Six directors of photography worked on the series: John Seale on the first film, Roger Pratt on the second and fourth, Michael Seresin on the third, Sławomir Idziak on the fifth, Bruno Delbonnel on the sixth, and Eduardo Serra on the seventh and eighth. Delbonnel was considered to return for both parts of Deathly Hallows, but he declined, stating that he was “scared of repeating” himself. Delbonnel’s cinematography in Half-Blood Prince gained the series its only Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography. As the series progressed, each cinematographer faced the challenge of shooting and lighting older sets (which had been around since the first few films) in unique and different ways. Chris Columbus said the series’ vivid colouring decreased as each film was made.
Michael Seresin commented on the change of visual style from the first two films to Prisoner of Azkaban: “The lighting is moodier, with more shadowing and cross-lighting.” Seresin and Alfonso Cuarón moved away from the strongly coloured and brightly lit cinematography of the first two films, with dimmer lighting and a more muted colour palette being utilised for the succeeding five films. After comparing a range of digital cameras with 35 mm film, Bruno Delbonnel decided to shoot the sixth movie, Half-Blood Prince, on film rather than the increasingly popular digital format. This decision was kept for the two-part Deathly Hallows with Eduardo Serra, who said that he preferred to work with film because it was “more technically accurate and dependable”.
Because the majority of Deathly Hallows takes place in various settings away from Hogwarts, David Yates wanted to “shake things up” by using different photographic techniques such as using hand-held cameras and very wide camera lenses. Eduardo Serra said, “Sometimes we are combining elements shot by the main unit, a second unit, and the visual effects unit. You have to know what is being captured – colours, contrast, et cetera – with mathematical precision.” He noted that with Stuart Craig’s “amazing sets and the story”, the filmmakers could not “stray too far from the look of the previous Harry Potter films”.
There have been many visual effects companies to work on the Harry Potter series. Some of these include Rising Sun Pictures, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Double Negative, Cinesite, Framestore, and Industrial Light & Magic. The latter three have worked on all the films in the series, while Double Negative and Rising Sun Pictures began their commitments with Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire, respectively. Framestore contributed by developing many memorable creatures and sequences to the series. Cinesite was involved in producing both miniature and digital effects for the films. Producer David Barron said that “Harry Potter created the UK effects industry as we know it. On the first film, all the complicated visual effects were done on the [US] west coast. But on the second, we took a leap of faith and gave much of what would normally be given to Californian vendors to UK ones. They came up trumps.” Tim Burke, the visual effects supervisor, said many studios “are bringing their work to UK effects companies. Every facility is fully booked, and that wasn’t the case before Harry Potter. That’s really significant.”
Harry’s fifth year begins with him being attacked by Dementors in Little Whinging. Later, he finds out that the Ministry of Magic is in denial of Lord Voldemort’s return. Harry is also beset by disturbing and realistic nightmares, while Professor Umbridge, a representative of Minister for Magic Cornelius Fudge, is the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. Harry becomes aware that Voldemort is after a prophecy which reveals: “neither can live while the other survives.” The rebellion involving the students of Hogwarts, secret organisation Order of the Phoenix, the Ministry of Magic, and the Death Eaters begins.