• CGSociety Production Focus - Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's ChestCGSociety Production Focus - Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

    ‘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.
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  • CGSociety Production Focus - Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest continued...CGSociety Production Focus - Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest continued...
    Jason Snell snapped photographs on location from multiple angles with a digital still camera, match moved each frame, and built photomodels from triangulated views to create a CG environments. Later, he supervised a team that applied plate photography from cut sequences of the film onto the 3D world that he built, thus locking the plate photography to the virtual world.
    ILM’s new 'Imocap' system captured the performances of actors wearing gray suits with markers on location during principal photography. Gore Verbinski directed these actors, and by extension the eventual CG characters, interacting with such lead actors as Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp in a variety of lighting conditions and environments. They collected mocap data from actors running through a jungle in daylight, wading in two feet of water, and packed into a small dark set for a dice game.
    James Tooley led teams of riggers and simulation artists that developed character rigs for 14 major characters, 27 background characters, three digital doubles and a monkey. They enhanced ILM’s rigid body dynamics system to animate Davy Jones’ tentacles procedurally, and created control systems for Kraken’s tentacles. In addition, the team simulated CG water, handled cloth sims for characters, digital doubles, and sails, simulated ropes and whips, wiggled lobster legs on Maccus’ back, and created debris during the Kraken attacks. Mathematical expressions and/or keyframe motion fed to motors in the joints between the cylinders making up Davy Jones’ 46 tentacles caused them to bend, curl, writhe, and perform in life-like ways. “Stiction” kept the tentacles from sliding. By using a top-level non-ballistic control system added to Kraken’s IK system, animators could grab a tentacle anywhere, pose it, and the body would conform.
    The 17% gray suits that the actors playing the digital characters wore for motion capture provided lighting reference as well. Technical directors could directly measure key fill ratio and color temperature from the suits.

    The studio used Pixar’s 'RenderMan' throughout the film. To render the complex details on the hero characters, ILM’s Christophe Hery worked with Pixar to implement a new RenderMan technique derived from a paper in NVIDIA’s GPU Computer Gems 2 that approximates ray tracing, and Pat Myers wrote an übershader with properties that technical directors could trigger with maps.
    At the peak, Eddie Pasquarello supervised 80 artists working in Apple’s Shake, ILM’s Comptime, and ILM’s Sabre system (based on Autodesk Discreet’s Inferno). The artists composited sometimes as many as 100 layers to create such nightmare shots as the Kraken attacks under the watchful eye of director Gore Verbinski, a former compositor. For the Kraken attacks, compositors integrated CG water, practical water splashes, CG characters, CG mast and sail extensions, digital debris, and bluescreen actors into live action plates of a practical ship, real debris, smoke, water and mist. The 1,100 shots touched by compositors also included blending background replacements and digimattes for the Turkish prison, Cannibal Island and other environments with live action elements, and, of course, the digital creatures.
    The visual effects crew worked with sample shots that had preliminary color timing as a guide. ILM works in EXR - extended range - format to retain the entire latitude of the negative.
    Industrial Light & Magic
    CGTalk Forum ‘Davey Jones’ thread

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