Industrial Light & Magic logo.

Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) is an Academy Award-winning motion picture visual effects company that was founded in May 1975 by George Lucas. It was a subsidiary of his film production company, Lucasfilm, and was created when Lucas began production of the film Star Wars. Ever since then, ILM quickly became a prolific effects house, working on numerous feature films, including doing all manner of visual effects for the Pirates of the Caribbean series. For the making of Dead Man's Chest, ILM invented a new system called iMocap, a stunning blend of creative idea with innovative technology.


Pirates of the CaribbeanEdit

The Curse of the Black PearlEdit

Crew underwater

The skeletal pirates.

To put a crew of skeletons onboard a pirate ship for the box office blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, ILM first filmed actors hoisting sails, hauling lines and standing at the helm of a set piece built on a barge. Then, they had the actors duplicate their performances on a motion capture stage. Data captured from those performances drove the motion of the CG skeletons. To create the final, convincing performances, animators refined the motion-captured animation to match the reference shots of the actors on set. Meanwhile, the technical crew devised new methods for simulating the layers of ragged clothing worn by the skeletal pirates. Modelers extended that set by gluing on digital parts from stem to stern, technical directors rigged the ships with digital sails, and the pirates set sail in digital water. Although the two-step method for replicating the actors' performances with CG skeletons was successful, ILM's determination to simplify the process led to revolutionary new tools introduced for Davy Jones in the sequel.[1]

Dead Man's ChestEdit


The development of Davy Jones.

For the Pirates sequel, Dead Man's Chest, director Gore Verbinski wanted to turn the pirates and their captain Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) into humans partially eaten away and absorbed by sea creatures. But, he also wanted to work with actors on set who played the parts, not just with animated characters in post production. Thus, to create the sea-creature encrusted pirate crew, ILM captured the performances of actors on location and applied that data to CG characters. It was the first time anyone had motion-captured actors so freely on set. To do so, ILM invented a new system called iMocap, a stunning blend of creative idea with innovative technology. The light bulb concept: rather than capturing dots moving in 3D space, because the performances ultimately needed to work only from one camera angle, ILM could apply all its computing power to figure out the details only from the angle used to shoot the plate. Behind the scenes, ILM's revolutionary new Zeno pipeline moved fully into action, giving artists easy access to more tools than ever before. Digital Davy Jones was so believable that critics and even many people in the visual effects community thought he was actor Bill Nighy in a rubber suit.[1]

At World's EndEdit


The Maelstrom.

At World's End, the third film in the blockbuster series, had to buzz past the last film, but with the question of how ILM could top the Oscar-winning performance of the CG Davy Jones. In a display of skill, the studio sent the digital swashbuckler and his CG crew fighting their human counterparts on a digital ship in a swirling digital maelstrom. To quickly show director Gore Verbinski designs for 10 new digital pirates, modelers and artists devised lightning-fast methods for building 3D prototypes. To create the monstrous maelstrom, ILM's crew spun out new state-of-the art water simulation technology. The fast-moving whirlpool swallowed up 103 terabytes of data on ILM's file servers, enough to hold five Libraries of Congress. Shots inside the maelstrom took 100,000 processing hours per night to produce, a testimony to the beefy digital backbone and resilient data management in ILM's new state of the art facility.[1]

On Stranger TidesEdit

Angry Tamara(old version)2

Original mermaid effects


Final mermaid effects

The fourth film in the Pirates franchise, On Stranger Tides, introduced mermaids. Those at ILM wanted to avoid the classic "woman in a mono-fin" seen in past mermaid films so they studied a variety of marine mammals and fish for the motion of the mermaids. The production also had synchronized swimmers and professional athletes that we filmed on set to help guide the animation. For the look, they tried to create something different but keep it rooted in reality. They used reference of sea life, human skin, etc. and also bought some fish at the fish market and photographed the heck out of them. In the end, the mermaids had a scaly body with a membrane of sheer, almost jelly-fish like, tendrils.[2] One of the challenges of designing a look for the mermaids was that the supernatural creatures in the previous films were, by design, monster-like and frightening. The mermaids were creatures that needed to be beautiful, seductive sirens.[3] In creating the mermaids, they were originally far more extreme and almost unrecognizable as human, but director Rob Marshall later decided to make the mermaids appear more human, particularly because the character Syrena (Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey) had to be distinctly human.[4] The production only shifted to the final version of the mermaids less than four months before release. Since the film was conceived with more elaborate mermaid creatures, effects artists had to go back through the film and digitally remove all of the tracking dots on the actresses. This was even more difficult because of the 3D stereoscopic technology.[5] For this film, Disney released the Blu-Ray with Second Screen technology which allowed viewers to sync the disc with their iPad and access special features on their tablet.[5]


Dead Man's ChestEdit

Davy Jones Projection GalleryEdit

At World's EndEdit


External linksEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

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