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Cinesite Provides VFX Sorcery for WB’s ‘Fantastic Beasts’

Led by VFX supervisor Andrew Morley, Cinesite delivers just under 100 shots for ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,’ including environments of prohibition-era Manhattan, set extensions and the creation of a magical dinner.

LONDON -- Cinesite recently revisited to the world of Harry Potter, delivering just under 100 VFX shots including environments of prohibition-era Manhattan, set extensions and the creation of a magical dinner. Cinesite worked on all eight of the Harry Potter movies. Supervisor, Andrew Morley led the team alongside CG Supervisor, Steve Moncur and Compositing Supervisor, Helen Newby.

“We were really excited to work with Christian Manz, Tim Burke and Ollie Young on this adaptation of J.K Rowling’s much-loved material,” said Andrew Morley. “Fantastic Beasts gave us a chance to do some incredibly fun and creative work and it marked a return into the wizarding world for many of us.”

Soaring napkins, flying plates and a floating apple strudel all come together in Cinesite’s key scene in the Goldstein apartment, which sees Queenie use magic so dinner prepares itself, mid-air before settling down on the table.

Having multiple CG plates, bowls, apples, napkins, cutlery and glass flying through the air meant careful choreography was required. Many objects had transparent surfaces, requiring refraction.  The lighting environment around the CG table was very complex, with multiple light sources to replicate.

The dinner culminates with the ingredients of an apple strudel descending in front of Jacob; the fruit is wrapped in layers of pastry, before the whole strudel cooks to a brown crisp and descends hot and ready to eat onto the center of the table. The shot was built with custom FX. Heavy animated texturing, shading and displacement work was required to give the appearance of cooking whilst the strudel floats through the air. Extra blend shapes were also added to allow the whole pastry to appear as though it shrinks down a little as it cooks. 

Other key sequences connected with the apartment included Goldstein girls’ view over the city from their window. Set extensions with digital matte painting were created using a mix of 3D rendered buildings, 3D projected building detail and projected digital matte paintings.  The background was created using reference from 1920’s and 1930’s New York, building photographs with Central Park as the central focus of the environment.  A further CG environment was created later on in the film when Newt and Tina converse on the edge of a New York building rooftop. With the performance shot on green screen stage it took Cinesite’s artists many hours to create the digital nighttime city sprawled out behind them.

Other notable aspects of Cinesite’s work included the suitcase, which Newt uses to transition into different worlds. In one particular scene, Jacob is a little apprehensive about following Newt into the case. Unfortunately, his passage is not quite as straightforward as the slender Newt, and he sticks on the way in, with the case jumping up and down in an effort to pull him down inside. The original live action was shot with a practical suitcase and Dan Fogler’s legs showing beneath, descending into the floor.  The onset suitcase was a slightly different size to the one that Newt jumps through, so it was necessary for Cinesite to replace it with an entirely CG version.  Much of Cinesite’s work involved painting and clean-up to remove Dan’s legs and rebuild the floor when the case jumps up into the air.  Additional clean-up was required to bend and manipulate Jacob’s arms to convincingly lock them onto the edge of the suitcase (which the team had made smaller), adding interactive shadows to the case. 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them marks the beginning of a new era for Cinesite, after having worked on every Harry Potter film in the series, for a total of over 2,000 shots over the 8-film franchise.

Source: Cinesite