19 December 2022

The work of University of South Australia students has been highlighted by global digital giant Epic, after a multi-disciplinary UniSA team developed a short, animated film using Epic’s industry-leading 3D production platform, Unreal Engine 5.

The project was undertaken as part of the global Unreal Engine Short Film Challenge, which provided students with access to industry-leading technology, training, and feedback from top production companies.

Over an eight-week period, a group of UniSA students, led by UniSA researchers Dr Susannah Emery and Associate Professor Kath Dooley, developed a 4-minute animation called Wally Wallace and the Magic Case, which is currently being promoted internationally by Epic.

Dr Emery says the challenge provided students from a diverse range of disciplines with an incredible hands-on experience, working with one of the most in-demand animation platforms on the planet.

“We had games students, film students, students from acting and a whole range of different disciplines, none of whom had ever done something like this, and they all had to come together to learn about the technology and the different roles in this sort of virtual production project,” Dr Emery says.

“Virtual production is a huge industry for the future, and it’s a good mix of where game development is going and where film is going, because it’s using games tech in films, so it's relevant to both industries.”

As part of the project, Epic connected the students with a local industry mentor, Adelaide-based virtual production company ModelFarm, and Assoc Prof Dooley says this connection helped the students tackle production challenges in a professional manner.

“ModelFarm is one of the few Australian companies working in the virtual production space, and they are Unreal specialists,” Assoc Prof Dooley says. 

“So, the students met with them either face-to-face or virtually once a week and got some really great feedback as the project developed, which helped them overcome and learn from the real-world pressures that emerged as part of the process.”

The resulting film – which is being featured online as part of the Unreal Engine Short Film Challenge Showcase – delivers a fully animated magic realist journey that transports the viewer from the modern day to the golden age of slapstick and back again.

“The students developed this idea that was based around 1940s slapstick comedy, and they came up with this character called Wally Wallace, a slapstick superstar of the time,” Assoc Prof Dooley says.

“The film opens in a dingy lounge room, and we meet this old guy who is watching the TV, then he gets drawn into the TV and gets mixed up in a performance with Wally Wallace.”

Watch Wally Wallace and the Magic Case online here.

Media contact: Dan Lander M: +61 0408 882 809 E: dan.lander@unisa.edu.au

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