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
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,"
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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