Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Harry Potter Experience

The Harry Potter film series has made Leavesden its home for over 10 years. The location where Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden now sits used to be an aircraft factory and runway known as Leavesden Aerodrome, where planes called Mosquitos and Halifax Bombers were manufactured. In the late 1980's Concorde made a special visit to Leavesden Aerodrome for a Rolls Royce open day. In May 1994 EON Productions used the large empty hangers and open spaces to produce the James Bond film GoldenEye, transforming the derelict aircraft factory into Leavesden Studios. In 1999 Warner Bros. acquired the rights to the Harry Potter books and in 2000 they leased Leavesden Studios to make the first Harry Potter feature film.

Filming began on Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone™ at Leavesden Studios on Friday 29th September 2000. The Great Hall was one of the first sets built at Leavesden Studios and is a vast and impressive space that can seat 400 children. It was one of the only sets to be used in all 8 films. 
Production for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets™ began on 19th November 2001 only three days after the widespread release of the first Harry Potter film. This was the first time the audience met Dobby the house-elf. Rob Bliss, in the Art Department at Leavesden Studios, was responsible for conceptualising Dobby’s appearance, and Creature Effects Supervisor Nick Dudman and his team created the impressive model so that the cast could react to something on set. The whole process took about 3 months. The final Dobby seen in the films was created in CGI (Computer Generated Imagery.) The iconic set for Dumbledore’s office was first built and created for this film. The office is in fact surrounded by a large library of books.

Principal photography for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban™ began at Leavesden Studios on 24th February 2003. One of the most complicated set pieces was the Knight Bus which makes its first appearance in this film. The audience sees the bus rush Harry through the streets of London and despite its three decks, this was not achieved through CGI.  The bus was driven to London, a task which required a lot of planning as the Knight Bus is two Double Decker buses glued together to make a triple decker. Taking the height of the bus into consideration the route into London had to be seriously mapped out as bridges were clearly out of the question. This was the first time the Dementors were introduced. Director Alfonso Cuarón and producer David Heyman spent a long time experimenting with different methods to make it appear as if the Dementors were actually floating and puppeteers were initially brought on to the set to move large pieces of cloth in a water tank to create the illusion that the Dementors were floating. However, this was later created through visual effects.

Filming of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire™ began on 4th May 2004. A giant water tank was built at the Studios to film all of the underwater scenes for the Tri-wizard Tournament. It is the largest underwater filming tank in Europe, capable of holding 2 million litres of water. During filming Daniel Radcliffe spent so much time under water in the dive tank he gained his PADI diving certificate. A lot of time was spent experimenting with how to make him look as if he had webbed hands. This look was eventually created using very fine ladies tights which Daniel wore over his hands and up his arms!
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix™ began filming on Monday 6th February 2006. In this film we saw the Ministry of Magic for this first time; the set is the largest of all the sets created for any of the Harry Potter films. 50 London buses could fit inside the Atrium of the Ministry of Magic; it took 22 weeks to build. The set is inspired by the Victorian architecture of London particularly the tiles which although look authentic, are actually made of MDF. The fifth film also saw the series first ever complete blue screen set with the Hall of Prophecies shot entirely against a blue screen backdrop. 40 kittens were filmed to go on moving plates in Umbridge’s office; the kittens went on to be domestic pets with their new owners unaware of their famous origins.
Principal photography began on the sixth film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince™ on the 24th September 2007. During filming Rupert Grint turned 21; the cast and crew celebrated with a kid’s themed party in the studio canteen. In this film a model of the Burrow was set ablaze and partially destroyed. Afterwards the entire interior part of the set inside and out was rebuilt and redressed on the studio backlot for the final films. The charred walls were given a quick coat of whitewash and of course the set retained all of the familiar Weasley touches.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows™ - Part 1 began filming on 19th February 2009. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows™ – Part 2 was filmed back to back with Part 1. Five 32-ton trucks worth of polystyrene were needed to create all the rubble for the destruction of Hogwarts at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2. Daniel Radcliffe went through 160 pairs of glasses and around 70 wands during filming of all eight Harry Potter films. Over the series a total of 588 sets were created at Leavesden Studios.

In 2010 Warner Bros. invested over £100 million into Leavesden Studios to create Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden - a permanent U.K. film production base for the company. As part of the redevelopment, two new sound stages were planned, to house Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - a permanent behind-the-scenes walking tour which immerses guests into the world of filmmaking. On 31st March 2012, Warner Bros. Studio Tour London opened with a red carpet event. The tour features authentic sets, costumes and props from the Harry Potter film series and showcases the British artistry, technology and talent that went into producing these iconic movies. Opened for business on 11th June 2012, the Studios is one of the largest studio production facilities in Europe and secures the future of over a third of the dedicated major feature film production stage space in the UK whilst helping to further position the country as a centre of filmmaking excellence. Formally the production home of all eight Harry Potter films, the new studio is spread across a secure 200-acre site and houses a collection of some of the largest sound stages in the UK spanning over a quarter of a million square feet, including one of the largest heated underwater filming tanks in Europe. In addition, the site provides an unrivalled, clear horizon 100 acre back-lot, one of the most extensive in Europe, which can be adapted for any production need and is available to all kinds of productions, not just Warner Bros., from commercials to music videos, TV shows to feature films.

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