already in the games. So it’s familiar for everyone who is a fan.
Multiplayer: What does it mean to try and fit it into the universe and why it’s important?
Talenti: I think what was challenging and exciting about this particular piece is that we’re basically exploring a brand new setting in a familiar universe. We’ve never seen a working version of an Aperture lab before. So that gave us an opportunity here to explore that universe with new characters we created.
Finrock: First and foremost, I love video games, so when we create something like we did for “Portal” ofr like we did for our previous series, “Fallout Nuka Break,” my biggest goal is to create a story that works with the universe that is already there and is as canon as possible, but without interfering with the story and the gameplay that the players and fans of the series and really have experience when they play their games.
Multiplayer: Back to Nuka Break, what has gotten easier for you guys in terms of production and making things?
Talenti: I think what we have going for us is that we are all true fans of the material and that is going for us. We create content that we would like to see ourselves as fans—at least, that’s the starting point, at least.
Multiplayer: For aspiring fan filmmakers, what are the challenges some of the challenges you’ve learned to overcome since first making “Nuka Break” and then getting into “Aperture R&D?”
Finrock: For me, I have learned it’s never a bad thing to take liberties even if you’re trying to stay with the concept that’s already there. As fun as it is to try to make something canon and make it fit, not everything translates well when you’re putting it to film. You have to tweak things to make them work.
Like specifically for “Portal,” the Companion Cube and the Turrets are very big in relation to the size of a human person. The Turret is like five feet tall, the Companion Cube is like five or four and a half feet by four and a half feet. For film we had to scale them down, and it actually feels similar to what it is in the game, even though they aren’t that small. That’s the one thing I’ve learned from doing “Nuka Break” is even though the goal is to be as true to the material as possible, it’s okay to make some tweaks here and there as long as it translates well.
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