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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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62 Comments

Iconator_dea697cd87becd1283213b46f798b87b_thumb
2579 Points

I loved that scene! It was so amazing!

Posted by Wendelin the Weird on July 26, 2009, 04:13 AM report to moderator
12440441_thumb
19573 Points

Totally awesome!! LOL! xD

Posted by R-for-H {ROAR} :D on July 26, 2009, 06:52 AM report to moderator
Harry_snl_thumb
3134 Points

They did such a great job with that scene — it’s really amazing how much you can do with special effects nowadays, and it will only get better! :o)

Imagescad1mlxa_thumb
3006 Points

The Special Effects were cool …..but they skipped a LOT of stuff
like after Dumbldore dies and everyone is in the HW with Bill and Tonks and Lupin what happened to that!?

Posted by muggle..andproudofit =:) on July 26, 2009, 12:16 PM report to moderator
Noavatar-thumb
2661 Points

The effects were amazing, and I like finding out how they did these things!

Posted by Wingardium Leviosa ❄WBM❄ on July 26, 2009, 02:27 PM report to moderator
Dobby_thumb
814 Points

Yes!! That scene was really good xDD I don’t know how they do it

Posted by ♥ Jodie loves Dobby ♥ *ROAR* on July 26, 2009, 04:02 PM report to moderator
Bb620ecb12c9468f9c2bae8e1750bb27_thumb
13757 Points

all of that just went right through my head

Posted by GTHunter [FTC!] on July 26, 2009, 04:50 PM report to moderator
Budgie_thumb
12005 Points

I liked the cave sequence. It looked like the description in the book.

Posted by budgie on July 26, 2009, 06:08 PM report to moderator
Green_avatar_thumb
2799 Points

I loved the fire effects in the movie!!! It was probably one of my favorite effects.

Posted by 3 Weasley Twin (ROAR!) ~{WWW Employee}~ on July 26, 2009, 08:26 PM report to moderator
Rupes_maggie_thumb
24135 Points

so amazing and interesting, the people that work behind the scenes are so dedicated and patient

Posted by hermyone*ROAR* on July 27, 2009, 12:52 AM report to moderator
Me_thumb
428 Points

That’s why that scene is so amazing…it’s very difficult to make….

Posted by alegria35 on July 27, 2009, 06:32 AM report to moderator
Ronhermione_thumb
4452 Points

that scene was amazing!!! i was the only person who didnt jump when the inferi came! even though I told my brother that a jump was cuming up but he still jumped abt a foot in the air. lolz

Noavatar-thumb
39 Points

So cool!

Posted by hallowgirl on July 27, 2009, 03:28 PM report to moderator
Fish_face_thumb
131 Points

Gollum on steroids. Haha. I think the fire turned out awesome in the end.

Posted by HannahLongbottom on July 27, 2009, 04:20 PM report to moderator
Noavatar-thumb

The ring of fire in the air scene in the cave was interesting, very Biblical, but I did not like the part where the Inferi pulled Harry under the water and Dumbledore rescued him with fire. IT DID NOT HAPPEN IN THE BOOK! It was a waste of time and production money, as was the burning of the Burrow. I don’t like it when they add in scenes in the movies that don’t occur in the books and leave out very important parts of the plots from the books. This time the movie left out the parentage of Tom Riddle/Voldemort, Snape revealing what Trelawny saw, the hatred between Snape and James and Sirus, the list of horcruxes (how is the movie Harry ever going to figure out that Hufflepuff’s cup, Nagini the snake, and Ravenclaw’s diadem are horcruxes?) just to name a few items. And since they changed the hiding of the Half-Blood Princes’ book to Ginny hiding it, how will Harry have a clue to the existence of the diadem in the Room of Requirement? I don’t know how they will manage to tie it together so they can film the Fiendfyre scene! And don’t get me started about how they changed the whole Harry falls in love with Ginny scenes! It was so much better in the book. In the movie, there is no way anyone can grasp the depth of their relationship based on one quick kiss.

Posted by ARickmanFan2 on July 28, 2009, 12:16 PM report to moderator
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