Sinister house-elf Kreacher comes to life in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix thanks to the CG and visual-effects team at Framestore CFC.
In the latest Harry Potter film – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Harry encounters an elderly, somewhat sinister, house-elf named Kreacher, at the house of his godfather Sirius Black.
The full CG character of Kreacher was created by Framestore CFC, whose other contributions to the film included a herd of CG centaurs and the film’s title sequence.
“We have made a name for ourselves producing creatures with real character for the Potter films, creatures such as the Cornish Pixies and Buckbeak the Hippogriff” says veteran VFX supervisor, Craig Lyn, who headed the team for Framestore CFC.
“The centaurs and Kreacher gave us a chance to build on this reputation, both technically and artistically,” he says. Lyn is particularly proud of the work that went in to winning the job of creating him.
“The number of shots Kreacher is in isn’t huge, but at the same time it’s a tricky bit of work because he’s a humanoid character who acts, delivers lines and fills the whole frame. Three of the guys on our side decided that they really, really wanted a shot at him. On their own initiative they built, modelled, textured and did a turntable of his head and sent that off to the client. And it was that work which won us the gig.”
Although Kreacher delivers just a few lines, his words are loaded with meaning, and his body language is similarly minimal. “You tend, as an animator, to animate – to put in the traditional, slightly heightened stuff, with the creature hitting its marks perfectly and so forth,” explains animator Max Solomon.
“But we soon realized that was not what was wanted here. So we worked against our instincts, and it was quite strange. We kept thinking he’s not really doing much, he’s not moving, he’s not really acting – but actually that does feel more real. A little hunchbacked old man doesn’t actually move or gesticulate a lot, so doing almost nothing was the right choice.”
“We took an entirely muscle-based approach to Kreacher’s facial animation system, extending the functionality of the tools we designed for the centaurs and taking them even further, to give him skin that’s appropriately soft and stretchy for such an elderly character,” says Ben White, CG supervisor.
“We filmed actor Timothy Bateson’s vocal takes, using his facial expressions and mannerisms as reference and these were incredibly useful for the facial performance,” says White.
“But the actual combination of body language, stance, how Kreacher moves around and how he reacts to Harry – that was entirely the creation of our animation team. This subtlety of animation, combined with the sophisticated skin shading and really believable eye lighting gave us something I’m really proud of. It’s a beautiful, understated little performance: you feel that you can really see his mind in his eye, like he’s a living being,” he adds.
The subtlety of animation, combined with the sophisticated skin shading and really believable eye lighting helped give a beautiful, understated little performance something I’m really proud of, says Framestore s Ben White.