Rather than send Bill Nighy to a motion-capture stage to re-create his perf, visual effects supervisor John Knoll plundered his “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” mo-cap footage during principal photography, from the very decks of the Flying Dutchman.
“We had a couple of small, unobtrusive cameras on the set that we could move and get a clear view of the character,” Knoll details. “We also put Nighy in a gray suit instead of a blue or green one because it would better approximate the light bounce onto the other characters around him later.”
Capturing Nighy’s performance with the first unit meant fewer headaches later on for the animators.
“Davy Jones is such an important part of this story, so making him real to the audience is essential,” says Hal Hickel, the film’s animation supervisor. “Actually having Bill Nighy on set portraying him meant that the actors are reacting to one another, the eyelines are correct, and (it) makes everything else you do afterwards when you’re animating look right.”
“This process depends on many small things coming together,” Knoll says. “If there was an actor on set at one point, then I’m going to get a lot of those things right immediately.”