The special effects of the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels are particularly impressive!
W9 is rebroadcasting now Pirates of the Caribbean. Place tonight at Secret of the Cursed Chest, the second episode released in 2003, and next Monday, the channel will offer Till the end of the world, the third opus directed by Gore Verbinski, in 2007. These two suites notably feature Davy Jones and his half-human, half-aquatic creatures of the Flying Dutchman. Played by Bill Nighy on set, in a combination of performance capture and with dots on the face to then animate his tentacles digitally, this character is still as impressive, more than ten years after the release of the blockbuster. The first part of The Pirates had already amazed the public thanks to its virtuoso staging and the animation of its skeleton pirates, and its two suites have set the bar even higher! Admittedly, these films cost a lot of money (over $ 250 million each), but it definitely shows on screen.
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The evolution of capture performance
In this video uploaded by ILM, the company that was tasked with creating the special effects for the blockbusters, Hal Hickle, who oversees the VFXs, explains how this memorable villain was created. Everything that we see on the screen is digital, even if it starts from the actor’s game, his movements and expressions were then systematically reworked. Even his eyes, which give Davy Jones a whole range of emotions, have required digital touch-ups (read below). The example chosen to open the video, where Davy Jones cries, picks up his tear with one of his tentacles and then lets his anger explode, perfectly illustrates this idea of quality digital effects making it possible to sublimate the acting of his sound. initial performer. It was all the more crucial on the character of Davy Jones, whose humanity is at the heart of the plot (no pun intended).
In 2006, performance capture technology already made it possible to shoot in a hard setting, and not all on a green or blue background. By filming aboard the Flying Dutchman or on paradise islands in the Bahamas, the actors were more immersed in the adventure and their interactions more dynamic, notably explained John Knoll, Hickle’s colleague on these big Disney productions, in Entertainment Weekly. Even though the crew members were dressed in gray overalls, and not definitive costumes like their colleagues Johnny Depp (Jack Sparrow), Keira Knightley (Elizabeth Swann) or Orlando Bloom (Will Turner), playing alongside them and not apart, on artificial sets, was a big advantage. Bill Nighy’s eccentric play was also a great starting point for teams tasked with animating the character, with his sometimes odd facial expressions or mouth sounds being quirky enough to give his creature some personality. The creation of its tentacles also made it possible to go quite far into the monstrosity, insist its creators, especially during a sequence decrypted in the video below where the character kills an enemy by thrusting them down his throat.
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Find the gaze that kills
“We were initially very worried about his eyes, Knoll explains. the idea that we cannot give as much life, as much humanity, as if we had simply filmed an actor playing. “ He then takes as an example the cult sequence from the first film, where Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) turns into a skeleton when he appears in the light of the moon: “I cheated a bit on that front, because I kept Geoffrey Rush’s eyes for two or three seconds after his transformation. Suddenly everything was digital except his eyes. They were the actor’s eyes until now. ‘to him to blink, then it’s CGIs. It helped make the transition (from pirate / actor to skeleton, editor’s note). “ Gore Verbinski would have liked to use this principle to animate Davy Jones, but the team could not have given it that wet look, as if it had just come out of the water, without retouching it entirely digitally. While they used Nighy’s eyes as a benchmark, it’s never really hers that you see onscreen, and that detail alone is a performance in itself. John Knoll, Hal Hickel, Charles Gibson and Allen Hall won the Oscar for best special effects in 2007 for The Secret of the Cursed Chest.
If since the of Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3, these CGIs have been used extensively in cinema (on Avatar, Planet of the Apes, Avengers, Star Wars, etc.), Davy Jones’ animation remains particularly impressive. The end of the last part of the Pirates, The Revenge of Salazar, teased the great comeback of the character in a new episode, but since its release in 2017, Pirates of the Caribbean 6 was abandoned for a reboot, which will be done without Johnny Depp and therefore certainly without his acolytes and enemies. Besides, that wink was certainly there just for the joke, Bill Nighy was not even told by Disney that his character was coming back !
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Here is an excerpt from Pirates of the Caribbean 3 with Davy Jones:
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