Steven Spielberg’s tense 1975 thriller Jaws has a lot to answer for. Not only did it help set the mold for the summer blockbuster, but it also secured the place of the great white shark as cinema’s greatest underwater nemesis.
Jaws featured a notoriously temperamental mechanical shark built by special effects expert Robert A. Mattey – plus a handful of real critters photographed by shark experts and filmmakers Ron and Valerie Taylor. Sharks splashed back onto the big screen in 1999 with Renny Harlin’s Deep Blue Sea, for which Walt Conti fashioned three full-size animatronic beasts and visual effects supervisor Jeffrey A. Okun and Hammerhead Productions led the push to realize the film’s genetically-enhanced predators in digital form.
More recently, Stockholm-based Important Looking Pirates created the voracious sharks seen in Joachim Rønning’s and Espen Sandberg’s Kon-Tiki, and worked alongside a host of other visual effects vendors to bring to life the relentless Carcharodon carcharias of Jaume Collet-Serra’s The Shallows.
The newest sharks on the block are those seen in 47 Meters Down, in which hordes of great whites attempt to wrap their teeth around sisters Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt). Trapped in an underwater cage with only one hour of oxygen left, the siblings engage in a battle for survival as the sharks lays siege to their fragile aquatic fortress.
Watch a video of Outpost VFX’s work on 47 Meters Down:
Outpost VFX was sole visual effects vendor on 47 Meters Down. Director Johannes Roberts worked with Outpost’s on-set visual effects supervisor Sean Mathieson, and visual effects supervisor Mark Gregory oversaw 426 shots at the company’s seafront offices on the UK’s south coast. The work included simulating ocean environments in Side Effects Houdini and tracking them to live-action plates, deploying digi-doubles of the main actors, a CG cage and – of course – creating the all-important school of digital great white sharks, sculpted in Pixologic ZBrush and animated in Autodesk Maya.
Outpost VFX owner Duncan McWilliam, who was also executive producer on the film, commented:
“47 Meters Down was a real breakthrough opportunity for Outpost VFX to show what we are capable of producing. Being the sole vendor on the show across such a broad range of VFX disciplines was fantastic for our team to really flex their creative and technical muscle. This show really accelerated the development of our in-house proprietary tools and pipeline and now gives us a great calling card for creature and environment work across VFX-heavy shows.”
Outpost VFX recently worked on shots for Daniel Espinosa’s Life, covered in-depth in Cinefex 153, out now.