Why is Voldemort’s nose completely flat in the Harry Potter franchise? And no, it’s not down to a Reducto spell gone awry or because he ran into the wrong wall while attempting to pass onto Platform 9¾. The real answer reveals a staggering amount of effort from the Harry Potter VFX team.
According to Paul Franklin – visual effects supervisor for Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix and The Half-Blood Prince – transforming Ralph Fiennes into He Who Must Not Be Named took more than running footage through face-recognition software.
“There’s this idea that we put the shots through the computer and it just vanished off [Fiennes’] face,” Franklin told RadioTimes.com. “[His nose] had to be painstakingly edited out, frame by frame, over the whole film. And then the snake slits had to be added and tracked very carefully using dots put on his face for reference.”
He added: “It’s very laborious, very time consuming and the level of detail you have to hit is exquisite. It’s like creating a renaissance painting – the digital brushwork has to be very, very fine to get it to work. The art and time that goes into those nostrils should never be underestimated.”
The VFX needed to portray Voldemort in The Deathly Hallows
Lesson learned: the effort required to build Voldemort’s nose shouldn’t be sniffed at (no offence, Voldy).
However, The Dark Lord’s face was easy to construct compared with some of the other characters in the Potter saga. “The hardest thing we had to create in Harry Potter films I worked on was Hagrid’s half-brother, Grawp, a 16ft high teenage giant,” explained Franklin. “It was early days creating digital characters, so that was a big ask [OOTP was released in 2007]. Getting Grawp to look good and show emotion so that the audience sympathise with him took a very long time to get right. We were working on that for two years.”
And then there was the opening sequence in The Half-Blood Prince where flying Death Eaters wreaked havoc throughout the capital – and the VFX rooms. That’s because the London you see in that sequence was created almost entirely with a computer – it’s not real. Which is probably for the best considering how long the risk assessment form for attaching a camera to a broomstick would be.
“It was an immense task to build London to a level of detail needed to create that opening sequence,” said Franklin. “And the funny thing is that that’s my route to work every morning. And every morning I was looking at the reality thinking ‘we haven’t got this tree quite right’. That was a tough time!”
Super fans of Potter (and the London A-Z) might have also noticed in the sequence that the Death Eaters enter Diagon Alley via a backstreet opposite Leicester Square’s Porcupine Pub. And before you ask, Franklin did go along to properly investigate the location, but unfortunately couldn’t find the entrance to the wizarding world.
We know a trick that might work, though…
See you at Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes.