This question looks at the trail they leave behind, but what are they actually doing?

Are they flying like Voldemort does in book/movie 7?

Are they Apparating with fancy movie effects? If so, how are they able to cast spells while doing so, and how are they able to move at sub-instantaneous speeds, unlike normal, almost instantaneous Apparition seems to?

Finally, if they are just fancy Apparating, why don't we see the good guys do similar things? It seems like the movies added "dark flight" to only the Death Eaters’ repertoire.

  • There are about eight questions here – Valorum Nov 18 '16 at 0:02
  • It's asking what the Death Eaters are doing while they're "flying", as well as some followup questions whose answers would follow naturally if the main question was answered. – user74183 Nov 18 '16 at 0:24
  • It's a valid question. The follow-up questions make sense and follow naturally and illustrate exactly what about the "when they fly about" confuses the asker. – Ghoti and Chips Nov 18 '16 at 0:44
  • @GhotiandChips - The first question is valid, as are the other seven questions. They're just not valid all lumped in together. – Valorum Nov 18 '16 at 1:00
  • Other seven? Anyway, besides maybe the final one (preceded by "Finally"), the other 3 questions are all answerable by answering the main question – Ghoti and Chips Nov 18 '16 at 1:03

The Death Eaters' flying (with black smoke trail) is not canonical (except Snape), as they apparate in the books, and the characters never discuss the details of this smoke-trail flying in the movies, so we don't and can't know how exactly they are able to cast spells mid-flight.

Speculation might lead one to imagine that someone in the production team, with power, liked the design choice of black (and white) trails, without really caring enough about the non-canonical (and therefore prone to be logically flawed) nature of it.

It could be that someone liked the sound of Voldemort's flying ability in Deathly Hallows and decided to add it as a standard mode of transport for Death Eaters

"And then Harry saw him. Voldemort was flying like smoke on the wind, without broomstick or thestral to hold him, his snake-like face gleaming out of the blackness, his white fingers raising his wand again"
—Harry Potter witnesses Lord Voldemort flying unsupported

Though, in the movies, we see the effect for the first time debatably in Goblet of Fire, when the Death Eaters fly down from the Dark Mark at the graveyard scene, and otherwise in Order of the Phoenix, both of which happen before the canonical reference to Voldemort's flight, so that's unlikely.


It seems that Snape (Death Eater) can fly the same way Voldemort does, in the books. It is mentioned in Deathly Hallows.

When Harry looked up again, Snape was in full flight, McGonagall, Flitwick, and Sprout all thundering after him.


“He jumped,” said Professor McGonagall as Harry and Luna ran into the room
“You mean he’s dead?” Harry sprinted to the window [...]
“No, he’s not dead,” said McGonagall bitterly. “[...] he seems to have learned a few tricks from his master.”
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 30, The Sacking of Severus Snape, J.K Rowling

I interpret "Snape was in full flight" to be a metaphorical reference to "running away at full speed", rather than literally flying, but the rest seems to indicate that he, like Voldemort, can fly (presumably with the smoke effects described in the quote above).

These two instances seem to be the only references to this kind of transportation for Death Eaters/Voldemort, and provide no insight as to how exactly it works and allows them to cast spells mid-flight, nor is it ever implied that any other Death Eaters we see have this ability (in fact, the surprise at Voldemort's flight ability, and McGonagall's comment about Snape imply the opposite), so my answer remains reliable, valid and intact.

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That’s how the movies portray Apparition.

The company that created the smoky black trails the Death Eaters travel by in the movies called it Apparition. So yes, they’re Apparating with fancy movie effects. They’re never said to be flying, the effect is always called Apparition. As for why they’re able to cast spells while doing it and move more slowly than Apparition in the books does, that’s most likely creative liberties taken by the movie to translate the books into a more visual medium.

Syflex: Where in the film can your SyFlex work be spotted?

David: We used SyFlex in three sequences: the Graveyard, Dark Mark (ministry of magic wizard apparition), and the Portkey. There were 4 deatheater shots in the graveyard sequence and in total we created 7 deatheater digital doubles that had to be able to be seen very close up on screen. We had the task of creating the deatheater apparation effect. The Death Eaters were to arrive from the sky amongst an amorphous spear of smoke, stabbing into the ground and suddenly taking form amongst tendrils of this acrid black smoke. The black smoke needed to encircle the Death Eaters bodies, becoming the black of their swirling cloaks as they materialized.
- SyFlex in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

The reason the “good” wizards don’t do the same thing is they get an Apparition effect that’s somewhat similar to the Death Eaters’, but distinctive enough to set them apart. They also called what the Ministry wizards do Apparition, so both sides are just Apparating with different fancy movie effects.

In the Dark Mark sequence, the effect we had to create here was very similar to the deatheater apparition. These wizards were 'good' so there needed to be differences in the way the effect played out. SyFlex was used to generate cloth simulations for the wizards as they appeared. This was then used to help drive the smoke that swirls around the actors as they materialize.
- SyFlex in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

The Death Eaters’ Apparition effect was specifically designed to look sinister, so having the “good” wizards do the same thing would look a bit odd. While they’re both supposed to be Apparition, smoky black plumes would be an unusual choice for “good” wizards.

Syflex: You worked mostly on the Death Eaters... Can you tell us what were the director's requirements here?

David: The Death Eaters had to be dark and scary with a really sinister quality to their apparition effect. It needed to look like an 'amoprhous spear of smoke' stabbing into the ground, with a certain level of supernatural control to the smoke as it swirled around the materializing digital double. The director had shot plates of the deatheater actors as he imagined they would step forward out of the smoke at the end of their apparition, so we knew we could create a transition from a digital double to the real actor if we had to. The problem with this was the takeover point from one to the other - matching the exact position of a digital double to the actor at any particular point would have been very time consuming. In the end the cloth simulation and final render of the Death Eaters was so convincing that in a number of the shots we kept the digital double in the shot and left the actor out altogether.
- SyFlex in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

It’s definitely Apparition in both cases, though it looks different for each side.

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