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Grad Contributes to the Magic of Harry Potter with VFX Dazzle

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 soared to make box office history with the highest first weekend box office of all the movies in the intensely popular series. Lending his own visual effects wizardry to the movie magic was Academy of Art University Animation graduate Behnam Shafiebeik.

Behnam Shafiebeik

“I’ve always been a huge fan of the Potter movies, and when the opportunity came up to work on the first part of the final film, I knew I couldn’t pass that up,” Behnam said.

He traveled to Australia to work for Rising Sun Pictures as a compositor on the film. “We had a great sequence in the film where Harry and Ron are trying to destroy the horcrux,” said Behnam. “It was very challenging, but great to be a part of.”

As a compositor, Behnam takes multiple pieces of film or digital footage and combines them into one seamless image. This technique can be used to insert a computer generated character into a shot or to combine footage shot on a greenscreen or bluescreen with background imagery.

From Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian – Photo Courtesy of Behnam Shafiebeik

Once compositors are finished with their work, a scene, which may be a combination of anywhere from two to more than 30 elements, appears to the viewer as a single, fluid piece. “If we do our job right, the audience will never think twice about whether something was insert in the image or not,” said Behnam.

Behnam remembers watching Jurassic Park as a child. “I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the dinosaurs in that movie,” he said. “I couldn’t help but analyze how the filmmakers created them.”

From The Golden Compass – Photo Courtesy of Behnam Shafiebeik

That experience, along with a longtime love of movies, inspired him to pursue a career as a compositor. He has since worked on an impressive array of films, including Night at the Museum, The Incredible Hulk and Evan Almighty.

Among the most exciting films to work on for Behnam was The Golden Compass. The visual effects team for the movie was rewarded for all of their hard work with an Oscar for best VFX in 2008.

From Night at the Museum – Photo Courtesy of Behnam Shafiebeik

Behnam credits his time at Academy of Art University with guiding him in preparing for his career. In particular, he recalls Academy instructors C. Andrew Nelson, Tad Leckman, Sean Mitchell, Catherine Tate and Aaron Muszalski sharing their experience and passion in his courses. “I would not be here without these wonderful people,” he said.

Behnam is currently working on Jon Favreau’s Cowboys & Aliens, a film set in 1873 about a group of cowboys who fight to prevent aliens taking over the world. The film is due out in July of this year.


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