I just spotted an interview with Andy Kennedy, sound designer on “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” at Filmsound Daily. It was an enjoyable read because he actually touches on some techniques and ideas that went into the specific magic sound effects. Science Fiction and Fantasy films offer up so many great opportunities to evolve the art of sound design, and the Harry Potter films are no exception.
Here’s a snippet from the interview with Andy where he talks a bit about his process:
“This change very little from my first layout but essentially it had a comic firework feel about it but the rest of the spells within this section went through many forms. The warped water I made on my old Synclavier and the feedback wumpfs, built by James Boyle my co-sound designer, for the adult wands during the dual in the atrium. I felt there should be a sonic connection between the two scenes even if it’s subtle one. The airy whooshes came from light steam jets phased with a couple of other sweeteners added or deducted during the final mix dependent on completed visuals.”
I highly recommend checking out the rest of the interview if you’re at all interested in this stuff. [Also check out this thread at GameAudioForum for more discussion on the sound of magic.] Pay special attention to the multiple references to making sounds more “organic.” Although it’s an overused descriptor, the idea is potent: We can achieve believability in our sound designs, whether musical or for film/games, by mixing natural elements with layers that are less familiar to the human ear. I love the idea of layering in materials such as water, dirt, and debris into a magic spell in order to anchor the listener into a world that feels more plausible as a result.
Lastly, do you have any ideas or techniques for designing magic spell sounds? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this as well as comments on the broader issue of creating “subjective” sounds in general. Please feel free to sound off in the comments section!Harry Potter and The Sound of Magic by Nick Maxwell