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Sparking Fire in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

HBP Film
Posted by: Edward
July 25, 2009, 12:03 AM

The July issue of Post Magazine, a trade resource for editors of video and film, features a cover story regarding the creation of a number of elements used in the cave scene in the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince film.  One element, fire, was a particular difficult special effect to create, the article explains. Noting that the sequence encompasses "complex compositions of live actors, greenscreen, CG characters, environment, simulated natural phenomena and simulated fantasy phenomena," this article goes in to much detail about the work Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) put into the creation of the fiery climax of the film, relating the many steps in the process.  Tim Alexander, a VFX supervisor on the film for ILM, relates the fact that the sequence "chewed up a great deal of our time and energy. Fire's pretty difficult and we didn't have a solid solution for it."  He goes on to say, "You have to have such a high density of particles to create the detail that you need in fire that it very quickly becomes unwieldy and slow... We still did a particle sim, but it's a very low particle-count, like fuel flying around in the air, just to tell us where it's going to burn." This process, a creation of ILM dubbed the Verte engine, the article goes on to describe it as:

Horvath's engine calculated how the particles would burn "but he does it in two-dimensional slices so he can do very high-resolution simulations very quickly," Alexander says. The fire effect's 3D volume is "sliced" like a loaf of bread, focusing on the X and Y dimensions, but not the Z axis. "You can get really nice detail around the edges of the fire and you can get speed out of it because you're not worrying about depth."
Since the fire itself is moving, the particles move from slice to slice in 3D. "If you look at a fire, it's actually pretty difficult to tell how deep it is. By piling up a bunch of slices together, you still get dimensionality to it but you're giving your time and energy to the screen space, where you need it, like the edges of the flame where you want to see those little licks.
The story continues, relating the many people and processes involved in creating such a intensive special effect.  Additionally, the article speaks to the creation of the Inferi, which were created to "not look like grotesque zombies — rather, they appear very skinny and sickly and make Gollum seem like a he was on steroids."  A decision by director David Yates, the article goes on to speak of the process of creating these creatures, and the live-action and CGI production of the underwater scene. 

The full cover story article in Post Magazine, covering the many parts of the creation of special effects in Half-Blood Prince, can be read right here.

Many thanks to Wayne for owling!

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2707 Points

yes the dead did look like Circus played quite a few people in this movie.

Posted by jediofthelost on July 25, 2009, 12:07 AM report to moderator
16258 Points

I love finding out how they do certain things for the movie. I wish they would show us how they did everything in every Harry Potter movie.

Posted by Gryffindor1991 {ROAR!!!} on July 25, 2009, 12:09 AM report to moderator
281 Points

The effects are amazing and it boggles my mind how they do it.

Posted by Phylis {ROAR} on July 25, 2009, 12:11 AM report to moderator

Well hopefully they have learned and can do the Fiendfyre for the 7th one easier.

Posted by gcw07 on July 25, 2009, 12:22 AM report to moderator
3554 Points

Oh yeahh, I almost forgot about the Fiendfyre scene. Yeah, hopefully this is practice for that scene. :)

I’m always amazed by special effects. :o

Posted by Mera004 on July 25, 2009, 12:34 AM report to moderator
80450 Points

The fire effect was fantastic!

Posted by Won_Two on July 25, 2009, 12:35 AM report to moderator
240 Points

amazing :D

Posted by TasyaWeasley on July 25, 2009, 01:13 AM report to moderator
1275 Points

just fantastic =]

Posted by Jesse~{ROAR}~ on July 25, 2009, 01:18 AM report to moderator
23113 Points

The cave scene was well done I thought

Posted by oldenoughtoknowbetter♎ROAR♎OoM1, CW on July 25, 2009, 01:24 AM report to moderator
256 Points

The effects were amazing, it is one of the things that made the cave scene great

Posted by WolfyWizard on July 25, 2009, 01:50 AM report to moderator
82 Points

They aren’t kidding about the Inferi. When the first one climbed out of the water, my first thought was something like “Gollum?”

Posted by redwall_hp on July 25, 2009, 01:53 AM report to moderator
2976 Points

That scene and its effects were amazing, so I hope they know it was worth their hard work! <3

Posted by Jade Danielle (WBM) on July 25, 2009, 02:41 AM report to moderator
106 Points

I really really liked that scene!

Posted by chanman on July 25, 2009, 02:45 AM report to moderator
3703 Points

Loved that scene! I clutch my heart everytime I see it because it’s so amazing. Haha.

Posted by Christine on July 25, 2009, 03:01 AM report to moderator
240 Points

freaking amazing

Posted by TasyaWeasley on July 25, 2009, 03:03 AM report to moderator
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