PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN – ON STRANGER TIDES: Greg Oehler – VFX Supervisor – CIS Hollywood

After he has discussed about his work on THE GREEN HORNET, Greg Oehler is back on The Art of VFX and explains his work on the new Jack Sparrow adventure, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES.

How did your collaboration with director Rob Marshall and production VFX supervisor Charlie Gibson?
Because our body of work was fairly modest, I did not meet with Rob Marshall at all. Our interface with Charlie was largely done remotely and through his producer, David Conley.

How does CIS Hollywood got involved on this film?
CIS Hollywood has worked on all of the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movies and has enjoyed a very good working relationship with Charlie Gibson and his teams.

What are the sequences made by CIS Hollywood?
We have two sequences that bookend the movie, the old man clutching the book being pulled from the water at the beginning and Jack stranding Angelica on the island at the end. The rest of our shots are spread out throughout the body of the film.

Can you explain in detail your work on the sequence with Jack and Angelica on the small island?
As Jack and Angelica were supposed to be rowing out in a remote part of the Caribbean Ocean, our main task was to remove the land masses that existed behind the actors. While not too technically challenging, we aimed to keep our work seamless and invisible.

On set pictures

What did you do on the leg of Barbossa?
In these shots, Barbossa’s peg leg was a prop attached to Geoffrey Rush’s knee. We removed his leg from the knee down.

Can you explain in detail your work on the different retiming and fix?
Most of the re-timing shots took place during various sword fighting scenes. The re-time was to speed up the action since the actors could not wield swords safely at full speed. These would not normally be difficult shots, however, building a specific and fluid re-time that was identical and properly offset for stereo right and left eye proved to be a challenge. No single re-timing application was sufficient and many of these shots became full, multi-layered composites.

Can you tell us about the book that takes the old man came out of the sea?
The book was a set prop originally passed up for any effects work. The film’s producer, Jerry Bruckheimer felt the book looked too clean and new for something that had been under the water for 200 years. We created some simple CG geometry and projected some vetted artwork. This got us mostly there. The remaining challenge was to insure our 2D texture would work in stereo. We used lighting cues inherent in the original photography to aid and guide this process.

How did you create the set extensions? And what was the real size of these sets?
These were not as much set extensions as they were partial set replacements. A stereo 3D film forces you to find different solutions to old problems. On this film, we had to remove several prominent lens flares and rigs. Painting is not always a desired solution for lens flare removal on 2D movies, much less 3D movies. On several of these shots, we re-built set pieces and atmospherics and offset one eye to another, similar to a 2D to 3D stereo conversion.

Does the stereo caused you problems?
I have had prior experience with stereo, however, audiences have become more sophisticated and the need for stereo alignment between eyes is more refined, thus, greater attention to stereo offsetting is mandatory. Working in stereo did change the way we approached many issues, the flare removals and re-time, as I mentioned, but also in forcing us to look at our work in a very different way, literally. Without a solid pipeline for looking at and assessing stereo images, this work could not have been done in our time frame. In addition, there were occasional anomalies with the non-dominant camera, shot through a mirror in this case. This prompted us to work beyond the alignment software and, in some cases, align shots via compositing.

What was the biggest challenge on this project?
The biggest challenge for us was negotiating through the stereo issues in the boat sequence of Jack and Angelica at the end of the movie. Production had some difficulties with the stereo camera equipment during this sequence which created a disparaging gap between foreground and background distances between the right and left eyes. The stereo software we used, Ocula, which worked brilliantly in most instances, could not manage such a gap and we had to devise other ways compensate. Many of these shots had to become fairly involved composite shots in order for the eyes to align properly.

What was your felling to be back with Jack Sparrow?
I really like these movies. When they first started the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN franchise, I would not have guessed they would be so much fun to watch, much less, to work on.

Has there been a shot or a sequence that prevented you from sleeping?
Only in the few occasions we had to work into the night.

How long have you worked on this film?
Our schedule ran from late January to early April of 2011.

How many shots have you made and what was the size of your team?
Our final shot count came in at about 70. The team we had was fairly small, myself plus three, sometimes four.

What do you keep from this experience?
Anytime one gets to work on a blue ribbon project like this, one gets to feel charmed. Additionally, it is always pleasant working with Charlie and his team and it is a joy to work with the team we have here.

What is your next project?
I am currently working on THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN.

A big thanks for your time.

// WANT TO KNOW MORE ?

CIS Hollywood: Official website of CIS Hollywood.

© Vincent Frei – The Art of VFX – 2011

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Vincent Frei

Founder & Editor-in-Chief // VES Member // Former comp artist

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