Asylum Relies on LightWave 3D for Sharknado 2 VFX

Sharknado 2

Sharknado 2
Sharknado 2
Burbank-based VFX facility The Asylum contributed extensive visuals for Sharknado 2: The Second One, which premiered yesterday on the Syfy Network.

“From the outset, the entire Sharknado 2 project was challenging but perhaps a little easier than the first one,” said VFX supervisor Emile Smith.

Smith explained that the company relied on LightWave 3D to deliver final renders in a very short time. “We use LightWave for 99% 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.”

Sharknado 2 opens 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.”

Placing the sharks and other debris inside the cloud formation was a particular challenge. The creative brief called for the creation of an animatable 3D tornado. LightWave allowed the animators to animate the tornado before handing it over for simulation and rendering.

In one scene, a taxi is stuck on a flooded New York City street completely surrounded by man-eating sharks. Parts of the scene were shot on location with a greenscreen, while other elements and environments were composited in. “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,” explained Smith. “With LightWave, the multiple elements in the passes and layers for this sequence came together quickly.”

“This project was on a very tight timeline. LightWave’s ease of use and really straightforward nature helped The Asylum crew hit the deadline we were presented with,” said Mark Hennessy-Barrett, VFX artist on Sharknado 2. “Because LightWave is a really forgiving piece of software to use, we were able to break the rules and take immense liberties in the rendering engine to get the job done and out the door.”