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DEEP BLUE SEA

Bring on the Sharks
Even before casting had been begun (almost one year before cameras rolled), filmmakers were hard at work assuring that one of the most dynamic elements of the film -- the sharks -- were as real and as menacing as possible

Even before casting had been begun (almost one year before cameras rolled), filmmakers were hard at work assuring that one of the most dynamic elements of the film -- the sharks -- were as real and as menacing as possible. Filmmakers began by assembling an elite team of technical wizards who excelled at creating realistic (often benign, sometimes lethal) animals for use on the big screen. It included: production designer WILLIAM SANDELL; shark action supervisor WALT CONTI; visual effects supervisor JEFFREY OKUN; and special effects supervisor JOHN RICHARDSON.

Harlin elaborates, "One of the secrets of the success of 'Jaws' -- and it's a classic, don't get me wrong -- is that they didn't reveal too much of the shark, mostly because the technology of the time wouldn't support such a creature. So they turned a disadvantage into an advantage. But it's 25 years later, and audiences, accustomed to animatronics and computer-generated imagery, need to see more.

"To ensure that sense of reality," continues Harlin, "we are mixing animatronic sharks, digitally created sharks and footage of real sharks, and are creating seamless animals that look and act like real sharks. In the beginning of the movie we set up the characters and then slowly bring the sharks into the picture, showing what they are capable of doing. We are really showing the whole monster interacting with the actors…we're hiding nothing."

The "shark team" began by immersing themselves in video, watching a huge array of shark footage, often viewing it frame by frame, analyzing the motion and studying the personalities of some of nature's most perfect killing machines. They were faced with the daunting task of copying nature.

Conti comments, "The number one thing about capturing sharks is getting their energy. They're always cruising kind of slowly, then they snap and just go with this incredible burst of energy. In that way, most of the time, sharks are somewhat lethargic. So probably our biggest challenge was replicating that speed and energy for those lunges. Also, sharks' jaws actually float in their skulls, giving them a specific kind of motion. As far as I know, we're the first animatronics team to totally mimic the multifaceted jaw of the shark."

Conti echoes Harlin, in that the kind of effects possible today were simply not available in earlier films, in which they showed pieces of a shark.

"We took the approach of 'let's re-create the shark.' We've basically tried to mimic the shark all in one piece. Our sharks actually swim on their own. More than trying to create specific effects [biting, lunging], we re-created the entire shark," says Conti.

And not just one shark, but four-and-one-half sharks. Dr. McAlester's work genetically alters a first generation pair for reproduction (one male and one female, each about 15-feet long and about 2,000 pounds). They in turn give birth to one 25-foot, 8,000-pound Generation II monster. For purposes of shooting, Conti's team created three Gen I sharks and one-and-one-half Gen II sharks that executed all of the moves called for in the script.

Modeling their creations on mako sharks produced even more challenges for the technicians. The mako are the fastest fish in the ocean. Every detail of their movement, as well as every variation in their skin texture and color fell under Conti's scr

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