Warner Bros. The Making of Harry Potter, Part 2: Lighting

“I went over during filming to see firsthand how the sets were lit, what the angles were, and what they were doing for colors,” says Michael Finney, the lighting designer and facility project manager for Thinkwell Group for Warner Bros. Studio Tour The Making of Harry Potter. “Having [the films' production designer] Stuart Craig involved in the attraction was a huge benefit to my understanding how best to recreate the feel of the film lighting while balancing the needs of the attraction. He was so generous and collaborative, as were all the filmmakers involved.”

Finney tried to use the original placement of fixtures, even though he was using different fixture types. “Stuart and I talked early on about where I could go with a sharper edge than on the films,” he explains. “We felt since this was three-dimensional, and people would be so close to it, that a more theatrical look would be acceptable. Instead of using a softlight, I used an LED flood, which has more definition on the edges.” In fact, Finney doesn’t use any standard incandescent sources, even in the practicals. The entire attraction uses only LED or metal halide sources, so the energy consumption is incredibly low, and it cuts down on IR and UV.

Finney wanted his design to capture the filmmakers’ intentions for the look of the different sets since lighting was an important part of the production design. “When you look at the Great Hall in the films, there’s a particular kind of silver-blue light that you see,” says Finney. “That was a tough one at first, but looking at the films, it is actually lit low on the windows shining up, not the standard way of lighting a window from above. On a set like the Potions Classroom, the lights were actually behind the camera, so again, I went back to the film. I found that the apparent room light was coming in behind the windows and doors, so I put lights behind the windows and doors. It evokes the lighting look from the film, but it is achieved in a different way.”

On many of the sets, Finney created cues to move through several looks since many of the sets’ moods changed through the series of films. “For Diagon Alley, we do a transition so you get an afternoon moving through a nighttime look, which I love,” he says. “It was an incredible set to light, and I wanted to really show the craftsmanship and detail work that is so beautiful; every practical lamp on the street works. Each store is lit as its own entity. Within the transition to evening, Gringotts Bank goes a little colder; Scribbulus goes a little more blue-green; and Ollivanders Wand Shop in daylight has highlights of gold and red.”

No transition cue is as breathtaking as the entire day sequence Finney created for the stunning Hogwarts Castle model. “It isn’t simply day-to-night,” explains Finney. “It really is the sun moving across the model from one side to the other and setting with the shadows and the blues as the moon moves across. From beginning to end, it takes about 5½ minutes for the 24-hour cycle, which is also cued to the music. We didn’t make it easy on ourselves, but I’m so proud of that design. After a week of planning and three days of programming, we had to go back for three more days planning and another 1½ days programming to put it to the music.” Finney gives major credit to programmer Jim Beagley and the team from White Light. Lighting control is via two ETC Eos Remote Processor Units, while a Medialon show controller calls up macros on the Eos.

Related Articles

Suggested Articles:

See how Audience Systems designed practical seating for this heritage auditorium.

Bandit Lites has multiple shows on the road, from Garth Brooks to Jimmy Buffet, and Strickland has some advice for anyone planning a tour this year.

Hamilton. Drama Book Shop. Immersive Van Gogh. Sotheby’s. Four projects in the current portfolio of David Korins, scenic designer/creative director.