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'Sharknado 2:' Behind the Visual Effects of 'The Second One'

"If it didn't look real, it wouldn't be funny," says VFX supervisor Emile Smith.

Sharknado 2 Before and After FX Split - H 2014
Courtesy of The Asylum
"Sharknado 2: The Second One"

The visual effects team at Burbank’s The Asylum were back in the shark tank with Sharknado 2: The Second One, having previously completed the tornadoes and flying sharks for the original.

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"If it didn't look real, it wouldn't be funny," said VFX supervisor Emile Smith of their aim.

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," said Smith. "There was a lot of digital double work as well as volumetrics of the Sharknado."

In another scene (pictured above), a single taxi surrounded by man-eating sharks is stuck on a flooded New York street. Parts of the scene were shot on location, while other elements and environments were filmed using greenscreen. The VFX team brought together the multiple elements — including the CG water and CG sharks — and layers.

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During a sequence that takes place on The Today Show (pictured below), hosts Al Roker and Matt Lauer were filmed with a model covered in green fabric, which the VFX team replaced with a CG shark.

The Asylum relied almost completely on LightWave 3D software. "We used a lot of the new dynamics tools as well as the TurbulenceFD plugin to generate the actual Sharknado," said Smith.

"This project was on a very tight timeline," added 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."

Email: Carolyn.Giardina@THR.com
Twitter @CGinLA