South Wing Odds ‘n’ Ends

As we’ve seen, POA featured some significant additions to the castle’s architecture, many of which were anchored by the new clock tower in the southwest corner. The last remaining piece of this section was the small gatehouse at the end of the wooden bridge. This came together easily; the only real question was how big to make the torch, since its size (relative to the building) differs significantly between the miniature and the full-sized set built at Glencoe. I ended up using the same scale as some of the castle’s other torches, which resulted in me kinda splitting the difference between the two sizes.

Believe it or not, that brings the POA additions to something of a complete state!

The south wing as a whole is still not complete, since I haven’t touched the quad interior due to scarcity of reference material. I also still need to add the walkway that connects the Chamber of Reception to the quad, but I’m holding off for the same reason.

Knowing this, I decided it was just about time to turn my attention to the castle’s north wing, much of which is derived from Durham Cathedral and Alnwick Castle. There were just a few odds ‘n’ ends to finish up first, like the fleur-de-lis pattern at the back of the Great Hall (bottom right):

Another miscellaneous item was the tree in the clock tower courtyard where Buckbeak’s executioner sits to sharpen his blade. It was fun creating its forking, branching paths by hand, following what we see in the film for the trunk and larger branches, then just going crazy with the smaller branches. I allowed Blender’s Skin modifier to bulk it all out into a basic three-dimensional form:

Whoops…I realized I’d forgotten to add the steps leading up from the courtyard to the wooden bridge. I added those, sculpted a bit more detail into the tree trunk, and used a particle system to add some leaves.

Next came ivy to help the courtyard feel a little more overgrown and wild:

I also spent some time grappling with Blender’s Mantaflow fluid simulation engine, trying to get convincing smoke to furl from the castle’s chimneys. It took the better part of a day for me to figure out that my baking errors stemmed from an apostrophe in the cache folder path (a folder descriptively named “Joe’s Stuff”). With that finally resolved, I was able to get some smoke in there:

After all the frustration, I really like how it turned out! I think that’s a nice note upon which to end the work on the south wing, at least till I can find more reference for the POA-era quad. Next we turn to the north wing, starting with the Durham section!

7 thoughts on “South Wing Odds ‘n’ Ends

  1. I love how you titled this one ‘Odds’n’Ends’… =’) as if you were just tweaking a few turrets and pillars, not finishing the entire south wing of Hogwarts Castle! The gatehouse looks absolutely perfect, and I think the scale of the torch is bang-on – as always, you did a hell of a job with all the details. Can’t believe how quickly it’s all come together!

    Also, you gotta love how these renders just look effortlessly beautiful from all angles – you’ve got such a great HDRI and sunlight setup going on, and it’s so much fun to see the castle from all these unexplored perches. Those guys who’ve got you working on their fan-film are a lucky bunch.

    Speaking of which, that smoke is seriously stunning! It just looks photo-real, and adds such life to the chimneys; I’m reminded of a Quixel breakdown I saw this week, where the artist talks about the importance of selectively adding movement to shots to draw the eye and highlight areas of the scene. (It’s a lovely video; I’ll drop a link in case you’re interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsl0R7MaeZI)

    Also, the Executioner’s Tree looks phenomenal; that sculpting on the trunk really brings it to life. (Again with my jealousy over how seamlessly you’re able to dart between organic and hard-surface!) And, you know, perhaps at this point I shouldn’t be surprised that you’re able to create such convincing ivy so easily, but it’s impressive as hell all the same. All those little details – from the grass to the tree to the ivy to the smoke curling up from the chimneys – that’s what really sells these shots as immersive, I reckon. Makes me itch to go and explore this environment for real.

    …and with that said, you know what’s coming, haha. I can only imagine how much of a pain in the arse it’d be to split out the Azkaban section, bake all the textures and upload it to SketchFab… so if you’d rather not I completely understand. But it would be so awesome to get to fly around that ruined courtyard for real, not to mention over the bridge and up to the clock face! (I just really, really want to check out all the little details on the roofs and the gargoyles and the fountain and the bridge… well, yeah, all of it, basically.)

    I know filesize limitations can also be a total pain on SketchFab, though – the free plan is, what, 50MB? So if it’d make things any easier I’d very much like to contribute the £25 that Pro costs for a month to kick that up to 200MB. (I mean, I bet the .blend would still be bigger than that, but at least you wouldn’t have to fight the limit quite so hard.) My email’s greg.c311@gmail.com, if you wanna send me a PayPal link or something. =) Figure it’s the least I can do after pestering you this much, haha.

    …or hey, if you’d rather just crack on with the North Wing, that would be just as awesome to see! Can’t wait for the next post, either way; this is easily my favourite blog on the internet. Keep on keepin’ on! =D

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    1. I appreciate your kind words, as always! I will say, for the ivy, it was actually pretty easy – Blender comes with an IvyGen add-on that will “grow” realistic ivy shapes on your model. I did have to experiment with the settings, but once I got them where I wanted it, the hardest thing was just getting my computer to keep up with this increasingly complex file. (I caved and doubled my RAM yesterday…waiting for it to arrive, hoping it’ll help the performance!) For the branches of the ivy, I used the exact same material I’d created for the tree trunk, and then the leaves were based off a free image download from textures.com.

      I’ll tell you what – let me experiment a little and see if I can get a version of the model into the 200MB range. No sense in you paying for it if I can’t deliver, haha. I’ll let you know how it goes! I should warn you that I’ll probably have to omit the textures, though, and probably some of the smaller details.

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    2. All right, so the good news is that I was able to cut the file size down by two-thirds…the bad news is that it’s still over 1.3 GB, even stripped of all textures, particle systems, and unused data. =( Sorry man, I really do wish I could make this happen for you but the model is just too complex.

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      1. Ah, hey, no worries, man – thanks so much anyway, I really appreciate the effort! Getting to see the development of the build through all these posts is awesome regardless; I was just being greedy. 😉 Really looking forward to seeing you get to work on the Durham section, by the way – that’s one of my favourite parts of the castle, in no small part because of how cheekily it was lifted straight from the source building. (Sometimes I wonder what the in-universe explanation is for why Durham Cathedral and the north wing of Hogwarts look so strikingly similar… eh, maybe the architect was a wizard and Durham was his test run. Who knows.)

        Also, hope you get a chance to finish up that Grand Staircase interior at some point! I’d love to see the animation of those stairs swinging around – ooh, and a size comparison with the Turris Magnus if that’s still on the cards. Can’t wait to see what you post next!

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  2. It’s so funny you mention the grand staircase – that’s what I was working on literally just this morning! I’m hoping my next post will finally revisit it because yes, there’s still a lot to explore there!

    I really like the Durham section too. I tend to think of it much like anytime a real-world location stands in for a fictional one…like, Durham just kinda doesn’t exist in the Potterverse, just like Daniel Radcliffe doesn’t exist there.

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  3. I noticed that the windows on the roof of the clocktower have a different alignment on each side, your model uses the right-hand side and then mirrors this arrangement for the left-hand side, which annoyingly isn’t how the film model is arranged.

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