Search Unity

The Butterfly Effect Project

November 7, 2012 in Technology | 3 min. read
Topics covered

The Butterfly Effect animated short made big waves at Unite 2012 in Amsterdam. It was shown in video form and demonstrated in-engine for the first time during the keynote. It gave attendees the first glimpse into the steps being taken to include and improve the tools needed to create truly cutting edge visuals.

The project was visualized as an avenue to show you, our community, what Unity is capable of visually. We wanted to push the engine, learn from the process, and identify ways to improve the tool both immediately and into the future. As you can see from our new “behind the scenes” video, it was a huge success that will lead to a lot of great improvements in Unity’s future.

We’ve heard plenty of questions about why we chose to work with Passion Pictures as they exist outside of the realm of videogames as a traditional CG animation studio. Their separation from video games and lack of experience with real-time rendering is exactly why we chose to work with them. We knew their experience with traditional animation processes would provide an incredible new perspective on how we could improve Unity for the better. It did and we couldn’t be happier with deciding to look to an outside studio for this knowledge. Features like live scrubbing in-editor allowed for preview without compiling and the ability to preview the scene camera in the game view were powerful additions to the project and provided some great ideas for the future of the Unity product.

Working with Passion wasn’t just about new tools but also their expertise in creating a load of stylized art and content. We didn’t want to create more space marines or dystopian futures. We wanted some maniacal whimsy instead, something we could relate to! And to really sell the feeling of this movie, a lot of great work was done on the character design and technology. Everything from blend shapes for the hugely important facial animations to the lifelike skin shaders brought frantic life to the hapless main character.

Our friends at Nvidia also helped push the character to the limits with incredible tessellated hair on his head and his awesome bunny slippers. With their help, we were able to create even more animated motion through wind-whipped hair that really brought the quality of each scene to new levels.

We stuffed in plenty of other technical fun including new lightmapping solutions for better lighting and shadows at a lower cost, tools that provided more control for both artists and programmers, new physically based shaders inspired by widely adopted in offline CG Mental Ray Architectural library for a huge range of material types, more robust material inspector tools, and high performance reflections via probes similar to light probes all capped off with an incredible pyroclastic explosion.

While a lot of what we learned will be put towards improvements in Unity 4.x and beyond, you’ll see the immediate effect of DirectX 11 support and some seriously improved post effects in Unity 4.0, which is right around the corner.

So take a moment to watch the video above to get a better idea of how we, along with Passion Pictures and Nvidia, made The Butterfly Effect come to life and then make sure to take another look at the full animated short in the video below!

For more information about the Butterfly Effect movie, please visit the website located at

November 7, 2012 in Technology | 3 min. read
Topics covered