Mobile App Development

How Harry Potter movie production can teach us to build fantastic enterprise apps

July 15, 2014

  • Alex Bratton

On a recent trip to London I had a chance to visit the Harry Potter movie sets at Warner Brother Studios. With a dozen full movie sets, thousands of props, and a hundred costumes on display, it was a really immersive experience. I was surprised to learn about the variety of technology involved in the filming. As I walked through the set, I noticed an number of incredible business choices and technological features that contributed to not only a great movie series, but a very successful business endeavor.
Here’s what I think we in the enterprise app business can learn from the Harry Potter film franchise.

1.  Up front planning pays off

Harry Potter Great Hall
Strolling through the actual great hall that made appearances in nearly every Harry Potter movie really drew me in. This movie set was used for 10 plus years to film a wide variety of scenes in most of the movies. One of the elements that seemed out of place for a movie set was the stone floor. The decision was made at the onset of the film series to build a set that was going to last a long time and be used in diverse ways. This up front planning served them extremely well and the set is still in great shape today. The very versatile set could serve for any season or special event with creative decor and special effects covering the ceiling. Having a sturdy base to build from provided years of use.

Having the right mobile architecture—how mobile will talk to other systems—from the beginning helps to build on it in the future. This makes it not only the right app, but one that will evolve well and be cost efficient.

2. Have a clear understanding of the big picture

Hogwarts Castle
Another example is the use of a miniature version of Hogwarts’ castle which cameras were able to zip around to show the expansive landscape. The highly detailed castle is over 30 feet across and gave the film makers a solid understanding of the Hogwarts world and let them fly viewers through it from any angle.

3. Deliver the most engaging user experience possible

Most people assume that the special effects in the movies were all 3-D computer graphics, but that’s far from accurate.  A mix of graphics and other technology drove the power and believability–the user experience (UX) of the movie if you will. It couldn’t all be the shiny graphics and provide the same experience the director wanted.
Buck Beak
Animitronics was used to bring to life not just the creatures but also to realize key characters.
Hagrid costume

The half giant Hagrid was a cunning mix of live shots of a normal sized actor, Robbie Coltrone, and smaller sized sets when a full face shot was needed. For anything requiring Hagrid to appear his eight foot tall self, a different actor wore a special animitronic head and riser boots to get the height. This animitroic head was controlled from off screen and could lip sync dialog and mimic facial movements.

An enterprise app works the same way — it has to seamlessly blend together multiple data sources or back end systems in a way that delights the user.
If you’re into movies, technology, or just love a good story, I’d highly recommend visiting the Harry Potter studio outside of London. It was a great experience and a great way to get your imagination running wild.