The Far Side of the World

Master and Commander

Creating the most realistic sea storm ever filmed

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 construction.
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 sails.



Backgrund Information about the
Napoleonic Wars and the Movie
Master and commander 5: huge photos
Cast and Crew The ships of those times
The crew of the Surprise (from the Premiere documents) The Royal Film Premiere
The Ships and Sets (from the Premiere documents) Creating the most realistic sea storm ever filmed (from the Premiere documents)
Historical and Character Research (from the Premiere documents) A dictionary of nautical terms for Landlubbers
The Captain's Log Musical Evenings with the Captain