The visual-effects team on Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
has pulled one over on moviegoing landlubbers.
Other special-effects wizards have complimented visual-effects supervisor John Knoll on how well his team at Industrial Light & Magic mixed computer-generated effects and real-world prosthetics to create villain Davy Jones and the crew of his Flying Dutchmen.
But they are all wet. In reality, Jones and his 18-member crew were entirely computer-generated, except for Bootstrap Bill (Stellan Skarsgård), the father of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom).
"We are all really pleased," Knoll says. "It is real enough (that) there is confusion at what they are looking at, even from professionals in the field."
That bodes well for Knoll, whose crew on the first Pirates
earned an Oscar nomination for visual effects. (He and his team lost to The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
Initially, Knoll had to convince returning director Gore Verbinski that a computer-generated Davy Jones was see-worthy.
"He had some very serious concerns whether (a computer-generated image of Jones) would hold up well in close-ups. He wanted to consider using Bill's real eyes, in close-ups, at least," Knoll says.
But after seeing early CGI footage, Verbinski was convinced that the effects crew could pull it off.
"The character you see on screen is completely computer-generated, but it is definitely Bill performing," Knoll says. "His voice and definitely the motion comes from him."
Nighy wore a dark gray motion-capture suit with dozens of reference marks on his face and body. ILM refined the motion-capture system so that only two cameras were needed, compared with up to 16 in the past.
Artist Mark "Crash" McCreery (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
, Van Helsing
) came up with the barnacle-clad concept for the crew with Verbinski's help.
Because Jones and the Dutchmen live underwater, they have literally become "of the sea."
With an octopus-tentacled beard, crab claw on his left hand and crab leg on his right leg, Davy Jones is "almost like a Blackbeard," McCreery says. "We knew when we found him. He looks like the captain of the ship of this cursed crew."
The effects team had to be careful not to leave viewers too green around the gills with their creations.
"We definitely talked of a grossness factor, but usually it was a good thing," Knoll says. "The 14-year-old boy in all of us was looking at all this stuff and saying, 'How cool is that to have a fish embedded in his leg?' "
Davy Jones' character pays homage to the 1954 Disney classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
At one point, Jones plays an organ à la Captain Nemo. The tentacles play, too — each one has 16 virtual joint "motors" so they move realistically. And Jones' pet, the Kraken, recalls the squid that attacks the Nautilus.
Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow appears to be a Kraken snack at the film's end. But never fear. "Captain Jack is a beloved character, and he's very important to these movies," Knoll says. "He's definitely back for (film No.) 3."