The Oscars: Burke Talks Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Tim Burke briefs us once more on the CG environments and characters that comprise the penultimate Potter installment, which includes the participation of MPC (the opening seven Potters motorbike chase; Nagini, the snake); Framestore (Dobby & Kreacher); and Rising Sun Pictures (the Horcrux).
Bill Desowitz: As you've said in the past, Part 1 offers a dramatic departure away from Hogwarts. What does it represent as far as VFX accomplishment?
Tim Burke: The environments have been used extensively to continue the idea of this huge journey that the actors have taken. A lot of the environment work, obviously, has been done on small sets on the backlot of Leavesden Studios. We've had to extend those and make this journey a believable event through visual effects by taking you to all these different places, and they didn't leave Leavesden Studios very often. So that was one of the big tasks, further developing our tools and the photorealism for creating those environments.
And I think the development that we've done with the creatures has come with more animation finesse. We've been able to develop a natural character within the creatures -- Dobby and Kreacher and Nagini -- giving them real life. It's very important on this film to empathize with Dobby during the big death scene at the end. It had to be as emotional as if it were an actor playing a character dying. We had an incredible level of detail put into those animations. Everyone would be able to see the moment when life passes out of Dobby and it's actually done in the most subtle way with the study of the face and seeing, literally, the light switching off in his eyes. It's very, very well done. And, for me, it's that kind of humanistic believability of character that [takes it to a new level of achievement].
TB: I think the creation of the Horcrux and then the destruction in the forest was a difficult one. Conceptually, it was quite hard to find the creature, if you like. It was something that was very subjective, something that David Yates had some definite ideas about, but not easy to realize in concept work. We used a combination of techniques to create a swirling mass of evil that was summoned from the locket. But then David want the additional creation of faces and different ages of Voldemort be portrayed in a very abstract way. His reference was the self-portraits of Francis Bacon, which are distorted and grotesque. It was very complex, and, fortunately, it came right at the end of the production schedule. I mean, what does it look like if you're destroying somebody's soul? Which was the brief on that one, and so it's difficult to find some of those things. As it is, I think we created something quite dark and powerful, but it is open-ended. And quite often, you almost have to do the work before you know the end result.
BD: What was the breakthrough on that?