An Ideal World Gives a Mermaid a New Do

Visual Effects Studio An Ideal World worked its magic on a new spot for Texas-based Fiesta Supermarkets in which a shopper is surprised to find a living, breathing (and wisecracking) mermaid lying on a bed of ice in the store seafood department. Conceived by Houston agency Lopez Negrete, the spot makes a humorous pitch for the store fresh seafood. Locke Bryan Productions was the production company.

The task for An Ideal World was to cement the mermaid illusion by making the creature hair ‘float’ around its head as if it were underwater. Although a CG solution was initially considered, An Ideal World founder and visual effects supervisor Robb Hart thought better results could be attained through a practical approach. ‘The best way to capture the organic feel of hair underwater is to shoot hair underwater,’ reasoned Hart.

Hart technique involved shooting the mermaid and her hair as separate elements. The actress playing the mermaid was shot in a Houston supermarket and wore a tiara-like headdress with six inch tentacles adorned with tiny soccer balls. ‘The soccer balls made perfect tracking marks to tie the hair to her head movement,’ Hart said.

Hart then shot a voluminous black wig, attached to a foam head, in a swimmimg pool in California and manipulated it to match the actresses’s movement. He brought a portable visual effects workstation to both locations and that allowed him to create rough composites on the spot. ‘We use an AJA IO and a laptop running Final Cut,’ he explained. ‘We test the effects on nearly every shoot to make sure everyone is happy with the look before we leave the set.’

Hart and his staff performed the compositing work (using Apple Shake) at his studio in Santa Ana, California, while editorial was being carried on in Texas. ‘We fed the online suite in Houston with our shots via ftp,’ Hart said. ‘using the Avid HD codec, we were able to send two-second high def shots over the Internet in about 20 minutes. All of the reviews were done remotely.’

Lopez Negrete Communication Vice President of Creative Direction, Javier Gonzalez-Herba said that An Ideal World made what could have been a complex and difficult production seem effortless. ‘Robb Hart eye for detail and ability to make complicated special effects seem effortless has made him the successful visionary he is today,’ Gonzalez-Herba said. ‘We are very pleased, as is our client, with the special effects and visuals Robb and his team created for Fiesta Mart latest spot.’
An Ideal World is located in the Artists Village of Santa Ana at 209 N. Bush St., Santa Ana, CA 92701. For more information, call (714) 953-9501 or visit

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