Pirates in London
June 20, 2011

Pirates in London

Cinesite re-creates 18th century London in 3D for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Cinesite, one of the world’s leading film visual effects houses, has completed 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 bluescreens 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 bluescreen, were seamlessly composited to enhance the busy London street.

As well as the challenge of r-ecreating 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, a fully-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.” 

About Cinesite
With one of the largest and most comprehensive facilities in Europe, Cinesite's visual effects team has the capacity and creativity to produce all manner of effects, both digital and physical, for feature films and broadcast projects of all scales. Their award-winning team of highly talented visual effects artists take filmmakers' ideas and turn them into spectacular cinematic reality.
Cinesite is currently working on Harry Potter The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Warner Bros.), John Carter of Mars (Disney/Pixar), and X-Men: First Class (Twentieth Century Fox).