Louis Laflamme-Fillion has been working in visual effects for over 10 years. He has worked in many studios such as Mokko Studio, MPC, Fin Design + Effects before joining One of Us in 2020. He has worked on movies like The Jungle Book, Transformers: The Last Knight, Outlaw King and The Midnight Sky.
What is your background?
I come from a compositing background. I’ve been around facilities large and small.
How did you and One of Us get involved on this show?
We were involved from postvis, while production was still busy with the shoot. It was great to be able to do the postvis ourselves because it allowed us to already start focusing on certain areas that we knew would be important later on for final. Also allowed us to temp things in a certain way and propose solutions that would correspond to what we were hoping to achieve for final. As opposed to interpreting the work from another vendor, the vision felt clear from the start.
What was your feeling to be part of the Harry Potter universe?
It’s always exciting to be working on a project on a great franchise that you know people are still likely to watch in many years. It’s motivating to make sure things withstand the test of time.
How was the collaboration with Director David Yates and Production VFX Supervisor Christian Manz?
We were working very closely with Christian and the collaboration was fantastic. He trusted us to propose solutions and ideas and he had a very healthy approach to VFX. It never felt like we were getting stuck on some tiny issue but instead focussed on making every image look great. With Covid restrictions in place, most of the movie was done from home so we didn’t actually get to do any in person 2k review with Christian or David, but like with so many projects over the last 2 years we proved that VFX doesn’t need to be done purely from the inside of a facility.
What were their expectations and approach about the visual effects?
Nothing but the best! Jokes aside, the standard was very high, especially the tech checks. My personal approach is always to make sure the story is getting told, with clarity. And then focus on making everything look fabulous; that seemed to be working well with Christian.
How was split the work between the One of Us offices?
This one was a 100% London show.
What are the sequences made by One of Us?
We had 3 main sequences. One of the first sequences of the movie, taking place in a London cafe where Dumbledore and Grindelwald are having a chat, before catching on fire. We also worked on the Great Hall sequence, recreating the set and adding in the magical vision of Bhutan where the characters travel to, later on in the movie. And finally, we worked on the Room of Requirements sequence, where we had to re-create the door transition magic from the previous Harry Potter films as well as the magical Prayer Wheel floating in the room which is also a portkey the heroes use at the end of the sequence.
How did you work with the art department to create the various environments?
What the Great Hall and the Room of Requirements needed to look like was quite set in stone from the previous Harry Potter movies. For the cafe sequence, it was originally meant to be shot in Brasserie Zedel in London, but due to Covid restrictions it was forced in a soundstage over bluescreen. As the art department had to build a partial set for the cafe they had a lot material to give us, including a 3d model used as reference for the live action build. That was a good starting point with dimensions and proportions already matching what was re-created on set. There was also an immense amount of data and blueprints from the art department that was provided to us for the Hogwarts sets from the Harry Potter days. Those were particularly useful for re-creating the intricate metal work on the door of the room of requirements.
Can you explain in detail about the environment creation?
Using the cafe as an example, we started by receiving a 3d model from the art department, we also received a lot of references from the real Brasserie Zedel location, which the set is based on. We got started on those for postvis as the sequence was being shot in studio. We started detailing and building the set based on the references from Brasserie Zedel. When the plates were turned over to us we then started looking at incorporating the differences between the 2 sets. For instance, some of the lights in the Brasserie were different to the ones installed on set, so we made creative decisions as to what needed to change to make the environment seamless with the live action. As we were working on postvis at the same time as building the final asset for the film, things were constantly being looked at on all front: modelling, texture, lookdev. The scope was also changing as we went along; we reached a point where our CG wooden floor looked a lot better then the vinyl live action tiles so started rendering those into shots to make use of it.
Can you tell us more about the iconic Hogwarts Great Hall recreation?
The Great Hall was fun to work on for sure. A lot of people on the team grew up watching the Harry Potter films so bringing this set and the floating candles back to life was certainly exciting for them! We started off from the asset that was built for a previous Beast film and improved it to work for how close we got to it in our shots, as well as all the different camera angles. There’s not many sections of the set that we don’t see in the movie.
How did you handle the lighting challenges for the environments?
Quite right to identify the lighting as being a challenge for this type of work. The plates were a great reference of what the DP wanted the sequences to look like and what direction we should take the lighting in. The challenge of course is marrying the live action lighting with the lightning on the CG set. In the great hall sequence for example, there was a spotlight to represent each individual window and some general area lights for ambient lighting. Obviously, simply copying this lighting in the CG set wouldn’t work because you would end up with lights up in the ceiling where there isn’t actually meant to be any. Going full realistic on the lighting with an HDR and a sun also couldn’t work because the shadows of the windows on the ground wouldn’t line up with the live action. In the end it had to be a mix of both. Some manually matched lights for the windows to line up with the live action and some general ambient lighting cheated to give us the same amount of shape and contrast in the set than what the DP had intended with the set lighting.
Can you tell us more how you created the various props and sets elements?
For the cafe and the Great Hall, most of the props were straight copies from existing live action ones.
Which one was the most complicate to create and why?
The room of requirements Prayer Wheel was probably the most intricate single piece of set. Purely because of the level of detail and how close we got to it. It had to look magical, and old, worned out slightly but not dirty, shinny but not too much.
Can you elaborates about the design and creation of the Portkey effect?
We started off by looking at every single port key shot from previous films of the franchise to have an idea of the feel of what should happen. The first simple tests that were done during postvis were motion design-y comp based warps on animated cylinders to spin around and stretch around the prayer wheel. It was a great guide to get sign off on the general direction and timings and to instruct the requirements for the rig. The rig was a little tricky for that one. We had to be able to stretch out the characters on a path, while still retaining control over their arms/legs, as they kept walking towards the wheel while being sucked in, and were holding suitcases. Just to add another level of complexity, we had Dumbledore holding Jacob and Jacob holding a suitcase, all of which had to stay connected as they were being spun on the wheel.
Which shot or sequence was the most challenging?
Is there something specific that gives you some really short nights? No short nights! Only wished we had a couple less iterations of our magical tea cup shot.. but it always takes one of those.
What is your favorite shot or sequence?
I really like the great hall sequence. I think it tuned out great. The level of detail, the contrast, the lighting, the colors with the contrasting blue of the outfits on the warm stone. The roto of the blue outfits over bluescreen is another story..
What is your best memory on this show?
Just a lovely show to work on all around. Great team producing fantastic work and a great and easy client to work with, wouldn’t change a thing!
How long have you worked on this show?
We started around December 2020 and finished in November 2021.
What’s the VFX shots count?
I want to say 123 shots… give or take a few.
What was the size of your team?
Over the various stages of the show I believe we got to around 60 artists working on the team, plus all the One of Us support teams, the unsung heroes of the story. The other unsung heroes being the (large) roto prep team, roto’ing away blue outfits over bluescreens.
A big thanks for your time.
// Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore | Opening Scene
© Vincent Frei – The Art of VFX – 2022