Key credits: “Mona Lisa,” “The Fisher King,” “The End of the Affair”
Connection: “I shot the second ‘Harry Potter’ movie for Chris Columbus, and back then Chris had a big job getting the children to act. Children are only allowed to work four hours a day, so it was a stop-start thing. Therefore, I was a little hesitant to get back into it, but I realized the kids were much older now, and more experienced. The clincher was that (director) Mike Newell was onboard. I was also pleased the production committed to a digital negative (digital intermediate), something that was unavailable on ‘Chamber of Secrets.'”
Equipment: “The main workhorse camera was the Arricam ST, along with two Arricam Lites. We committed to the Super 35mm format. We used Cooke S4 (18mm to 75mm) primes, and the Arri 16-30 variable prime lens on our Louma crane camera. We also had Cooke Primes, two Angenieux Optimo zooms and a Canon fixed 300/600mm lens. We shot the movie with Kodak Vision 2 5218 stock, and for studio blue- and greenscreen work, we used Vision SPFX stock (5217). For exteriors, we also used Kodak Vision 250D (5246) stock.”
Challenge: “The last scene, when Harry Potter confronts (the evil Voldemort), is a set piece. The set is a graveyard by the Riddle house. But the studio (Leavesden Studios) used to be an aircraft factory, and that meant low ceilings. Voldemort emerges from a cave at twilight, with thickening mist and smoke. But the low ceilings were very problematic, since we needed low-angle shots. We decided to fill the entire ceiling with space lights, hung a huge silk underneath, and then we mapped them all and skirted each one for control. That gave us, first of all, a soft top light. Secondly, it allowed us to shoot off the set and still keep the mood. Our job was always to suggest the effect of digital tricks that would be added later. It was a long, difficult shoot to get that sequence.”
Setback and solution: “Shooting the underwater scene was a major problem for everybody. The basic requirement was that Harry Potter had to appear perfectly at home underwater. We tested different approaches for shooting it, and finally decided to build a 60x60x40-foot tank (at Leavesden Studios) and shoot the actors against an underwater bluescreen. Operationally, it was soon recognized that this long, painstaking task could not be undertaken by the main unit, and our second unit director, Peter MacDonald, and second unit d.p., Mike Brewster, handled it brilliantly.”
Creative mantra: “Mike (Newell) definitely wanted this to be a detective thriller. So the brief was, simply, ‘Dark, but tell the story.’ ”
Upcoming: Expects to start shooting in March on Richard Attenborough’s project, “Closing the Ring,” planned for a 2007 release.