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Sway Studio Creates CG Shark Tale for McDonalds

Sand Tiger Sharks have an appetite for Filet O Fish

Sway Studio created a photo-real CG aquarium and filled it with sharks with a powerful hankering for fast food in providing visual effects services for a new McDonalds spot.

Conceived by Dallas agency Moroch, the spot employs the ravenous fish to promote McDonalds Filet O Fish sandwich. A woman strolling through an aquarium while eating the product catches the eye of a pack of sand tiger sharks who follow her across the room from behind the glass. When she turns, they scatter. The woman then has some fun at the expense of the big fish, downing the last bite of her sandwich before their envious eyes.

Moroch creative director Troy Scillian said the agency chose the tongue in cheek concept because Filet of Fish is a fun sandwich. ?We also wanted to demonstrate a craving for this product, he explained. ?We asked ourselves, who else would crave it, and that led us to sharks.

The spot was created by shooting the woman against green screen and compositing her with a CG aquarium and a school of CG sharks. Sway Studios Mark Glaser provided visual effects supervision on the set, which occurred as the companys CG team were already busy creating the sharks. ?Through the use of some new technology the artists were able to email frames of the sharks to my cell phone, Glaser recalled. ?I could then share them with the agency team and the director.

The sharks, noted Scillian, had to look as real as possible. ?We didnt want cartoon fish. This isnt Finding Nemo, he said. ?They had to be very, very real.

Sway artists modeled and animated the creatures after images of real sharks and used some new software tools to add cunningly realistic details. ?A tool called Z Brush allowed us to paint on fine details in three dimensions, Glaser said. ?We used it to paint in the sharks teeth and gums. We also used it to add the imperfections to the fins that you would find on real sharks.

The aquarium itself is composed of more than a dozen distinct elements, including the water, the sharks, particulate matter, fingerprint smudges in the glass, volumetric lighting, and the womans reflection. In some shots, its possible to see other patrons behind the glass on the other side of the aquarium. ?I just put in a filmed element of some extras and then lit them with the underwater light patterns, said Glaser. He added that a separate depth pass performed during the compositing phase allowed them to control the ?murkiness of the water.

The most challenging aspect of the project, according to Glaser, was making the sharks behave like hungry people and still look like fish. ?We had to make the sharks do things that real sharks wouldnt but still make it believable, he observed. ?The toughest shot is the one where the sharks scurry off. We spent a lot of time finessing the shot to make it appear as though their movement is motivated by their tails pushing through the water.

For Scillian, Sways concern for those sorts of subtleties is what makes the illusion so convincing. ?They actually went through and put smudges on the glass, as if kids had been through the aquarium, he said. ?I joked with Mark that he was putting stuff in that, had I shot it, I would have paid someone to take out. But its those details that sell the spot and make it look as if it really happened.

Sway Studio is located at 1100 Glendon Avenue, 17th floor, Los Angeles, CA 90024. For more information, call (310) 689-7237 or visit

Length:                         30-seconds

Client:                           McDonalds

Agency:                        Moroch, Dallas. Troy Scillian and Jim Sykora, creative directors; Chris Shafer, copywriter; Aaron Opsal, art director; Kathleen Torres, producer.

Production Company:  Plum Productions, Venice, CA. Bob Rice, director; Erickson Core, director of photography.

Editing Company:         Frames Per Second, Dallas. Brent Harrington, editor.

Music Company:          Juniper Music & Sound Design. John Hunter, music.   

Post Facility:                 Company 3, Santa Monica, CA. Mike Pethel, colorist.

Visual EFX Company: Sway Studio, Los Angeles. Mark Glaser, visual effects supervisor; Angelica Vogt, VFX coordinator; Shira Boardman, executive producer.

Audio Post House:        Fast Cuts, Dallas. Scotty Richmond, engineer/mixer.   

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Related Keywords:Sway Studio , Moroch, McDonald?s Filet O Fish sandwich


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