Who’s That Swimming in the Lagoon?

Ready. Set. Swim! As swimmers from around the world prepare for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, Omaha is setting the stage for another lap as a host city for the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials. With sold out seats for the 8-day event, the community is pulling out all the stops to welcome swimmers and their families. Working with the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau (OCVB), Scott Dobry Pictures and Heartland Scenic Studio, Clark Creative Group set out to orchestrate a project of giant proportions – floating 10’ x 5’ swimmers in the Gene Leahy lagoon. So how exactly does one pull off an undertaking of this size? Give a talented group of creative connoisseurs and scenic engineers an innovative idea for a one-of-a-kind event.

When OCVB approached Clark Creative Group with this bold idea it wasn’t met with hesitation, only an open mind. In exactly one month’s time, a solution was pitched, prototyped, engineered, and tested before being unveiled to the community. Seems simple right? Far from it; but it’s definitely easier with great minds working together. With the ingenuity of Heartland Scenic Studio the idea came to life. A prototype was sent to Heartland to test prior to production of the swimmers. The original plan had to be tweaked in order for these 10’ swimmers to successfully float and endure the elements. It was decided that a design similar to a catamaran should do the trick. The structure needed to be able to hold the large printed images of the swimmers while at the same time staying afloat in the lagoon. After the prototype was adjusted, a test was completed and it worked! Since the lagoon floor varies in depth, it was decided that divers would be brought in to put the riggings in place so each structure could be set at a different height. As for materials, aluminum, diebond and sonotube concrete weights were decidedly the best choices because they could withstand the elements and keep everything afloat. It was also decided that red, white and blue racing lane lines would be added to create the effect of real competitive swimming, while at the same time improving the structure’s buoyancy. As the engineering of this project was in progress, Clark Creative Group was busy lining up local swimmers to scale them larger than life.

Testing the concept in the Gene Leahy Lagoon.

Capturing a profile shot of a swimmer in action can be more difficult when the image is being fabricated on ¼” aluminum. The original thought was stock photos could be used to easily create the desired look. However, with stock photos, water splash is already shown in most profile shots, and wouldn’t showcase well when placed in a different body of water. Real swimmers had to be brought in. With this project, the talent had to be able to take the correct pose of each competitive swim stroke in front of a white background. Here’s where it pays to have connections. Individuals affiliated with OCVB knew several young, competitive swimmers who were fit for the job. During the shoot, research into each stroke was conducted in order to make them look as professional as possible. Each swimmer, lying on either stomach or back, was sprayed with water and photographed in different stages of each stroke. Since the swimmers weren’t actually in the water, a great deal of skill was required to recreate each stroke without the buoyancy that typically aids them in the pool. With the shots complete, now it was time for the hard part. Each photo had to be colorized and the Visit Omaha logo had to be added to all of the swim caps. The meticulous part came when the mirror of each image had to be created. Careful work went into creating a good bleed in the pixel edge so each photo lined up. This was difficult and time consuming, but necessary in order to make the images look clean and precise. The biggest time crunch of all was making sure each image was sent to the printer on time. Since the photos were being attached to aluminum, they had to be printed, dried, and sealed for use in water. The final products were now ready to dive in.

In the end Clark Creative Group, Heartland Scenic Studio, and Scott Dobry Pictures successfully transformed a unique idea from OCVB into a final product that hit the water with a splash. The best thing to come out of a project like this is the long-term exposure for the young athletes who were photographed. To see their likeness in the water on a large scale is amazing. Who knows – four years from now these five up-and-coming swimmers could be the face of the U.S. Olympic Swimming Team. But for now, they will grace the waters of the Gene Leahy Mall and beckon visitors to ask, “Hey, who’s that swimming in the lagoon?”

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clark creative group, ccg, design, omaha, visit omaha, ocvb, heartland scenic studio, scott dobry pictures, u.s. olympic swim trials,

1 Comment

Jamie Vesay

June 30, 2016

Nice work all. One small tweak would have been at least one swimmer aiming north or south - as to see the city in the background. Photos have been shared numerous times, including by me. Bravo to all involved.

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