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Creating Spellbinding Live Sound for Harry Potter

Sound designer Gareth Fry has been using d&b audiotechnik systems on live stage productions of 'Harry Potter and The Cursed Child.'

Sound designer Gareth Fry has been using d&b audiotechnik systems on live stage productions of Harry Potter and The Cursed Child.
Sound designer Gareth Fry has been using d&b audiotechnik systems on live stage productions of ‘Harry Potter and The Cursed Child.’ © Dorothy Hong Photography LLC 2017

New York, NY (April 14, 2021)—In the Harry Potter books, when wizards need to get loud, they simply use an Amplifying Charm, bellowing “Sonorus” with the wave of a wand to amplify a targeted sound. In the muggle (i.e. real) world, however, multi-award-winning sound designer Gareth Fry has been using audio systems to make wizards audible in live stage productions of Harry Potter and The Cursed Child. Post-pandemic, the play’s productions in London, New York, Melbourne and San Francisco will resume, and future productions have been announced in Toronto and Tokyo. All of them feature—or will feature—d&b audiotechnik loudspeaker system designs by Fry.

“There’s a big responsibility when you’re working with such iconic characters and stories; the audience has a strong, emotional attachment to what’s happening on stage,” said Fry. “With such an invested audience, we’re under pressure to produce the best show we can. There are big, epic scenes with lots of characters, and then there are also very quiet scenes where it’s just two people talking — we need to make sure every seat in the house hears everything perfectly.”

Likewise, the audio supports the action onstage, he noted: “There are a lot of illusions in the show, and magic often requires support from sound and lighting and costume and props — it’s a very multidisciplinary thing to make these illusions seem magical. All of the magic is done live in front of the audience, and good sound is absolutely key to making sure the illusion works for every audience in every venue.”

“I thought someone else was going to get it!”: Harry Potter sound designer

The ArrayCalc software from d&b was a key component Fry used in his sound system design for the shows. “ArrayCalc…allowed us to predict in advance what a theater will sound like,” said Fry. “The software has also been very useful in terms of working with other production departments and negotiating speaker positions and other logistic concerns.”

A d&b Y-Series sound system was primarily used in the London, New York, Melbourne and San Francisco productions, using a mix of line-array and point source elements, supplemented with E-Series cabinets for fill speakers. d&b V-Series was also used in some venues where a longer throw was required.

“I’ve been using d&b for years, so I have a lot of confidence in their systems.” said Fry. “They always sound great, and have a compact footprint which makes them easy to place, so the whole system sounds better because the speakers can be in better positions to deliver the quality and power we need.”

d&b audiotechnik • www.dbaudio.com

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