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Unity Brings Passion to 'The Butterfly Effect'

Passion Pictures’ Dan Sumich creates mayhem in a new CG-animated short for Unity Technologies.

Earlier this year Passion Pictures was approached by Unity the games engine developers to partner with them to create a CG-animated short film. Using the new Unity 4.0 software and highlighting its real time rendering capabilities the creative brief was to create a fresh looking film unlike anything that the games industry was currently producing.

From a number of treatments Unity chose to make The Butterfly Effect, which was written and directed by Dan Sumich. An homage to classic action films from the 1970s through to the 1990s, the film features a soundtrack by the legendary heavy metal vocalist Steve Grimmett. An ordinary looking guy wakes up one morning feeling the worse for wear and realises he’s run out of milk. As he drags himself out of the house to go and buy some, an extraordinary sequence of events draws him into a journey of mayhem on the streets of San Francisco.

Launched at Siggraph 2012, the film has since then had over 90,000 views on Vimeo.

“My inspiration for the film came from my love of action films, and explosions,” says Director Dan Sumich. “The starting point was thinking of what’s the most boring and annoying situation someone might have to deal with, such as running out of milk when you have a hangover on a Monday morning and having to go to the shop to get some more. That’s annoying and boring. Then I thought about what would make this worse, and so the narrative for the film started to take shape. My hope was to entertain people, which I hope I did, and to have the viewer feel like their brain has been put through a blender and they just go, WTF…Yeah! That was awesome!”

Making The Butterfly Effect involved considerable challenges for the animation team at Passion Pictures. It was the first time that the crew had used Unity 4.0, which was still in development as the film was being made. We worked very closely with the developers at Unity to modify the software tools to produce the best possible animation, effects and rendering for the film. Motion capture was used as a base for a large percentage of the character animation, which enabled the team to get through over 200 shots that were required in the film. The motion capture was shot at Centroid with actor Jonny Freeman.

“Another Interesting part for me was working with the legendary heavy metal vocalist Steve Grimmett and watching as he sculpted the bespoke track “Outta Control” for the film,” Sumich adds. “The track helped a lot to drive the film and give it the late 70s early 80s vibe I was after. Very cool.”

Source: Passion Pictures

Jennifer Wolfe's picture

Jennifer Wolfe is Director of News & Content at Animation World Network.