All Features


  PlayStation 3
  PlayStation 4
  Wii U
  Xbox 360
  Xbox One


Pirates 3: A Night with Gore

Company: Buena Vista
Product: Pirates of the Caribbean 3

In anticipation of the DVD release of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, the third film in the Pirates' trilogy, I had the opportunity to take part in a special press junket were I was able to preview some of the extra features on the upcoming DVD, as well as talk to the film's director, Gore Verbinski.

The first, and perhaps more interesting of the two features, looked at the production behind the climatic Maelstrom scene. According to Verbinski, the scene didn't receive the warmest of receptions from the production crew. "Most of the time the initial response from the producers or crew, when viewing the storyboards, was that this sequence was unachievable. But when you have the best in the business working with you, and you are willing to break apart each shot into it's components, the impossible eventually becomes a reality."

The thing that surprised me the most about the sequence was how much of it was "real". While watching special effects features, I am always surprised at just how many things that I think are real turn out to be computer generated, while things that I think are computer generated are actually real.

In order to film the Maelstrom scene, two giant pirate ships were constructed in a massive soundstage. The ships that appear in the scene are real and rigged to sway like they would in the Maelstrom's wild, savage water. Both ships were surrounded by a huge blue screen where the water was later added. When asked about obstacles the scene presented, Verbinski said it was one of the production's real nail biters.

"(Definitely), the biggest issue hit us about 8 weeks prior to the release. We were suffering from a scaling issue that seemed insurmountable. The physics of a whirlpool this size overwhelmed the team at ILM. The path we were heading down was not achieving the desired results, so it all had to be reworked. The initial rendered backgrounds were used as out of focus plates for close-ups which bought us time by getting 100 or so shots in the pipeline and allowed us to completely rethink and re-render the Maelstrom for all of the wide shots. This is the exact opposite of how you would normally go about producing this sequence. John Knoll and the team at ILM ultimately pulled it off."

As it turns out, the "Making of the Maelstrom" is also one of his favorite features. According to Verbinski, the "Making of..." featurette, "...gives you a small window into the complexity of creating and executing a sequence that has never been accomplished before. Months in planning and 8 weeks of shooting required a synergy between stunts, camera, practical effects and visual effects. Day after day we were operating amid 100 miles per hour winds, cascading rain and debris, deafening cannon fire with 150 sword wielding stuntmen battling across two undulating vessels on the largest gimbals ever constructed for filming. Although artificially created, practically speaking, we were filming a battle within a massive storm. I think the viewer will get a good sense of what everyone went through to bring this to the big screen."

The second feature focused on another of the film's visual effects where a crew of Jack Sparrows mans the Black Pearl. Like the Maelstrom, the scene blended both on-set effects as well as some technical wizardry. Each of the different Jack "personalities" was played by Johnny Depp, most of which were decided on the set.

In order to help push the scene's production, a group of Jack Sparrow look-a-likes were called in as well as a really cool "ghosting" technique that allowed the crew to playback the interaction between multiple Depp-played Jacks. Although some might see multiple "live" Jacks as the "old way", Verbinski sees a use for both the "old" and "new" ways.

"I am not trying to reinvent the wheel. When we set out to do something with visual effects, it is often the combination of the old and the new. When a technique or physical effect is working, I will always prefer to shoot it live. This process allows for the greatest sense of realism and keeps the viewer guessing what is 'in camera' and what is CGI."

When it came to Depp's portrayal of Jack, Verbinski said it was a mix of letting him do his thing as well as knowing when to hold back. "Johnny and I love pushing Jack as far as he can go, but we are also aware that keeping him unpredictable requires a constant oscillation between the dramatic and the absurd. So, it's both spurs and reigns -- constantly."

Verbinski also talked about what it was like to work with Rolling Stones' guitarist Keith Richards, who played Jack's father in the third movie as well a serving as inspiration for Jack's character. The idea of bringing Richards on board for the third film was, "...all Johnny. He and Keith are great friends and I was lucky enough to get the chance to meet and work with the legend."

As far as making him into a pirate went, "...we didn't need to do much. Keith makes the rest of us look like we are pretending."

When it comes to planning out effects, one of the other interesting facts was that some of the scene planning began with napkins (which, I should note, is a favorite design tool with our staff members). Verbinski described scene planning as "controlled chaos".

"The creative process is complex. I try to be specific and deliberate as I storyboard and pre-visualize the entire film. Yet, I am constantly aware that this process can make a film cold and clinical... The napkin drawing is a starting point from which I encourage evolution. Most of the time, the concept remains intact but execution shifts dramatically."

Although these sequences require a lot of planning to get right, Verbinski said he finds the smaller, more intimate scenes are the ones that require the most attention to detail. As far as balancing visual effects and story is concerned, Verbinski sees them as just one tool in the filmmaker's toolbox. "Once you become acquainted with them, they cease to be distracting. I always try to keep story foremost in my mind while shooting."

When asked about his involvement with the extras, he referred to it as "documenting madness."

"There must be a million hours of digital video that the 'making of folks' are combing through. (Someone was on set videotaping every day.) They show me the cut footage and most of the time I just have this sort of Vietnam flashback moment and then say, 'sure why not?' I do believe the process of this production is just about as mad and bold an adventure as the narrative itself... The process of making them has been such a wondrous and strange adventure, I think it serves as a form of entertainment itself."

When asked about what came away from the movies with, he replied that the only souvenir he has is, "Jack's peanut".

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Related Links:

Sony PlayStation 3 PlayStation Store Promotion Microsoft Xbox 360 Easiest Achievements Ever

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated