Mae's Real Stories

Memories for Miriam, Alice, Theo, Delia, Tessa and anyone else who would like to be here

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Harry Potter and the Twisted Bridge

The Millenium Bridge over the Thames River is a very beautiful bridge that we visited on a trip to London in 2002 -- the picture shows how we saw it on a nice summer day. Lots of people were walking across the bridge, which was pretty new at that time.

In the latest Harry Potter movie, evil flying witches make the bridge shake in a special way and fall into the river. I thought this was very interesting and definitely exciting to see. Only one or two bridges have ever twisted and fallen this way.

I took the next picture from the top floor of a big museum, the Tate Modern, that stands on the river bank near the bridge. We went there with our friends Sheila and John. And the picture right after that shows how it twisted in the movie.

From an article in Popular Mechanics:

I was curious about how the movie makers created such a real-looking disaster. After all, the bridge did once shake some, but engineers and architects worked on it until it was very safe and in fact fun to walk across. Look at me on the bridge -- calm and smiling. No evil witches!

I was really interested in the Popular Mechanics article about how the Harry Potter movie makers created a computer version of the bridge in order to make the part of the movie about how the evil witches destroyed it. The real-live architects let the movie people have the designs that they used when they made the bridge -- modern bridges are designed in computers. But imaginary bridges can also be in computers.

The movie makers hired around 20 special computer programmers, working for a man named Tim Burke, who figured out how to make a really dramatic disaster look like it happened to the safe real bridge. They had to use some really good mathematical skills to make the bridge fall apart so realistically. Here are some technical details:
While the CG [Computer Generated] bridge is identical in every way to the actual Millennium Bridge, Burke acknowledges there was some artistic interpretation when it came to its collapse. This is magic, after all. "We did a dynamics simulation and proved that individual panels of the walkway would detach and fall into the Thames, but this was not as interesting as we wanted," Burke says. So filmmakers spent a lot of time watching footage of actual collapses—including the fall of Washington's Tacoma Narrows bridge in 1940. "It showed how a suspension bridge would twist and roll like a sine wave created through a vibration, which the Millennium Bridge suffered from itself when it first opened," Burke says. Londoners nicknamed the Millennium Bridge the Wobbly Bridge shortly after its opening; the bridge was closed and modified to eliminate the vibration. "We took this idea and then developed it for the collapse, having the Death Eaters fly around the bridge in a spiral motion to create the twisting that brings the bridge down."
Here's another picture showing our friend John and me on the bridge. The building with the big smoke stack is the Tate Modern.

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