Peter Weir's mandate for the film's state-of-the-art visual effets
work,comprising some750 shots, was that they be "inside"
- no matter the amount of research and development , artistry and
man-hours that went into creating the effects. "Peter insisted
that Master and Commander: The far side of the world
not look like an effects film", says visual effects supervisor
Stefan Fangmeier of ILM."If you don't recognize the effects
- if audiences just are in the moment and enjoy the spectacle and
Peter's personal vision - then we've done the job."
Fangmeier and ILM embraced the notion of creating visual effects for
a period film."It's a breath of fresh air to work on a personal
piece grounded in reality," he says. éAudiences are so
used tolaser blasts, space battles and thelike. With Master
and Commander: The far side of the world we had the opportunity
to enhance a world many of us have forgotten about. It"s a lot
richer in many ways than any outer space galactic battle."
Master and Commander: The far side of the world
's "invisible" effects contribute to the creation of an
epic typhoon sequence, the likes of which hae never been experienced
on film. In the story, Jack Aubrey pursues the Acheron, theSurprise
rounds the Cape, the weather worsens, theseas and winds grow merciless
- and the biggest challenge Jack has ever faced lies ahead: the full
fury of a massive storm - on a 120-foot square-rigger. State of the
art visual effects merged with massive physical effects and, for the
first time ever, real life footage of an actual storm captured on
film at Cape Horn to create a typhoon as real as it is big. "For
the storm sequence we had to prep all the camera equipment for getting
absolutely soaked," says director of photography Russell
Boyd." We used Hydroflex water bags and we completely encased
the camera, but which still allowed it to be operational. We were
able to shoot even with the millions of gallons of water that the
special effects guys dumped on us."
After cast and crew were positioned on the ship, the filmmakers
brought the storm to life. First, they activated the gimbal, which
put the ship in motion. Then wave and wind machines were switched
on and water was pumped in front of two enormous jet engines, which
broke down the water into a fog/mist effect. Four fans set up behind
rainheads produced heavier rain, and, finally massivedump tanks unleashed
8,000 gallons of water that cascaded across the deck of the ship,
completely soaking cast and crew. The jet engines, wave and wind machines,
fans and dump tanks combined to produce a deafening cacophony for
on-set cast and crew.
While these pysical effects played a key role in creating these epic
scenes, important contributions were also made by footage of a real
storm captured months earlier by Paul Atkins, aboard the Endeavor
as it rounded Cape Horn. Yhis is the first time actual strom footage
that has been integrated into such a sequence - it makes it look bigger,
more realistic, and lends a critical "you-are-there" feel
to the epic scene..
Integrating the Endeavor's footage with the CG and physical effects
was the biggest challenge facing Asylum. "We were blessed
to have such a great element - the Endeavor storm footage - to begin
with," says visual effects skupervisor Nathan McGuinness of Asylum.
"Peter's directive to us was to make it all very organic; to
have all these elements, including physical and CG models of the Surprise,
interact in a believable fashion."
ILM created visual effects for another huge sequence -the final battle
between the Surprise and the Acheron. Digital and Miniature ships
facilitated cynamic camera moves not possible while shooting at sea.
The visual efects teams worked closely with the film's specialeffects
and art departments to ensure that the computer generated ships matched
the miniature models built by The Weta Workshop. Both CG and miniature
models had to match the specifications of the Surprise tank ship,
via constant reference to the hundreds of blueprintsusedfor the tankship's
Much of theeffects work wassubtle,such as eliminating the Mexican
coastline from scenes shot on the tank boat. Digitalartists removedthese
and other images frame by frame. One of the "Construction "
tasks that fell to the visual effects department was the comletion
of the masts. Due to the weight of the tank ship on the gimbal, the
filmmakers had to construct a shortened version of the main and fore
masts. The visual effects teams extended those masts, rigging and