There were many other artists that worked on this, I will keep an eye out for a full credit list, but when I left it wasn’t something I thought I’d take with me. If you worked on this with me, and I haven’t listed you here, please let me know.
I was lucky enough to go and make this project happen at Framestore, it was 2010. I chased down Warner and Emma Norton after getting a sniff from the Film Department at Framestore. It was too small a project for the machine that was film, so I had free rein to go and chase it. Dale and I pitched to Emma and Ben against The Mill and won. I had just had our first daughter Isobel, so it was a bit crazy.
Along with Dale Newton, we spent months interviewing a team that we’d assemble that was filled with the best concept artists, designers, animators and compositors London could offer. It was the crack team. Despite how awesome we knew this was going to be, it was still a fight to make it happen how we wanted.
Even to people saying we should just make it in after effects, we could have done it for a tenth of the budget. Yet, all the detail that went in to crafting this, I really believed at the time was what was going to make it stand out.
But watching Ben Hibon work was something new to me. I had never seen a director so hands on. He situated himself amongst the team at Framestore and stayed for the full six months of production. He was heavily involved in the design of all the scenes and characters. He painted concept himself. Regularly with paper and pencil, same with Dale. The walls were covered with memorable art work. It was like working inside a gallery. I wish I still had some of that artwork, even digitally. It would be nice to look back at it once in a while.
I had worked on really big projects before then, but this was a new level. I was learning more about pulling a team together thanks to the autonomy the MD, Helen Stanley gave me and Dale. It was a cause of friction within the company at times, but we knew what we wanted to achieve.
At times even I thought we had taken a too complicated approach, but going full blown CG, Maya / Houdini and at that time introducing Nuke in to the pipeline was a quest on trying to do something great. And it worked. The animators to CG artists, to comers, were outputting the best work. It was a new way of working for a commercials VFX team.
In any case we all learned a lot, about creativity, technology, process, management, it was a mini creative MBA.
We called the project Umbra. The darkest part of a shadow. It took a lot of resource, and lots of talk about what is Umbra doing now?
We even spent 5 days at Leavesden Studios with the 2nd unit team and art department filming elements to composite with final animation. Led by Tim Osborne, Framestore’s super talented 2D supervisor. We captured live action blood, smoke, halation, lens flairs anything we could get our hands on.
We had thousands of elements provided by the art department, from vases, to crystals. All were used to get an extra layer of texture in to the imagery that we couldn’t have achieved just in 3D in the computer. Beyond that, it was a wild experience being at the studios, I even sat at the same table in the canteen as Voldemort.
My last moment at the studios was when our friend and the VFX coordinator Edward Dark gave us a tour of the studios. We were taken to every corner of the backlot and each set. Gringots, Ministry of Magic, Hog’s Head, Grimmauld Place, Diagon Alley to name the ones I remember. At the very end, on the set of the besieged Hogwarts, a young man, in a denim jacket, very friendly, a little short, but with no glasses came over to say hi to us. I can honestly say I didn’t recognise him as Daniel Radcliff, Harry Potter himself. Tim never stopped taking the mickey out of me about it. And fair enough. I say Mr Radcliff would have been happy I wasn’t sycophantic over him. We talked about what was on the Radio that day. I can’t remember what that was though.
This was my last project at Framestore as senior producer before I was headhunted to Head of CG production at MPC London. (Which to my everlasting deep seeded frustration my name was taken off the credits after I had left). I managed to get over it until I went to the Harry Potter studio tour last year (2019) and the very last section was a display of thousands of wands with the names of every single person that was credit in the film. I was there for a really great day with the family, and it hit me quite hard, just because I went on to further my career, my legacy on this film had been taken away.