Winding Down with the Penultimate Potter
With the record-breaking Deathly Hallows: Part 1, director David Yates continues down the path of gritty realism as Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermoine (Emma Watson) hit the road to the find and destroy the Horcruxes before Lord Voldermort (Ralph Fiennes) regains full-strength and is unstoppable.
"Making the wizarding world believable is what we strive to do, as I've said many times before," explains Tim Burke, the overall visual effects supervisor, who collaborated on more than 1,000 shots with Double Negative, MPC, Framestore, Cinesite London, Rising Sun Pictures and Baseblack (not referenced here but responsible for such 2D work as the cafe fight & set extension; underwater Horcrux locket Scottish environments; and the cliff hanger with Voldermort).
"A lot of this is set in the Muggle world, apart from when they go to the Ministry of Magic, so there's a lot of photorealism and drama-led action," Burke continues. "It almost read like it wasn't a visual effects-heavy film. But there's a lot of work spread evenly throughout the film. There's a big opening set piece done by MPC where six of the characters turn themselves into Harry, so we end up with seven and they leave Privet Drive and end up in a big aerial battle with Death Eaters, which culminates with a motorbike chase through a tunnel and subsequent battle with Voldemort.
"There's lots of CG environments, CG digi doubles and a mixture of stunt work and face replacements. We used some new technology for facial capture [Mova and its Contour system]. What I wanted to do is have a real physical performance of the character playing Harry Potter. But David was very keen that you believed that the character's personality was behind the mask, if you like, so what we wanted to do was capture their real performances and use that to drive the CG Harry. We made these transformations of hybrid combinations of Harry and the real characters. We then used Dan Radcliffe to play himself seven times. But, again, being meticulous about the performances, we got each actor to play out each shot for Dan as a character reference. We used motion control to shoot multiple passes for every single shot with Dan giving his performance for each of the characters: Ron, Hermoine, George, Fred, Mundungus and Fleur. We then split-screened them all together and the results work very well.