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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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60 Points

the cave scene was really awesome..

Posted by AHPfan on July 25, 2009, 03:41 AM report to moderator
156 Points

the Inferi Scene….you know, everybody who read the book knew what MUST come as soon as Harry tried to get water out of the lake. My next seat neighbor was a young man of about 25 years. He actually shrieked and pulled his feet on his seat. That sure is a sign that the scene worked perfectly.

Posted by Giant Fairy on July 25, 2009, 04:21 AM report to moderator
594 Points

I’ll have to read the entire article when I have more time, but I just wanted to say that The Cave scene is one of my favourites in the movie, even though there are quite a few differences (and some irritating ones too) to the book. Dumbledore’s ring of fire when Harry surfaces from the water is one of the coolest, most powerful moments in the entire HP film series, possibly one of the coolest and most powerful scenes in all fantasy films that I’ve seen (including the LOTR films, and that’s saying something).

Having read the book, I knew that something was going to happen when Harry went to get water from the lake, but it still made me jump when the Inferius grabbed Harry’s arm. True, the Inferi looked a lot like Gollum…but they could have been much worse had they been like traditional zombies. In the book, when Harry first notices the Inferi, I had rather powerful visions of the Dead Marshes in Return Of The King and the dead elves there, so having the the film Inferi looking something like Gollum kinda ties with that imagery.

Posted by MischiefManaged on July 25, 2009, 04:42 AM report to moderator
4024 Points

Sounds like a lot of complicated stuff. But it all paid off that was the most amazing scene EVER!! :D :D

4138 Points

The cave scene was good but I hated Gambon’s performance. I know its not relevant but I remember playing HBP; this bit was rubbish. I thought there could be more to do! EA need to make more effort or at least read what people say online.

Posted by Calum Wilson (RuneDream54) on July 25, 2009, 05:25 AM report to moderator
87 Points

That was such an interesting read…
That part of the movie was amazing, from Harry emerging from the water to the fire splitting in 2 to let Harry and Daumbledore pass.

Posted by RemsyLuck on July 25, 2009, 05:32 AM report to moderator
337 Points

That was a very cool scene

Posted by Mugglejeff on July 25, 2009, 08:12 AM report to moderator
1457 Points

they did an amazing job with the special effects that is for sure!

Posted by Flora Lovegood {<3WBM<3} on July 25, 2009, 08:16 AM report to moderator
45213 Points

Half the terminology they are using is suuper foreign to me. I have no idea what how everything comes together but all I can say is thumbs up!
Looks like some ground breaking stuff they are doing now-a-days!

Posted by You Know Stew [ROAR!] on July 25, 2009, 08:51 AM report to moderator
8317 Points

That scene was just the same I imagined while reading the book. It was fantastic!

Posted by forgetmenot_007 on July 25, 2009, 09:46 AM report to moderator
8876 Points

I still havent seen HBP but, everything I read just sounds totally awesome. A lot of people dont like to read or watch how-it-was-made kind of things because, they feel it makes it less real for them but, it just makes it all the more magical for me. Like all the LOTR Appendices (like eight discs just about the making of LOTR) are totally magic, sometimes I watch them instead of the movie but, I still totally believe that Middle Earth exists :)

Posted by Moose_Starr on July 25, 2009, 09:49 AM report to moderator
1839 Points

We movie watchers take so much for granted…it is so neat to learn how all that “magic” materializes on screen. Sometimes we forget that it doesn’t “just happen.” And three cheers to one of my other favorites, George Lucas’s ILM, who always manage to pull off special effects so real that you don’t question the reality of it!

Posted by Lillylove on July 25, 2009, 10:11 AM report to moderator
240 Points

The cave scene was the best in the movie

Posted by Biswajit-ROAR on July 25, 2009, 10:16 AM report to moderator
240 Points

Great work

Posted by Biswajit-ROAR on July 25, 2009, 10:17 AM report to moderator
37 Points

my wife nearly jumped out of her seat when the inferi did the “gotcha” grab. hahahahahahaha BOO!

Posted by johnzonh on July 25, 2009, 10:26 AM report to moderator
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