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HomeIndustry SectorFilmCinesite Recreates 18th Century London in 3D for Pirates of the Caribbean

Cinesite Recreates 18th Century London in 3D for Pirates of the Caribbean


Cinesite created a dramatic carriage chase through London for Pirates of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. (© Disney Enterprises, Inc.)
London-based VFX house Cinesite delivered more than 300 stereoscopic visual effects shots for Pirates of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. For their first full stereo 3D project, Cinesite were tasked with creating large-scale photorealistic 3D environments for a dramatic carriage chase through London.

Directed by Rob Marshall, the fourth installment in the highly successful Disney/Bruckheimer series sees Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) embark on a quest to find the elusive fountain of youth, only to discover that Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and his daughter (Penelope Cruz) are after it too.

Working closely with overall visual effects supervisor Charles Gibson, Cinesite’s visual effects supervisor Simon Stanley-Clamp spent several weeks on location in Greenwich and at historical buildings Hampton Court Palace and Middle Temple, as well as being on set at Pinewood Studios. The film was shot in native stereo 3D using Red One cameras and Pace 3D camera rigs.

Starting inside St James’ Palace and progressing through three different exterior London environments, the carriage chase sequence was shot against three large blue screens on location in Greenwich and comprises more than 200 back-to-back shots. Cinesite created complex 3D environments including full CG street builds with detailed period buildings, as well as set and background extensions. Atmospheric smoke, smog and fog were added to create an old London feel, and extras, shot in stereo against a blue screen, were seamlessly composited to enhance the busy London street.

Geoffrey Rush wore a blue sock on set, which was digitally replaced with a wooden leg. (© Disney Enterprises, Inc.)
As well as the challenge of recreating such a large-scale location, Cinesite also faced challenges due to the stereoscopic nature of the film. Head of visual effects technology, Michele Sciolette, led Cinesite’s efforts to build the stereo production pipeline and develop a number of new tools to meet these challenges. These included csStereoColourMatcher, an automated tool designed to compensate for color differences between stereoscopic image pairs. csPhotoMesh was used extensively by Cinesite’s environmental specialists to quickly build CG sets for environmental work.

Other shots Cinesite worked on include creating Barbossa’s peg leg throughout the film by replacing the blue sock Rush wore on set with a digital peg leg. They also created highly detailed CG poison dart frogs in four different colors. In addition to their proprietary tools, Cinesite relied on Nuke, Maya, Houdini and RenderMan.

“We’re very proud of what we’ve achieved on our first full stereo 3D project,” said Antony Hunt, managing director, Cinesite. “The complexities that stereoscopic work introduces combined with the sheer scale of some of the scenes we worked on presented some big challenges. But by drawing on our extensive experience in creating photorealistic CG environments and our expertise in motion analysis and color correction, we were able to create some outstanding 3D visual effects.”

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