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Last Updated: Friday, 16 September 2005, 07:56 GMT 08:56 UK
Fine art inspires new Potter game
By Alfred Hermida
Technology editor, BBC News website

Concept artwork (Copyright Warner Bros Entertainment Inc)
Harry has to compete in the Triwizard Tournament (Courtesy Warner Bros)
Landscape paintings by a group of 19th Century American artists have been the unlikely source of inspiration for the look and feel of the new Harry Potter video game.

The Hudson River School is known for its majestic images of the American wilderness, using light effects to lend an exaggerated drama to the scenes.

The art inspired the moody lighting of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

The game is due to be released on 11 November to coincide with the film.

Growing up

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is JK Rowling's fourth book in which Harry is chosen to compete in the TriWizard Tournament.

Concept art of the Triwizard level (Warner Bros copyright)

"The aesthetic is growing up," explained the game's art director, Alex Laurent. "Earlier games were aimed at a younger audience so the game had to grow up with the films."

Mr Laurent is a relative newcomer to the world of games. He joined Electronic Arts (EA) a year ago, coming from George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic.

As visual effects director there, he worked on titles like The Mummy, The Day After Tomorrow, Star Wars: Episode 2 and Minority Report.

For the Goblet of Fire game, Mr Laurent wanted to apply some techniques of the film business to recreate the brooding atmosphere of the film.

He found his inspiration in the world of fine art.

Light and drama

"I got out the art history books and found some pictures of this school of art from north of New York," he said.

First Harvest in the Wilderness by Hudson River School artist Asher Brown Durand

He had discovered the Hudson River School, which encompasses two generations of painters from 1835 to 1870.

The group is renowned for its romantic images of the American wilderness, using light effects to create drama.

Mr Laurent took the art history books to his team, telling them: "Let's look at these paintings and see what is dramatic and work it into the game."

"We had to respect the look of the film," he explained, "but we had a certain amount of freedom to expand the world of the movie."

The game has some of the creatures which did not make it into the film version.

The look of these came from the imagination of the design team, inspired by the descriptions in JK Rowling's book.

Art and fantasy

"The Hudson River School was an aesthetic keystone," said Mr Laurent. "I felt it complemented what the film had done."

Concept art for Dragon Woods (Warner Bros copyright)

"Our earlier experiments tended to be too much towards fantasy art of the 1970s."

In the Goblet of Fire game, Harry, Ron, and Hermione are all playable characters, modelled after their big-screen counterparts.

But the actors have not lent their voices to the title. Instead EA is using actors who sound like the main characters.

Much of the game centres around magic, with what EA describes as a new spell-casting system.

"The key aim of the game is mastering the magic," said Mr Laurent, "and giving players the feel that they are controlling the magic."

Harry Potter images copyright Warner Bros Entertainment Inc


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