Hands-on gadget review: Harry Potter Deluxe Invisibility Cloak
Image credit: WOW!
Movie-inspired kit that lets aspiring filmmakers try their hand at green-screen effects as they ‘appear to disappear’. Plus other tech gift ideas for young Harry Potter fans.
There are many high-tech toys on the market for Harry Potter fans but, unusually, this one helps you become a filmmaker. It’s an ornate cloak with a lining made from ‘green screen’ coloured fabric. Team it with a smartphone, the free app and the supplied tripod and you can film yourself disappear under your cloak, just like Harry and friends do in the movies.
The idea is simple and the tripod is crucial in executing it: the phone needs to be in a fixed position so it can learn what your background looks like. That way, when it sees the green colour, it knows what image to replace it with, as if you were transparent. If you’ve been to the Warner Brothers Studio Tour, you’ll know that the cloak Daniel Radcliffe wore for the films also had a green screen lining and worked the same way.
Unboxing is pleasurable: the large box doesn’t look too modern and, when you open it, the first thing you see is a small piece of parchment bearing the words 'Use it Well', which, you may remember, were the final words on the note Dumbledore wrote when he gave young Harry the cloak of invisibility for Christmas. It’s even written in Dumbledore’s handwriting, just like in the film, which is a lovely touch.
The cloak itself has an ornate pattern, more monochrome than the one on the silver screen, but a good enough imitation. The hook and eye at the neck are a bit lightweight but otherwise the quality is good and it looks magical.
The first set-up job is to download the free Wow Stuff app (iOS 11, Android 5.0 and above). You need to create a free account and type in the unique code enclosed with the instructions. Then the app takes you to a YouTube tutorial that makes it look easy. You position the phone and tripod and put the app in Invisibility Mode to capture the background. You can then take photos and videos in which you do your actions with the cloak. You can even delay the start by up to 10 seconds (loud beeps count you in) and set the video duration (up to 10 minutes).
We found the app reliable and easy to use, with good results. The small desktop tripod has articulated legs like a lightweight GorillaPod. Between this and the countdown delay and timer, it’s very easy to film yourself. The only thing the app lacks is editing software; you’ll need a separate app for that.
The invisibility effect is excellent, with two caveats. The first is a standard challenge with green screen: don’t wear bright green clothes or have anything in shot that’s that kind of colour, or it will disappear. That also means that if any of the green lining is visible at the front edge of the cloak, little bits of you disappear prematurely. The other issue is that you’re reliant on the background not changing, so consistent lighting conditions are a must. If the sun comes out a bit during filming, the invisible green-screened bit of the picture will stand out because it looks a shade darker than everything else.
The Invisibility Cloak is aimed at age 6+ and is also available in a regular, non-deluxe version for little more than half the price. The more affordable cloak is less ornate and comes with a very basic phone stand rather than the more adjustable tripod. It’s better value for money though and a good buy, particularly if you already have a suitable tripod.
All in all, we thought the cloak would make a good Christmas gift for a Harry Potter fan who would enjoy filmmaking, so long as they own or can borrow a phone. It’s a one-trick pony, but the trick is a good one and they can use the cloak for dressing up too.
Widely available at RRP £69.99
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Kids@Play Harry Potter Sorting Hat
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WOW! Stuff Harry Potter Golden Snitch Heliball
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