‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest’, Gore Verbinski’s swashbuckling adventure starring Johnny Depp, Kiera Knightley, and Orlando Bloom, looted another box office record as the Buena Vista film swaggered into its third week fastest to $300 million. Ignoring the critics, fans pushed ticket sales past Spider-Man 2’s previous record by nearly $50 million and the flood continued. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest holds records for biggest opening day, biggest opening weekend, fastest to $100 million, fastest to $200 million, fastest to $300 million and the Buena Vista film is still in release.
The 1,100 visual effects shots fill a treasure chest with reasons for the sequel’s success, all but a few created by Industrial Light & Magic under the supervision of John Knoll. Digital matte paintings created a Turkish prison and turned the island of Dominica into Cannibal Island. Captain Jack Sparrow’s ship, the Black Pearl, was sometimes real, sometimes a model created by ILM, and sometimes digital ship. In one dramatic scene, a digital Flying Dutchman dives into the water with an all-digital crew onboard. But, the outstanding “effect,” was the CG Davy Jones who captained an all-digital (but one) crew of undead, barnacled sailormen.
Herewith, a “just the facts ma’am” summary of some of the techniques ILM used to create Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,
|Thirteen modelers led by Geoff Campbell built 18 digital characters and 32 variations, plus the Kraken, CG pirate ships, digital doubles for the three lead actors, and a digital monkey. The entire crew of the Flying Dutchman except for “Bootstrap Bill” was digital. To create the characters, modelers worked directly in Maya from Aaron McBride’s photorealistic illustrations, referencing Gentle Giant body scans of actors playing the main characters to create subdivision surface models with compatible proportions. They also referenced scans of the actors’ faces taken with ILM’s proprietary, photography-based CloneCam system. |
The modelers created shapes in ILM’s Zeno for the lip-synched performances and the complex facial expressions of such characters as the squid-faced Davy Jones and sea life encrusted Wyvern. (Jung-Seung Hong modeled Davy Jones; Giovanni Nakpil created Wyvern’s shape library.) To “dress” the characters, modelers sculpted a toolkit of barnacles, mussels, corals and so forth that technical directors applied on top of the base mesh and instanced. Selected bits of sea life, an eel in Quittance’s chest, a puffer fish on Koleniko’s face, tendrils in Crash’s eye, and mussels on Clanker, for example, had animation rigs. Geometric detail painted in ZBrush, moved back into Zeno as 32-bit displacement maps for viewpainters, added complexity.
|Animators worked with mocap data for body performances in many shots but hand animated all facial expressions and lip synch. The team of between 30 and 40 animators led by Hal Hickel used pull-down menus to fit manikins with mocapped performances of the actors onto character models. 'Compare', a custom ILM program, allowed animators to put videotape of the actors’ performances onscreen side-by-side with the 3D model. |
This helped the animators fine tune Davy Jones’ facial expressions and lip synch performance with Bill Nighy’s, Wyvern with actor John Boswell, and other characters. For Kraken, animators selected from 12 main controllers and smaller subsets for jiggle. A procedural system (see below) handled tentacle behaviors, however, animators sometimes performed “hero” tentacles.