It’s one of the hottest new tourist attractions in Britain, and the Warner Brother’s Studio Tour promises Potter fans a day out that they shall never forget. Visitour’s very own Rob Sandbach took his partner to the Studio Tour in Watford to see how the attraction is using its digital guide to offer its users a new visitor experience.
For the benefit of those who haven’t been, the studio, which was used for all of the eight films dedicated to Rowling’s books, has been renovated into a museum dedicated to the Harry Potter films. ‘Secrets will be revealed’ promises the site’s adverts, as the tour offers fans of the series an insight into the making of one of the highest grossing film series of all time, and a chance to get up close to many of the sets featured in the films, from Hogwart’s Great Hall, to Harry’s infamous cupboard under the stairs. Each set comes littered with props and intricate details that remain as testaments to the dedication shown by the films’ creators.
Getting to Grips With the App
Now onto the guide itself, and firstly we should explain that there is no ‘Harry Potter Studio Tour’ app on the App Store. Instead visitors are given (for a £4.95 fee) an iPod Touch, with the tour guide already loaded onto the device, for the duration of their visit. This rental system is an interesting approach as it ensures that every visitor can use the mobile guide, rather than just those who arrive with their smartphones. The sacrifice (aside from the obvious hardware cost) is that it doesn’t offer any long term contact with the attraction, once the visitors have left the site, which can be a huge benefit for a museum using a mobile guide.
The app’s layout is simple, user friendly and thoroughly explained by an introductory video, played to the user as they queue up to enter the main attraction. Muggles to the world of mobile technology were therefore eased into the digital experience, again ensuring that all visitors could benefit from the mobile tour guide. Users can load up a map of the attraction’s layout, which numbers each area of interest, be it a particular set or a collection of costumes and props. Following the numbers 1 – 2 – 3 makes for a logical tour through the museum, but this suggested route is by no means compulsory; users can directly input the number of any particular point of interest, and jump straight to the relevant content.
The Mobile Tour
Interestingly text is hardly used in the app at all. Instead the app relies heavily on audio features through the voice of Tom Felton (who played Draco Malfoy in the films) to provide you with a general overview of the items or set that you see before you. The benefit of this audio-centric approach is that it leaves the user’s eyes free to explore the exhibits, requiring only their ears to provide them with its information. This compliments the visitor experience perfectly by happily refusing to draw the visitor’s attention away from the displays that they have paid to come and see.
On the other hand, the guide did make use of the iPod touches multimedia capabilities by providing the user with videos about the more specific aspects of each display. These videos were typically clips of conversations or interviews with various people who contributed to the films. Part of the attraction of such content was the range of people who provided this information, from the stars of the film (Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson all made an appearance) to the less acclaimed members of the film’s staff list (clothes designers, and stylists etc.) all of whom offered anecdotes and explanations of their particular area of expertise. The amount of people used, and the huge variety of jobs that they had, made for a wide range of content, which helped draw your attention towards some of the smaller aspects of each display, which you perhaps hadn’t noticed or considered earlier. For instance, only the most astute of visitors will have noticed that the collection of Quibbler Magazines contained every edition from 1 to 28, except for the 17th edition, which was lying open upon the desk in the Gryffindor common room, until the set designer pointed this out in the app. In all, the app simply helps deliver exactly what the site promises its visitors: it reveals more and more secrets behind the films.
The Museum & Mobile Guide Experience
This general layout of the app made for the perfect balance: it took full advantage of the platform’s interactive nature, utilised the iPod touch’s abilities well through the provision of videos, and yet it didn’t dominate the visitor’s attention, but rather improved the amount of attention one pays to the exhibits themselves. It’s audio guide left you free to examine each area of interest your own pace or will upon first arrival, whilst its videos helped draw your attention to its finer details, which would have otherwise been missed, once you had familiarised yourself with each display. Also on offer was an extensive gallery of pictures, which showed many of the sets or items seen before you in action during the films themselves.
Overall the app really helped to immerse its users in the museum, and definitely added to the ‘Harry Potter’ experience. From the design of the menus (dressed up to look like scrolls) to Felton’s voice casually inviting you to enjoy a Butter Beer at the outdoor café (advice which was taken and would be well recommended by Visitour). They were small touches, but they again helped to make the app feel like part of the museum, and immerse its users into this colossal recreation of the Harry Potter world.
Of course many people visited the museum without ever seeing the mobile guide in action. Videos (displayed on TVs around the studio) provided them with similar interviews and discussions from the films’ staff. However Felton’s introduction to each area of interest would have been missing, as would a lot of the details and extra material that the app provided you with. Its wealth of information, subtle integration into the museum’s experience and the simplicity of its layout definitely make the app an enlightening and absorbing tour guide, and one that Visitour would recommend for any visitor.