The digital environments in ‘The Secrets of Dumbledore’ you probably didn’t realize were digital

How One of Us crafted the opening brasserie and Hogwarts Great Hall environments.

Owing to several reasons, including COVID restrictions, a number of planned filming locations on David Yates’ Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore could not be attended for real. Instead, virtual production scouting and reference shoots helped to inform CG builds for such environments as the brasserie where Dumbeldore and Grindelwald meet, and also for a scene in the Great Hall at Hogwarts castle.

Working with production visual effects supervisor Christian Manz, One of Us was tasked with building those environments and placing live-action actors, often shot against bluescreen and only partial sets, into them. Visual effects supervisor Louis Laflamme-Fillion goes into more detail here, in this excerpt from issue #5 of befores & afters magazine.

b&a: One of Us also handled another digital re-creation of a ‘real’ environment, which was the Hogwarts Great Hall. How did you tackle that one?

Louis Laflamme-Fillion: For this sequence, they were actually shooting at Leavesden, but the soundstage they were in was actually 500 meters away from the ‘real’ set where they do the tours with tourists of Harry Potter locations. They essentially filmed the actors on a small partial set and then we were replicating the dining room in CG.

We started off with a Framestore asset that was used for the previous film. We were going to be going much closer to the walls and props and areas of the hall, so we had to bring it into our pipeline and add many details–the array of breakfast elements like toast and eggs and bowls of fruits and jugs of orange juice and milk.

On set they had maybe 10 tables that they were moving around. Depending on each camera set-up, they were moving these around in sensible positions so that the foreground ones would always have an equivalent live-action one. We then had to build all the tables in CG and just render the ones that we needed for each shot depending on the camera set-up. This got a little bit confusing at times where you’d have the same camera angle but it was shot at a different time or a different camera set-up.

For the windows, they had these massive stencils for the shapes of the windows to put the spotlights behind which would give these nice shapes on the floor. There was a proxy door for the great wooden entrance door which we replaced in CG. What worked well is that we of course had lots of reference from the actual Warner Bros studio tour location, and then the Framestore asset.

Inside issue #5 of befores & afters magazine.

b&a: What were some of the tougher details to get right?

Louis Laflamme-Fillion: One of the things that we spent a lot of time on was getting the brickwork right. It’s quite a tricky thing getting the variation in the stones. There are some smoother stones and rougher stones and we needed to make sure they all had a slightly different orientation. Then we had to show how some of the pointing between the stone was eroded or flaked off or peeled down. If we were doing it again, I’d like to go to a real location and find a stone wall somewhere and just get a really detailed LiDAR scan of that for all the right displacement.

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