Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Paru le La Lettre AFC n°189 Autres formats

[English] [français]

What can I say about a project with such unusually unlimited resources ? I can only provide a few memories and impressions...

First, a budget that exceeds 200 million dollars.

Second, the Leavesden sound stages north of London, which are "stages" in name only. This former Rolls Royce aircraft engine factory is now fully dedicated to Potter.

The old mechanical workshops are now sculpture, painting, and carpentry workshops... because every last thing is built for the film, from the lowliest door handle to the lamps and other accessories, even the wallpaper whose patterns are designed by the workshops of Stuart Craig, a genius production designer whose work was already remarkable on Gandhi, The Elephant Man, The English Patient ...

During prep I spent most of my time in his office working on the design and practical aspects of the sets.

The main unit, which reached a thousand people, does not leave the sound stage. During the filming of The Prisoner of Azkaban directed by Alfonso Cuaron, the Scottish location proved disastrous. The unpredictable weather in the Scottish Lochs forced the crew to stay a month longer than expected. Since then, Warner has decided that we will never leave the stage. Only the second unit is allowed to go shoot the "plates".

Thirty-five weeks of shooting on sound stages, except for a little two-night getaway in a "storybook" village, and a day in the Gloucester cathedral.

While one is indeed captive for this long period, Warner, in turn, does allow for great ease in production. The technical resources are extraordinary. Thus the timing of the dailies is not left to the laboratory. Warner has invested in a DI facility, the kingdom of Peter Doyle (color timer for The Lord of the Rings) where we have digital and film projectors, an eight-foot wide screen and a Base Light color timing system.

My days went as follows : timing of the previous day’s dailies at six thirty in the morning for an hour, shooting from seven thirty to one PM ; dailies during lunch and meeting with the department heads ; back to shooting until eight PM. Sometimes, when set-ups required a lengthy preparation, I would go into the color timing room to work on a few shots ...

During these sessions, Peter Doyle and I developed some software that we integrated into the Base Light, which allowed us to "blur" the image, so that the actors could emerge from these "intrusive" sets. I tried to get the depth of field of a 50 or 65 mm from a 21mm, and then added a different gamma in certain areas of the image.

I don’t know what else to say, for fear of filling every page of the newsletter, except that I believe that the comfort of a team of twelve electricians, along with a team of fifteen more for Prelight... the many cameras and the fifteen meter Technocranes which we had on set for three months... the magnificent timing room available at any time of day ... all of these benefits are probably the reason why I did not want to shoot the Potter sequel that Warner offered me.

My return to the drastic reality of shooting conditions of the majority of films has been difficult. I discovered this when I started preparing Alexander Sokurov’s next film, Faust, whose four million dollar budget is a real heartbreak in the face of the project’s ambitions...

As for the technical details of Potter : Arricam cameras rented from Panavision UK thanks to Bob Beitcher (ex-president of Panavision, this remarkable man will be sorely missed in this industry. When I shot in Texas, and the production imposed Panavision while I was requesting Arricams, he had two cameras sent to me from Paris along with two sets of Cooke S4s. Very few CEOs would have the audacity to do this kind of thing in the US).

Format : Super 35 2.35:1

Lenses : Cooke S4, Angenieux Optimo

Grip : Panavision UK. Fisher Ten, Hybrid, Peewee ; telescopic Louma (for the second unit) ; 30 ’and 50’ Technocrane, Arri Flight head

Lights : Panalux Lee UK

(Imagine the difference between a Full Wendy light and a Dedo and you’ll have a pretty good idea of the equipment used)

(translated by Benjamin B)


Lab : Technicolor UK for the development

Technicolor LA and Technicolor Rome for the prints. (Approximately 30 000 copies) DI by Peter Doyle on Base Light

Kodak 5218 negative

Format : Super 35 2.35:1

Lenses : Cooke S4, Angenieux Optimo

Grip : Panavision UK. Fisher Ten, Hybrid, Peewee ; telescopic Louma (for the second unit) ; 30 ’and 50’ Technocrane, Arri Flight head

Lights : Panalux Lee UK

Kodak Vision 2383 prints

Special Effects : ILM, Framestore, Double Negative.