The Prisoner of Azkaban Clock

Time travel plays a critical role in the climax of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, so Alfonso Cuarón decided to have some fun with elaborate shots that literally move right through a giant clock. Only one problem – the Hogwarts we’d seen in the first two films didn’t have any noteworthy clocks. So production designer Stuart Craig and his team created a new wing of the castle that comprised a crumbling courtyard, a rickety wooden bridge leading toward a new location for Hagrid’s hut, a new hospital wing, and…yes, an enormous clock tower.

These areas were realized as part of the main 1:24 scale Hogwarts miniature, as larger bespoke miniatures, and as partial physical sets. All of these were combined with visual effects to heavily feature this new area of the castle throughout the film, which is probably why this was the only film that really stood out to me in theaters as having redesigned parts of Hogwarts.

When we last saw the clock tower in my model, it looked a little something like this:

(Render from this post.)

Not exactly the most detailed model in the world. I’m not really sure why I stopped working on it, but no matter. It’s about time I finished it up. (Get it? About time?)

Anyway, for today we focus on…well, how we got to this:

That’s right, today we’re covering the clock face itself. This is the part for which I have the most detailed technical drawings, thanks to various photographers who’ve documented their adventures at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour.

The clock actually has two faces, forming a pair of intersecting circular patterns. I started by building each one independently, not worrying about the intersections or textures:

The clock face is separate from the tower for now; it will later be moved into position.

Then came the hardest part by far: cutting out the intersecting areas of the moulding around the circles. I’m not aware of a particularly quick or easy way to do this in Blender, but the TinyCAD add-on did remove some of the hassle. Still, I had to step away from the mess repeatedly. Here’s what it looked like during the process.

Eventually it all worked out, with fairly minimal “cheating” of the geometry. I went to bed haunted by visions of intersecting circles. (Not even kidding!) But it was gratifying to see the results:

I next decided it was time to add some textures – not so much because I cared what it looked like at this juncture, but because the different textures would help me visually distinguish between different components as I worked:

The clock face moves a little closer to the tower, in part to help me gauge the transparency of the glass material.

I wasn’t too sure how detailed I wanted to get when I first started the clock, but as I went, I became interested in greater and greater levels of detail. Soon, the complicated hands on the main face came together. (I stuck with the same time the clock shows in the beautiful transition to winter in the film, though I’m having some trouble figuring out exactly which hand is which…) EDIT: Just learned that this is an astronomical clock, and the extra elements aren’t just decorative! I think the smaller dial is for seconds, but they also had the minute hand move like a second hand in the film, probably to make the passage of time more visible. This also means I slightly fudged a few of the details…but oh well.

It’s worth mentioning that when it comes to the clock, the two differently-scaled miniatures and the full-scale practical element do have slight differences between them. Generally speaking, I’ve skewed toward the specific details seen in the larger miniature and the full-size version, but the level of detail is closer to the main 1:24 scale miniature. In other words, it’s missing the smallest bolts and grooves…this model isn’t intended to be examined SUPER up-close.

That brings us to the complete clock we saw earlier in the post. In addition to completing both faces, I added some basic gears back behind there; they probably won’t be visible 99% of the time, but perhaps they’ll give some visual hint of the inner workings we see in the film.

I’m not quite satisfied with the copper material, so I may go back and make some improvements at some point. But for now, I think the next step will be to build all the other detail on the front facade of the clock tower. There’s a lot – easily enough to fill up the next post. Be sure to follow for more updates!


14 thoughts on “The Prisoner of Azkaban Clock

  1. Holy wow that is something else. (You did this in what, 2-3 days? Just wow.) I love the glimpses behind the scenes we’re getting with the progress shots, too; it’s like we’re really getting to watch the Clock Tower take shape as it’s built back in 2003!

    I cannot believe how good you are when it comes to reproducing the tiniest detailing of the castle, as well as the huge silhouettes, by the way… it’s massively inspiring and cool. (Those gears, man. Nicely done.)

    …Also, I totally understand if it’d take too long, but I’d absolutely love to go for a proper fly around the castle again in 3D! Any chance you might post this iteration of Hogwarts up on Sketchfab for us to check out all the new nooks and crannies? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Aww, hey, no worries – thanks so much for trying anyway! (As I type this, it occurs to me that maybe you could get around the limit by deleting everything but the Clock Tower, say, and uploading different areas of the castle as standalone sections… but, no, I’m being selfish and don’t want to distract you any more from the work of continuing to build up the castle, haha.) Anyway, can’t wait to see the next couple of posts!

        I’m not surprised the .blend’s getting bigger, by the way – just how weighty is it at present? =)

        Liked by 1 person

    1. The main .blend file is currently sitting at about 1.3 GB. I forget exactly how small I was able to get it when I stripped out all the textures and reference images and photogrammetry and stuff – I deleted that file when I realized it was nowhere near an uploadable size either, haha.

      Is the clock tower the part of the castle you’re most interested in exploring in Sketchfab? I don’t know that I necessarily have time to split up and post every section of the castle, but I’d be happy to try it with one or two!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s really really generous of you, thanks! =D I would love to explore the Clock Tower, yeah – but only if you have time and it’s not too much of a hassle stripping stuff out.

        That and the Great Hall / Turris Magnus are probably my favourite bits of the castle – the latter because they’re so iconic, the first because they’re so idiosyncratic. I think I just really dig the theme, the courtyard and the way it seamlessly connects into that rickety old bridge… which I can’t wait to see your recreation of, by the way!

        How’s the reference situation for the PoA version of the bridge? =) I know they lengthened it in DH, but I have a lot of affection for the original version. Less epic, but more intimate, I reckon. (Although it was a ton of fun getting to see it blow up.)

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Tell you what – once I finish the clock tower, I’ll try to set it up on Sketchfab. I’m hoping I might be able to finish it in the next few days? Hard to predict exactly.

      I haven’t started really digging into the wooden bridge just yet, but with photogrammetry of the model and the set combined with a little bit in the way of technical drawings, I think I’ll be okay. The toughest part will be figuring out how to get it to deform correctly…I’m not sure yet whether I’ll build it in a “straightened out” state first or just build it twisted from the start. Fortunately, the courtyard will still take quite a while, so I’ve got time to mull it over. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is fantastic, it’s really something else to see the sheer amount of detail that’s gone into the clock-face and cogs behind it. We’re pondering something with our project too, I was wondering if you might provide any illumination?
    Essentially, the arched passage leading to the Quad from the front of the castle seems as if it has windows/doors inside of it. This is a crude picture (hope you can see it and ignore the red circles), but take a look:
    I’m fairly confident that they don’t change throughout the films, so my thinking was that it might also be of relevance to your project too. Can’t pick out what they are, if you have any information that’d be greatly appreciated!
    Thanks, and great progress!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great! That helps things a lot, in general it’s been a nightmare to find sources for Quad pictures, and the walls surrounding it…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love your Blog!! Please make nore of it, and don’t pause for a year like you did before.😊👍

    Hogwarts 4D schrieb am So., 3. Mai 2020, 00:54:

    > Joe Cardello posted: ” Time travel plays a critical role in the climax of > Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, so Alfonso Cuarón decided to have > some fun with elaborate shots that literally move right through a giant > clock. Only one problem – the Hogwarts we’d seen in the” >

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha I’ll try not to…unfortunately, I’ve always been prone to jumping around between hobbies, so I can’t make any promises! The good news is that I have not one, but two new posts in the works!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Fun fact: since this is supposed to be an astronomical clock, there should be 24 hours around it, not 12. And it shows something like September during the winter scene. It’s an interesting little inaccuracy. 😀


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