ByPramit Chatterjee, writer at
Enthusiastic reviewer of anything that moves. My undercover Twitter id is: @pramitheus
Pramit Chatterjee

The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has always been home to some of the best visual effects in Hollywood. Other than the extravagant set-pieces and other-worldly locations, the Pirates franchise usually consists of a variety of disfigured and ghostly characters ranging from Captain Barbossa and his band of skeletal pirates to the tentacled Davy Jones and his crew of crustaceans. Now, with Dead Men Tell No Tales, MPC has converted the talented Javier Bardem into the undead Captain Salazar.

Apart from being resurrected via the curse of the Devil's Triangle and looking like he's been through an extremely hot grill, Captain Salazar's hair and uniform had a sense of fluidity to it. Even though the plot provided the reason for his floating hair, it was the visual artists of MPC who had to make it look real on the big-screen.

Combining Practical Make-Up And The Undead Walk To Form Salazar and His Crew

Javier Bardem with Johnny Depp (Credit: Disney)
Javier Bardem with Johnny Depp (Credit: Disney)

Javier Bardem is no stranger to portraying characters with a disfigurement. While Bardem's Raoul Silva only had a brief moment in Skyfall where he showed off his cyanide-corroded face, Captain Salazar had a significant amount of screen-time in Dead Men Tell No Tales.

Courtesy of Odd Studios, Bardem had to go through a three-hour ordeal on the make-up chair in order to maintain the scarred, burnt look throughout the movie. Bardem revealed that though it sounds strenuous, it helped him get into the psyche of the severely damaged Captain Salazar,

You go through every state of mind, you start to be very patient at the beginning, and then you lose it. At the end of the day you’re like, 'Take me out of here!'

At the end of the day what you’re trying to do is to create a human being behind a monster, and that’s the most important thing.

After the application of prosthetics and tracking markers, the arduous task of shooting Javier Bardem and his crew on-set begins. Patrick Ledda, the visual effects supervisor of MPC, explained that Bardem and his crew of undead were made to perform with a “slow motion lag" that gave Salazar's hair the "kind of behavior as if they were underwater”. After roto-scoping the performance of the cast, Ledda described how it was combined with the visual effects to provide the strange semi-aquatic effect,

Once we had these characters roto-animated, we then applied our digital costumes on top which had damaged and burnt areas and lots of rips. And then our technical animators took over and they applied these cloth sims and hair simulation to give it this kind of underwater feel.

Visualizing Captain Salazar's Flowing Lock Of Hair

Bardem in full make-up (Credit: Disney)
Bardem in full make-up (Credit: Disney)

As soon as the trailers for Dead Men Tell No Tales hit the internet, everyone wanted to know the secret behind the ever-floating hair of Captain Salazar. Even though the effect looks minimalistic, MPC faced two major challenges:

  • Matching the hair with Bardem's performance
  • Making the hair look like it was underwater

In order to achieve that effect, the artists of MPC took the help of Furtility, a digital hair/fur grooming system, which was previously used in the iconic werewolf transformation scene in 2010's The Wolfman.

This system allowed the visual artists to digitally drag hair across certain keyframes in order to create the illusion of a current that was moving Salazar's hair.

Apart from differentiating the movement of each strand on Salazar's head, MPC also faced the challenge of maintaining continuity throughout the cuts in the movie. As the artists were used to working in beats, Ledda explained how they overcame that hurdle by meticulously examining each shot to retain the consistency of each scene,

The difference here was that we had to run all these hair simulations across multiple shots, because if the hair is ‘screen left’ in the previous shot, obviously it has to be in the same place in the following shot. It’s quite tricky when you’re simulating hair because you can end up with many cuts. To run a simulation across say 20 shots and making sure it all feels coherent was definitely a big challenge.

Although Dead Men Tell No Tales has been lambasted by critics for its plot-holes and recycled story-lines, there hasn't been any complaint about the visual effects of the movie and now we know why. As the post-credit stinger has promised the return of another CGI-heavy character, fans have to wait and see what other visual marvels the franchise has in store for future Pirates movies.

What is your favorite visual effect moment from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise? Let me know in the comment section!

(Source: Cartoon Brew, NCN Sports Now)


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