After releasing an animated short “Grump in the Night” earlier this year, family-run Something’s Awry Productions is back with “Unlucky Charms,” a creepy horror short that came out just before Halloween. Maxon talked with Kris Theorin, the studio’s lead animation director, about how he and his brothers, Nik and Kurtis, wrote the script and made the ambitious film using Maxon One, Unreal’s MetaHuman and After Effects.


Unlucky Charms from Something’s Awry Productions on Vimeo.


You guys create a lot of original work outside of your other projects. How did you come up with the idea for this film?

Theorin: Nik went down the rabbit hole thinking about how some cereal mascots are actually quite creepy looking, which of course led to wonder what would happen if one of them came to life and tried to kill you?
He came up with the idea to unleash an evil cereal mascot using prizes inside the box, and I developed an outline. Kurtis helped flesh that out and wrote all the lines for the TV narrator.


(c)Something’s Awry Productions


Describe your process, including motion capture.

Theorin: I used a number of 3D programs for this. I sculpted all the characters in ZBrush, and all the motion capture animation was done with Noitom’s Perception Neuron 3. It’s a great suite that can take a lot of the crazy movements I throw at it with minimal animation cleanup work afterwards.

This time around I used Unreal’s MetaHuman to create more realistic skin textures. I also altered our Redshift shaders to make the human characters appear more lifelike. Characters were rigged and animated in Cinema 4D and, as always, Red Giant tools were a big help in compositing.

I used Looks to add subtle lens imperfections, like chromatic aberration, blur and halation. Optical Glow was used throughout to add realistic glows to the store sign, TV and the leprechaun’s freaky pinpoint eyes.


(c)Something’s Awry Productions/Kris Theorin


And I got the old-fashioned feeling for the creepy cereal commercial with Universe VHS and Analog. Everything was rendered out of Redshift. I just did a bit of compositing in After Effects—adding film grain and other imperfections—to finish the whole thing off.


What did you learn or find most challenging while making this film?

Theorin: This whole film came about because of my desire to improve my human characters. While I have rigged, textured, shaded and stylized humans before, none of them really held up in many lighting conditions or in extreme closeups.

This time, my goal was to create a stylized, realistically textured human that would look good under the bland lighting conditions commonly found in convenience stores. I also wanted the human and monster characters to look good during extreme closeups.


(c)Something’s Awry Productions/Kris Theorin


Unreal’s MetaHuman assets helped me achieve that. I extracted the various skin textures that come with those models and applied them piece by piece to my much more stylized ZBrush models. After a bit of subsurface scattering in Redshift and some C4D Hair grooming, I was ready to go.


Tell us about the music.

Theorin: One really fun part of making this film was working with our composers Dan Rufulo and Adam Kromelow at Young Lion Audio. They came up with the Magic Munchos jingle that went from fun and light-hearted to creepy to downright disturbing. They have a great clip on Instagram that shows the different phases and how each one sounds.


Are the original films you’re making attracting new clients?

Theorin: They’re definitely helping raise awareness of our studio and what we can do. We’ve had more interest and we hope that continues!