Creating visual effects – the Harry Potter films

Creating visual effects – the Harry Potter films

Part of the magic of the Harry Potter films is the special effects; spells, flying broomsticks, a flying car, disappearing into a fireplace all happen when Harry Potter is around, but how do the filmmakers create these special effects? In fact, there are several visual effects companies that collaborate, depending on their specific area of ‚Äč‚Äčexpertise. This is how only some of the effects are created.

A game of Quidditch on a broomstick. A blue screen is used as a “sky” background, and the flyer is placed on a broom on a hydraulic platform. The facility is computer controlled to create the swinging and waving of a Quidditch game and the resulting film is then transferred to the computer graphics environment to be edited into the finished film.

Dumbledore’s memories are stored in the Grayscale. Memories can be seen falling into a liquid in the thinking bowl and this is created by taking drawn pictures (the memories) and blending them in specially designed software that creates the look of the liquid and the pictures floating down into it.

The sphere of water produced by Dumbledore’s spell to trap Voldemort. The broom rig was back in effect, which along with Plexiglas spheres with water flowing from above and inside, created the effect of Voldement floating and spinning in a water sphere.

The ice covering the frozen lake from which Harry retrieves the sword of Gryffindor. When the camera is shooting from above the lake, the ice is created from thick sheets of Plexiglas covered with a frosty texture. When shooting under the “ice” wax is used floating on the water. Apparently this is a well-known technique in movies.

The Gringotts dragon. Gringotts’ rather emaciated dragon is actually modeled after some photographs provided by the RCPCA of abused dogs. The idea was to capture the “hanging dog” look so that viewers felt sorry for him instead of being repulsed, but it still had to be scary. Once the concept was agreed upon, the dragon was sculpted and painted using a 3D computer program. A skeleton of the dragon is built and muscle geometry is created that animates the skin to simulate movement.

For the shot of the children sitting on the dragon, an entire section of its back was sculpted and covered with silicone skin. For movement, the motion control base and platform allowed the movement of various aspects of the dragon, including parts of its spine, the loose skin below its neck.

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