‘Harry Potter’: Visual effects wizard Tim Burke says 3-D is ‘very, very good’ in final film

June 28, 2011 | 7:00 p.m.
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Daniel Radcliffe in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" (Warner Bros. Pictures)

THE LAST SPELL:Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2” closes out a decade of Hogwarts in Hollywood. Hero Complex is counting down to the release of the final film in the magical franchise with exclusive interviews and photos. Today: Hero Complex‘s Noelene Clark chats with visual effects supervisor Tim Burke. Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t read the books.

NC: You’ve been working on these films since “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” And your job was still in full swing long after the cast left. How does it feel to be at the end of it all?

TB: It’s starting to feel a bit weird. We finished filming last summer, and that’s when most of the crews left, being the end of production. So watching them all leave was quite sad. But we were so busy finishing “Part 1,” and we’ve been just straight into “Part 2,” and it’s only now as I’m sitting in a room full of cardboard boxes. We’re basically packing up all the equipment, and it’s all going back to Warner Bros., and you know, in another few days, that’ll be it. It’s sort of slowly dawning on me that this is the end of an era.

NC: So you were working right down to the wire.

TB: We were past the wire, actually. We really pushed it right way to the end of any possible time on this one. We had the big conversion to 3-D as well, and that sort of added a massive complication. So yeah, we’ve used every second we possibly could.

NC: How is the 3-D?

TB: I think it’s good, actually. I think people are going to be really pleased. I know everyone’s a little nervous and skeptical of 3-D these days, but the work has been done very, very well. We’ve done over 200 shots in 3-D and in the visual effects as well, because so much of it is CG, so the results are very, very good. I think everyone’s going to be really impressed with it, actually.

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Harry Potter, Ron and Hermione enter the Lestrange vault at Gringotts in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2." (Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros. Pictures)

NC: Is there a particular sequence you’re most proud of?

TB: There’s so much work. I think, hopefully, it will all be good. There’s some great stuff very early on with the dragon in Gringotts. There’s some great fun in that. The battle sequences are epic, and just continuous. It’s almost wall-to-wall work, that’s the thing. So it doesn’t really stand out as being one scene. We did a lot of the design for the school itself. And the school has been completely rebuilt as a CG model. In the previous films we’d always used a miniature model to do that part of the work. But in order to give ourselves sort of a lot of flexibility and scope with the actual battle sequence itself, we decided to rebuild it all as a CG model, and the surrounding sort of Scottish landscape, models so we could put the camera wherever we wanted. And because it’s all these different action sequences happening in the landscape, and in parts of the school, we needed to be able to link these together, and some of them were on practical sets. … We were able to basically build this whole environment in the computer, and then link all of these different things together in CG in this kind of virtual world. So that in itself was a massive undertaking. As soon as they get back to Hogwarts and the battle starts, every single shot is an interior or an exterior Hogwarts set-piece, and so it’s an environment that we’ve done something to. It’s just the sheer volume of work, and that environment work, and then the animation on top of that. It’s really worked as a whole piece. It’s not just one individual little thing. It’s an amazing amount of work.

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"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" (Warner Bros. Pictures)

NC: It sounds very challenging.

TB: Well, the logistics of that were massively challenging because we’re also sharing a lot of work with different companies around the world. One of the most challenging things was sharing the shots between the different companies and making sure that everyone could actually work together. We’d have one company creating backgrounds and environments, and another company creating animation to go into those environments, and then on top of that, we’d then have to do them all in 3-D in stereo, so that became quite a complex logistical management thing to make sure that all worked. Technically, there were some big challenges throughout the film. There’s a stand-alone sequence called the Room of Requirement where we had to do an awful lot of fire dynamics, and we had to create creatures out of fire. That was fairly complex and very time-consuming. But overall, you’d have to say it’s just the sheer volume and diversity of work that’s been the biggest complex thing on this film.

NC: Were there any surprises along the way?

TB: What we do is we try to plan as well as we can. We were still working on “Half-Blood Prince” — it was the beginning of 2009 — and we started doing what we call pre-viz animations, where we do simple animations and animatics, and we started designing all of the final battle sequence. We spent nine months basically designing shots and sequences. That ended up being over 30 minutes’ worth of material that we just created that allowed us to understand, and [director] David Yates and everyone else to understand, what was going on. Because the problem, as I was sort of mentioning, is that none of these places existed. You’re dealing with a huge action sequence where you can’t go to the location to film it. So you’ve got to understand how all these pieces of the jigsaw puzzle fit together. We were sort of trying to help everyone not be surprised, if you see what I mean, by illustrating to everyone how this all worked, and how it all fitted together. So thankfully we managed to sort of give everyone a clear picture of how things worked, and there weren’t too many surprises when it came to actually filming, because the preparation had been thorough enough. But I suppose surprises always came along in the form of new shots. Very late in the process, we kind of redesigned the way Voldemort was going to die, which was an interesting sort of challenge. That was something we had to get into very late in the game. That was quite a challenge.

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Harry Potter, played by Daniel Radcliffe, and Lord Voldemort, played by Ralph Fiennes, in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2." (Warner Bros. Pictures)

NC: Didn’t you have to make last-minute changes to the final scene when the kids are all grown up?

TB: Oh, yeah, they actually had to re-shoot that. I’d even forgotten about that already. Because they were re-shooting it, they couldn’t go to King’s Cross, where it was staged. So they shot it with green screen, and we had to put King’s Cross in. So that was a surprise. I’d forgotten it all. And then they did some sort of makeup for the aging. But then at the very end, after the audience screening, they asked us to start enhancing it to make the kids seem older. So that was another surprise. See, you just forget these things. I think it’s called therapy. You just try and blank them.

NC: You mentioned this is the end of an era. Do you think these changed film?

TB: From a visual effects side, over here, it’s basically been the background of the growth of an industry. I’ve been working for 24 years in this business. We didn’t really have a visual effects industry in the mid-’90s. I was at one of the early companies. And the “Harry Potter” films came along in 2000. On the strength of the work that the facilities in the U.K. have been producing in the last 10 years, there’s been a recognition that the U.K. is a world leader in visual effects now. And it’s been illustrated through the “Harry Potter” films, to the point where the big studios in America are all bringing their work over to London to do it. That’s been a major achievement for London in particular. Also, it’s a global market. We’ve been working with companies in some of those four different continents on these films, and we’ve found ways of working where distance isn’t a problem. I can work with Australia in the morning, London during the day, and America in the evening. You can literally do the whole world, and distance doesn’t become an issue. It’s really been a fascinating development in our industry. It really has just helped everyone the companies over here develop to a very high level of work.

NC: Your other credits include fantasy and genre projects, including “A Knight’s Tale,” “Gladiator” and “Merlin.” Will your next project be in the same vein?

TB: It’s just the way it’s happened. It’s funny. I don’t know what would be next, to be honest. I’m going to take some time off. I’ve been promising myself that, so I’m definitely going to take some time off. And then, you know, looking into the next film, whatever that will be. I’ve got a couple of things that I’m talking to people about, but it’s very early days. It’s perfect timing. Take the summer off, have some holiday time, and then maybe start working something in the fall, hopefully.

— Noelene Clark

Comments


19 Responses to ‘Harry Potter’: Visual effects wizard Tim Burke says 3-D is ‘very, very good’ in final film

  1. JRM says:

    Am I the only one worried he didn't say 'great,' regarding the 3D?

  2. Barbara says:

    When will moviemakers understand that the majority of moviegoers do not want, need, or like 3-D? To me, it detracts from a good film, whether it be Harry Potter or any other movie. But HP in particular does not need this gimmick. It's perfect just as it is. I am a HUGE HP fan, and I will never see any of the movies in 3-D. Ever.
    Barbara

    • Eric says:

      All of the premieres in my area are in 3D! I am so angry! I bought glasses on Amazon that will make the screen 2D though, so that's good I guess. Still too dark through the glasses…

    • ashton says:

      I totally agree! I can barely watch 3-D movies. It distracts me, and I always get a major headache.

  3. Barbara says:

    When will moviemakers understand that the majority of moviegoers do not want, need, or like 3-D? To me, it detracts from a good film, whether it be Harry Potter or any other movie. But HP in particular does not need this gimmick. It's perfect just as it is. I am a HUGE HP fan, and I will never see any of the movies in 3-D. Ever.

    • divyansh gupta says:

      i am divyansh from india please come in india you and harry poter and his sister & brothers take flight to new delhi and take a gide from new delhi and they explain you where is modinagar in modinagar my home please come and take my family to next film of you please give me roll in next film of you and harry poter please my age is 11 years please my dream is i do my work with harry potter and his sister & brothers please

      • Kassidy Justyce Kenny-Williams says:

        lol I’m 11 aswall =P and ya know what, I FEEL THE SAME EXACT WAY!!!!! It’s also my dream, but the thing is… Harry Potter doesn’t have any sisters or brothers… unless if you mean NOT blood related… =| but still, Ur dream is actually MY dream xD lol :P well good luck with your dream and keep on trying your best ^-^

  4. Eric says:

    "Very late in the process, we kind of redesigned the way Voldemort was going to die, which was an interesting sort of challenge."

    NONONONONONONONONO. DEAR GOD PLEASE NO….

  5. Billybob Brubeck #27 says:

    Barbara's so pissed about it that she posted twice! :-D No no no no no no no no NO! Lady, I'm assuming here, SOME people like 3D and there must be a demand for it otherwise it would have gone to the wayside years ago. So, go throw your tantrum you HUGE HP FAN YOU!

  6. cedric says:

    I LOVE 3D! There, I am one who likes it.

  7. Yhasf says:

    He's right – the 3d has been very well done. Sorry if you don't like 3D. How do you feel about colour?

  8. Karen says:

    Barbara, get a clue. People do want 3D and making a film in 3D massively increases its audience BECAUSE it is 3D. If 3D was as unpopular as you suggest do you really think movie makers would spend millions on it? Enjoy your protest… me and the rest of the world will just enjoy the film… in all its 3D glory!

  9. bbflyer says:

    I love 3D as well and clearly so do a lot of people! Every modern 3D movie is released in 2D and 3D so I don't know why Barbara is complaining.

  10. Mohit says:

    Since the advent of its 1st part, we have been dreaming of experiencing the world of Harry Potter. And now the final one gives us a chance to do so by coming in 3D. Thanks to the HP Team….on behalf of all indian crazy fans of HP, hatss offf!!

  11. Liz says:

    I didn't think 3D was necessary for this one, but I really liked it.

  12. Thusyanthi says:

    ''Oh my god' I love it.

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