Feature: Behind the scenes: How Harry Potter was created
Harry Potter is one of the most successful movie franchises ever created and every film in the series received critical acclaim and won over thousands of fans.
A lot of creativity and trickery went into creating some memorable movie magic and here is a look at how some of those iconic scenes and locations were created in order to delight millions of Harry Potter fans all around the world.
Harry in Hertfordshire
One of the fundamental aspects of why the movies were so believable and visually stunning is that Warner Bros. chose to create a permanent location for making the films at their studios based in Leavesden, Hertfordshire.
Over a period of 10 years they filmed eight different films using sets that were far more permanent than would normally be the case for movie making, allowing them to make use of five warehouses stacked full of props.
An industry in itself
The Harry Potter movies became so successful that the franchise became an industry in itself with an Animal Department, a Creatures Department and Visual Special Effects Department specifically tasked with weaving some magical wizardry and bring mythical creatures and other memorable aspects of the film to life.
The Great Hall
The iconic Great Hall at Hogwarts became familiar to many of us who watched all the films and the scene from the first movie with the floating candles was a memorable one, although it was also the cause of a behind-the-scenes disaster that had to be averted.
The producers originally used hundreds of real candles suspended by wires which were digitally edited out but the heat generated caused the candles to drop onto the tables, so the floating candles you see in the movie are in fact digital creations.
One of the difficulties encountered with using a permanent set is that as the movies progressed, the child actors including of course Daniel Radcliff grew up before our eyes over a period of time. Whilst the décor in the Gryffindor dorm room was updated after each movie the beds were never replaced. This meant that by the time the last film was made, Harry Potter and others had to curl up on the bed during scenes as they had outgrown the beds and their legs were hanging over the edge if they laid down flat on them.
One of the most impressive sets in the films is Dumbledore’s office and a great deal of attention to detail went into creating his highly impressive surroundings. The hundreds of books that fill the shelves each looked like an ancient leather-bound tome but were in fact phone books covered in leather and the memory cabinet, where Dumbledore shows Harry his memories, was decorated using more than 800 tiny hand-labelled vials.
Green screen technology
Many special effects are created using green screen technology and the original film introduced us to the game of Quiddich, which highlighted the amazing work that the special effects team do. The brooms that the players fly around on were mounted in front of a green screen and the backdrop and special effects were then added using digital technology to create the illusion that they were flying around chasing the golden snitch.
A department was set up specifically to create, design and build up the many creatures that become such a magical part of the Harry Potter story. The likes of Dobby and the mandrake plants all started out life as a sketched idea and were brilliantly brought to life by the real-life wizards who have the skills to make these creatures so believable.
The Harry Potter movies may have come to an end but the memories will last forever and if that is not enough to satisfy you, you can even go to the Warner Bros studios and see many of the sets and props that combined to make the magic that we all fell in love with.
Hayden Russell enjoys sharing his knowledge on movies through blogging. His articles mainly appear on entertainment blogs. Visit the Warner Bros. Leavesden link for more information.
Editors Note: I’ve done the studio tour myself and I thoroughly recommend going – you won’t be disappointed.