ILM’s Ben Snow Talks Pirates, Mermaids and 3D Pipeline
Watch the complete Ben Snow interview at AWNtv!
ILM visual effect supervisor Ben Snow has worked on many of the largest and most complicated vfx-driven films made, including Iron Man and Iron Man 2, Terminator Salvation and Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones. He’s been working at ILM since 1994, with the exception of his sojourn down to Weta Digital as vfx supervisor on King Kong. We spoke recently about his work on Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
Dan Sarto: Can you tell us about your work on the most recent Pirates film?
Ben Snow: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was a little different from the previous Pirates films. We didn’t have as much of the film [to work on] as we had on previous films. Moving Picture Company and Cinesite both did portions. ILM also worked with a couple of other companies as partners doing some of the work. The bulk of the work we were responsible for was the big mermaid attack sequence that happens moderately early in the film, and then some sequences where Blackbeard has captured some ships, and got them in these little bottles, but they are actually the full size ships that have been magically shrunken down. [We also did] the end sequence where they find a way into the fountain of youth and the climax of the film takes place. For the fountain of youth sequences, we worked with Scanline, which was very good, and we also worked with a couple of other companies on some of the other stuff [we did on the film]. But all of the mermaid stuff was done at ILM except for a wider shot of a ship going down, that MPC did. The big challenges for us really were dealing with the mermaids, dealing with the fact the film was in 3D and dealing with the issues of all the water and the interactions.
D.S.: What were some of the most challenging or difficult parts of the mermaid sequences?
B.S.: One of the first challenges was the design process. The filmmakers already had some art work they had done on the mermaids, but there wasn’t anything that had really grabbed them yet. And so we got this great opportunity to actually contribute design. One of ILM’s art directors, Aaron McBride, and I went down to talk to the director [Rob Marshall] and find out what he was after. He showed us quite a lot of different designs that they had done up till that point, and we talked about different images he found inspiring. Then we went back up to ILM and came up with some designs that he really reacted well to. That was a really fun part of it, a fun challenge. We didn’t want to do the classic mermaid like you saw in Splash and other films. We wanted to do something that’s a little bit more like saying these are part people but they are also part animal.