Sunday, March 10, 2019

One Visual Effects Shot from "Pirates 2"


 "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" (2006), visual effects by ILM. Visual effects supervisor John Knoll. Winner of the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.

Rotoscoping by Lauren Morimoto, compositing by Todd Vaziri.


This was a fun shot. The foreground was shot on a docked boat facing the sea, but the entire background was replaced with synthetic water, to match the look of the rest of the sequence. Every single thing on the boat, for this shot, had to be rotoscoped or extracted.

The actor playing Captain Bellamy was photographed with the other two actors saying their lines. He pretended to react to a non-existent tentacle grabbing him with wide eyes and an open mouth, flinging his arms up in the air. Later, without the other two actors a stuntman was rigged with a wire and stood in the same spot, and was flung off the deck of the ship. I had to seamlessly transition from the actor to the stuntman. The morph transition finishes entirely* before he goes behind that middle actor. It was fast but complicated.


I did the morph completely in After Effects using Re:Flex to first shape the stuntman into the actor's position, then carefully revealing different parts of the stuntman at a time. The buttons on his jacket were particularly difficult. I wanted the tentacle to grab Bellamy between his arm and his body; I already isolated and animated his foreground arm (bending it with FE Bend It), so it was straightforward to matte it behind the arm. It gave the shot a little more complexity, and hopefully realism.

I kept the honest movement of the stuntman intact after he becomes airborne (couldn't re-animate him anyway, since he was photographed with all those ropes on screen right) but I thought it would be fun to track Bellamy's face on the stuntman as long as I could which made for a nice little moment when you see his great facial expression as he flies through the air between the two remaining actors. The water effects, droplets and splashes are several photographed splashes tracked in 2D and some generated in AE Particle World.


It's barely noticeable, but there's the face of Alex Norton (Captain Bellamy). If your eye happened to be in the vicinity, you would have seen him, rather than the motion-blurred face of a stuntman who didn't really look like him.

As for the splashes, the CG water folks had their hands full with other, giant shots, and since this was a relatively subtle, non-spectacular shot, I was confident I could do all the effects in 2D. I probably used six or seven photographed splash effects (filmed against black).



Coming up with the right combo of droplets, splashes and mist to create the motion and energy the shot required was fun. When comping filmed elements that have action, the trick is to NOT over-animate them in 2D because you can easily negate the natural energy of the elements.

Original Tweet.


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