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Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

[Walt Disney Pictures/Jerry Bruckheimer Films]

Blacksmith Will Turner teams up with eccentric pirate “Captain” Jack Sparrow to save his love, the governor’s daughter, from Jack’s former pirate allies, who are now undead.

The Curse of the Black Pearl introduced new uses of motion-capture technology to create computer-generated characters.

During various sword fight scenes where actors fight undead pirates, ILM made it possible for Director Gore Verbinski to direct the CG characters’ performances by shooting each scene twice. First they’d shoot a reference take with actors fighting stuntmen standing in for the soon-to-be-skeleton characters, and then they’d do a clean take with the actors fighting no one. They would insert the CG pirates into these clean takes after working with the stuntmen to duplicate the appropriate choreography.

The digital costumes in Curse of the Black Pearl were elaborate and required a lot of work. With 23 people doing nothing but costume simulation, ILM was able to utilize the same-clothing-simulation software to create the realistic looking garb of the undead pirates.

In the past it was extremely difficult to interweave visual effects with the freestyle of handheld camerawork, but by the time Curse of the Black Pearl was produced, match-move tools had evolved to a point where it was no longer necessary to restrict the camera movement for shots requiring visual effects. As a result, ILM “went completely free” on Curse of the Black Pearl, allowing Verbinski to focus more on story. This would put ILM’s team to the test in the scenes when the actors walk into the moonlight and becomes completely CG skeleton characters.

Believably transitioning from real life Geoffrey Rush to CG Geoffrey Rush as he steps into the moonlight revealing his cursed form was one of the most important sequences in the film. ILM accomplished a seamless transition by removing some, but not all of Rush’s features. Specifically, his real eyes remained with the otherwise CG character for just a beat.

Director: Gore Verbinski
ILM Visual Effects Supervisor: John Knoll
ILM Animation Supervisor: Hal Hickel
ILM Visual Effects Art Director: Aaron McBride
ILM Visual Effects Producer: Jill Brooks
ILM Studios: San Francisco