In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), Sirius Black appears in a fireplace to talk to Harry. It looks as if his head was made of embers:

Sirius Black's head made of embers

In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), Sirius Black appears in the same fireplace, once again to talk to Harry and his friends. The effect is very different, though, and his head now appears to be floating in the flames:

Sirius Black's head floating in the flames

Why were two different effects used for the very same spell?

  • 5
    Different directors I would guess. Sep 12, 2013 at 20:46
  • 3
    Because previous one looks lame.
    – Ankit Sharma
    Sep 12, 2013 at 20:55
  • 2
    Uh...maybe...because...it was a different movie?
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Sep 12, 2013 at 21:03
  • 2
    @AnkitSharma Yet I think the face made out of embers is a pretty cool idea (but I don't remember if it was well-made).
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Sep 12, 2013 at 21:04
  • 7
    They probably used different carriers?
    – Judy
    Sep 14, 2013 at 16:14

4 Answers 4


I'd stick with what System Down wrote in the comments: different directors. I have at least two reasons for that.

First, there is no mention of the difference in the books. He always appears in the flame. Here is what it says in the "Goblet of Fire":

The room was in semidarkness; the flames were the only source of light. Nearby, on a table, the Support Cedric Diggory! badges the Creeveys had been trying to improve were glinting in the firelight. They now read POTTER REALLY STINKS. Harry looked back into the flames, and jumped. Sirius's head was sitting in the fire. If Harry hadn't seen Mr. Diggory do exactly this back in the Weasleys' kitchen, it would have scared him out of his wits.

So, there was a fire then, as it was in the "Order of the phoenix". The first time:

She gasped, gazing at the fire; Ron dropped his quill. There in the middle of the dancing flames sat Sirius's head, long dark hair falling around his grinning face.

And the second time:

Harry whipped round. Sirius' untidy dark head was sitting in the fire again.

My second reason is that this is not the only change. For example, the pensive started levitating between two movies:

The Pensive The Pensive

Also, professor Flitwick went under some serious (no pun intended :-)) plastic surgery:

Professor Flitwick Professor Flitwick

As did Tom (the barman from the Leaky Cauldron):

Tom Tom

Or Dobby, whose changes are a bit more subtle, but nevertheless they are there. Or Dumbledore, when the actor was changed in the third movie (tying his beard was, IMO, really an unnecessary change).

We could go on like this for quite a while, but I think you get my drift.

Oh, and by the way, I like the embers effect more, but the fiery one is more consistent with the book.

  • On a side note, tying the beard made it more like book Dumbledore. Sep 13, 2013 at 3:45
  • @SystemDown I must have missed/forgot that detail. Can you please elaborate? Sep 13, 2013 at 9:31
  • In the first book I seem to recall him being described as tucking his beard into his belt. Or was that just the illustration? Sep 13, 2013 at 15:06
  • 1
    @SystemDown You are right: "Nothing like this man had ever been seen on Privet Drive. He was tall, thin, and very old, judging by the silver of his hair and beard, which were both long enough to tuck into his belt." However, I don't see how is this in line with tying the beard. It seems to me that he would either tuck it or tie it, so the two are opposite. Sep 13, 2013 at 15:11
  • 1
    I find Gambon's too often too nervous. But, to each his own. :-) Sep 13, 2013 at 16:57

Because the medium is different.

It's clear that the spell used by Sirius Black is Floo Network's Head-only transport. But the medium for both the instances are different. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, when Sirius Black talks to Harry there is only coal present in the fireplace. But in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, when Sirius talks to Harry there is also flame there. So his appearance looks different all because of the condition of the fireplace.

This is not a canonical answer but my conclusion from watching the scene.

  • But this just changes the question to "why are the embers in the fireplace in one film and flames in the other?" Apr 30, 2015 at 13:41

Because the films had different directors who probably had different ideas for how the effect should look and/or be achieved.


It's different because the effects budget was allocated differently and probably handled by a different effects team. The embers effect is significantly more complicated and refined, which means expensive and relatively difficult. The flame version is a comparatively cheap and easy solution, it looked to be primarily compositing.

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