The creative team at The Asylum used LightWave 3D to deliver 99 percent of the visual effects for the sequel to the Syfy Network’s popular Sharknado franchise.
“From the outset, the entire Sharknado 2 project was challenging but perhaps a little easier than the first one,” said Emile Smith, VFX supervisor on Sharknado 2. “We used LightWave for 99 percent of everything. We used a lot of the new Dynamics tools as well as the TurbulenceFD plugin [from Jawset] to generate the actual Sharknado, which is exactly what you might think it is - a monster tornado, filled with amongst other things, hungry angry sharks.”
The opening teaser of Sharknado 2 takes place on an airplane in the middle of a storm. This presented the challenge of generating art-directable volumetric clouds that allowed the plane to fly through a ‘Sharknado’ before landing in New York.
“This sequence brought in every effect we would use in the film, except for a water surface,” explained Smith. “There was a lot of digital double work for the latter part of the film and the volumetrics of the final Sharknado sequence will entertain for sure. Perhaps some people will even be impressed by how real the VFX looks. Of course, if it didn’t look real, it wouldn’t be funny.”
There’s a particular scene in the film where a single taxi completely surrounded by man-eating sharks is stuck on a flooded New York City street (below). Parts of the scene were shot on location, while other elements and environments were completely green screened.
“The visuals tell the story of the two occupants climbing onto the roof of the cab while several sharks are swimming around and sizing them up,” Smith saide. “With LightWave, the multiple elements in the passes and layers for this sequence came together quickly.”
“This project was on a very tight timeline," agreed Mark Hennessy-Barrett, VFX artist on Sharknado 2. "LightWave’s ease of use and really straightforward nature helped The Asylum crew hit the deadline we were presented with. It's a really forgiving piece of software to use, so we were able to break the rules and take immense liberties in the rendering engine to get the job done and out the door.”