Clock Tower Progress & Courtyard Photogrammetry

Let’s continue with the Prisoner of Azkaban clock tower! I created the columns and elaborate moulding below the clock. As you can see in this “work in progress” render, everything was still separate from the building at this point:

But as these areas became more complete, I began placing them correctly along the building. I also discovered some issues with how I’d built the facade last year, so I decided to simply redo some of it altogether. Below, you can see some of the old walls removed for replacement as I maneuvered the new elements into position:

I resisted the urge to simplify some of these details, and I’m glad I did. The results were worth it the effort! This has become one of the most detailed areas of the model so far, mostly because the original design has a lot of details, but also because the available reference material is so good. Maybe it’s a good thing I don’t have detail drawings for most of the castle…everything would take so much longer if I could get this precise with everything:

Fun fact, by the way: see that arch at the bottom of the last render? In the miniature, it’s just got open air behind it, but they created a full-sized set for a shot in Order of the Phoenix, and in that version, it’s actually a balcony. (Umbridge and Filch are standing up there.) They don’t appear to have changed the miniature; I’m going to leave the balcony out.

Moving downward, we arrive at this lovely Gothic pediment that frames the entryway. No technical drawings for this one, so I had to just rely on as many reference images as I could find. Shots of this spot on the miniature are virtually impossible to get in the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, so most of my references are actually from the corresponding set, and some of the details can vary between the sets and the miniatures. Anyway, the modeling process looked much like building the arches above, so I won’t bore you with too many in-progress shots:

I also discovered how good Blender’s denoising has gotten, which means I can drastically speed up my renders. My poor machine only chugged for 15 minutes or so on these images, rather than an hour or more.

Anyway, as I got to the very bottom of the tower, where it meets the courtyard, I started feeling the need for more data. So I went on another photogrammetry spree, trying to create meshes from every possible shot of the courtyard/clock tower set in the film. (There are a lot of them!) Accuracy and precision are very important to me with this project – partly just so I know I’m getting something close to the “real thing”, and partly because I know from past experience that small errors have a way accumulating. You estimate the height of object B on object A, and then you estimate the height of object C on object B, etc., and before you know it, lots of small inaccuracies begin to add up…and sooner or later, those will clash noticeably with other estimations elsewhere on the model.

I’d like to avoid that, which is why I ended up with over a dozen photogrammetry meshes (with different lighting and even different seasons) thrown together to get a more complete picture of the courtyard!

Ugly, yes, but very helpful as I prepare to complete the clock tower and start on the courtyard.

P.S. Don’t let me forget to finish the hospital wing.

P.P.S. Happy belated Mother’s Day!

10 thoughts on “Clock Tower Progress & Courtyard Photogrammetry

  1. That is some beautiful stone moulding, wow. So happy there’s copious reference available for at least this part of the miniature; it’s got to be one of my favourite parts of the castle, probably because the VFX team did such a great job integrating it with the full-scale set and really making us believe that the Clock Tower existed for real. (You gotta love those big swooping crane shots through the mechanism.)

    By the way, I really should have mentioned – I’m in the UK, and have been to the Studio Tour a few times now! Obviously the current situation makes tourism a bit difficult, but if there are any parts of the miniature you just wish someone had zoomed in on, or any blueprints you’d like a clearer shot of, I’d love to help out if I can once this is all over. =)

    Absolutely can’t wait to see what you do with the courtyard, by the way, and that gorgeous ruined fountain. Love getting those new post notifications from this blog; please keep it up!

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    1. Thank you kindly! I was really, really pleased when the moulding all worked out. It really is gorgeous in the film, with the seamless integration of multiple miniatures and full-scale sets…it’s been fun to collect all the reference.

      Regarding the Studio Tour, that’s very, very kind of you to offer! I unfortunately haven’t been yet – I’m located in the States – but I’m sure I’ll take you up on that offer once the current pandemic situation eases up a bit! I’ve spent many long hours scouring the internet for harder-to-find photos of the exhibits there, so that could be a big help!

      Stay tuned – more to come! I even have a little Hogwarts-related side project that I’ve been working on, too, and once that gets to a more finished state, I plan to post about it as well. 😉

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  2. You probably already have these but: From what I’ve seen, the pedimented arch is the same element used in the new entrance courtyard built for Goblet of Fire. Nic Henderson has detailed architectural drawings of that element that he made for Deathly Hallows, and based on the reference shots it is unchanged from the 4th-6th films.
    https://nichenderson.wordpress.com/2015/01/26/film-harry-potter-the-deathly-hallows-parts-1-2-london-uk-2008-2010/#jp-carousel-157
    https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/harrypotter/images/0/09/Ctc.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20100211191425

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    1. Thanks, Pete! That’s a great catch. I admit I hadn’t thought to use that elevation, a connection I’m embarrassed to have missed! The only thing that makes me a little leery is that they did alter both the size of the courtyard as a whole and the number of steps leading up to the entryway for Deathly Hallows. But I’ll have to line it up with what I’ve built and see how I’m doing. I doubly appreciate the reminder because some of the DH drawings may provide really useful reference for the courtyard, too!

      That overhead set photo is one I hadn’t seen before! You wouldn’t happen to know the story behind it, would you? It’s terrific reference in any case…thank you for sharing it!

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      1. I think it’s from the end of Azkaban when Harry opens his broom for the first time but I could be wrong. Maybe it’s just a shot set. I’ve only seen it from googling images of the courtyard. I understand your hesitation about the scale of the courtyard. I’m creating vector elevations and plans of the castle and from what I’ve seen, the arch is identical in scale but you could build it according to the DH elevations and scale it to fit into the model you already have, assuming it works the same way Adobe vector software works. The proportions, at any rate, are the same. But I was using blueprints from the sixth film published in one of the offshoot art books so my scale may be a little off I’m that respect.

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    2. Those insights into the marble staircase tower are fascinating on that first link, makes total sense that they’d need basic CG interiors for the parts of the castle that need to be damaged to look like they house something. Do you know where one might find any more of the inside from the DHP2 CGI?
      Thanks

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    1. Definitely! The mishmash of influences (especially from the various cathedrals) gives it a really interesting feel. I think part of it is the subtle contrast between spaces that were shot at existing locations and spaces that were designed as sets and/or miniatures.

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