The Domed Conservatory

I’ve been looking forward to this one! When the greenhouses went in for Chamber of Secrets, the small building forming the entrance to that courtyard was replaced with a larger and more ornate conservatory with a dome and cupola. It’s a neat structure, but my biggest reason for being excited is that there are blueprints at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour…and these provide lots of detail on the interior, which is hard to glimpse from the exterior of the model. The upshot is that today’s post concludes with the first (to my knowledge) views of the conservatory interior on the internet!

How’d I get there? Well, I decided to start from the inside; it’s easier that way, plus it allows interesting views that won’t be possible once the structure is enclosed. There’s an octagonal arrangement of planters and columns:

Texturing the interior is an interesting challenge. I don’t want to spend that long on it, since it’ll barely be visible from the outside. It’s also hard to find good texture reference precisely because it’s barely visible from the outside – and for the same reason, they probably didn’t go super realistic in terms of all the finishes anyway. (From what little we can see at the Studio Tour, it looks like the inside may have become understandably dusty, which further complicates things. I also don’t know what they were going for with the weird gold paint job on the planters.)

As I pondered this, I continued with the modeling. Next up was the spiral staircase up to the balcony level. An apparent inconsistency in the technical drawings gave me a moment of trouble with the number of risers, but I’m pretty sure my interpretation is the correct one. With a little sleuthing, I learned that this spiral staircase was based on a 1:25 scale set sold by E.M.A. Model Supplies in London. In fact, the specific product (ST-7304) is listed for sale on their website to this day. Here’s the product image:

They then added the cage and banister. Here’s my version with most of the staircase modeling done:

Finishing the staircase and moving on to the balcony above:

Unless you’re pretty short, you’ll want to watch your head as you ascend the spiral staircase. There’s a spot near the top with less than five feet of vertical clearance.

It looks like the foliage in the conservatory is mostly palm trees and the like; I tweaked some assets from CGTrader. These obviously won’t be an exact match to the ones inside the miniature, but they get the job done.

Time to start enclosing the thing:

The next section up has more dragons. I’d planned on simply using the exact same asset from the greenhouses…but I should have done my research first. Turns out the ones on the conservatory are a little different in shape/size. So I went back and roughly rigged the dragon so I could pose it a little differently for the conservatory. It’s not a perfect match to the pose, sadly, but it wouldn’t be worth it to do a whole ‘nother sculpt.

Then it was just a matter of adding the dome…

The only thing left was the cupola on top. But as I was about to start that, I randomly started noticing some issues with the castle’s overall coloration. The color has always been a tricky thing due to the various changes in the paint job, the lighting, and the color grading over time. But I’ve gradually found more and more unprocessed shots of the castle in relatively neutral white lighting, and comparing those to my renders, I decided my castle needed to be a little more yellow and a little less red. It’s surprisingly tough to get the right balance, so I’ll likely go back and continue to tweak the colors at some point. But for now, I think this brings us still closer to a convincing reproduction of the castle:

Anyway, let’s finish the conservatory!

Not half bad! But of course, the real fun is putting the camera inside, where – again, to my knowledge – no Potter fan has gone before! It’s a relatively tight interior space, so we’ll use a fisheye lens:

And here’s a shot from the balcony level:

You saw it here first, folks! (And if you didn’t…well, let me know where you did see it first, because I’d love to see more views inside the conservatory!)

I think my next steps will be to finish the last bit of the curtain wall surrounding the greenhouses and then finish up all the footpaths and lawns. See you soon!

15 thoughts on “The Domed Conservatory

  1. Oh god… I never thought there was supposed to be something in the conservatory! This is absolutely beautiful, I loooove it, thanks for sharing 🙂

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  2. I’m afraid I’ve seen the interior of the conservatory before in my minecraft build, but yours is considerably less blocky.
    I’m honestly not a huge fan of your palm trees, but the rest of the build looks absolutely stunning.

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  3. Looks great! My own re-creation was surprisingly accurate to that, except for the palm trees which I had just presumed to be normal trees. I wonder how they keep the dust off the rest of the build now that you mentioned it gathering in that spot in the miniature. I was also wondering if you plan on making the Stone circle and the path that connects Hagrid’s hut to the rest of the castle?
    Great work

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    1. Nice! Yeah I’m not sure how they handle dust. They must have some process in place.

      The stone circle and steps will definitely be part of the model once I’ve added terrain. I haven’t decided yet whether Hagrid’s hut itself will be included, but I’m thinking it’s likely.

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      1. Ahh, sounds like a plan.
        I suppose I’d just issue a word of warning, (don’t take my word 100% but this is my impression from what I’ve seen) – that particular area is riddled with inconsistencies. This is mainly due to most of the scenes being filmed on location in the highlands along with model shots (and/or CG altercations). They can be relatively small details, for example, the trees around entrance to the wooden bridge right next to the stone circle on location make no sense with the miniature (they go behind and beyond the entrance where the massive valley should be), and directly contradict other parts of the film. There’s a lovely shot (where Hermione is making fun of Divination as a subject) just before their Buckbeak lesson where they’re making their way down the steps and you have an unimpeded view of the clocktower and that side of the castle. However, later in the film (particularly the great shots around the ‘execution’ sequence there is a fairly dense collection of trees which cannot exist given the view earlier. Of course, the most likely explanation is simply that the previous shot had a heavy CG makeover to make it look all cinematic, but forgot they removed the trees that are seen on location that are still present later in the film.
        Other than minor details, I have a sneaking suspicion that the steps down to the hut go off the Stone Circle at a different angle to how it’s depicted in most Castle blueprints I’ve seen (Admittedly I’ve only been able to get my hands on HBP Castle blueprints, though). Whether this is simply a change or an inconsistency with the location as seen in POA, I’m unsure.
        Sorry that was so extensive! I thought that since I’ve already looked into that section of the Castle I could at least be of some use to somebody else

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    2. You’re definitely not crazy, there are a lot of inconsistencies in that area. (The stone circle even vanishes altogether in a shot in Order of the Phoenix!) The mix of real locations, sets, digital matte paintings, CG, and miniatures makes for quite a mishmash, so any attempt to reconstruct that area has to either emulate just one particular variation or aim for a compromise. That’s true of virtually all the terrain beyond the main 1:24 miniature, as far as I can tell.

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  4. Amazing work! Really interesting to see the parts up close that we couldn’t visit during the movies 😀 By the way, are there any pics or plans from this area before the greenhouses went in for the second film? I couldn’t catch any views in the movie.

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  5. Well this was an unexpectedly awesome surprise 😀 I’ll be honest, I never thought we’d actually see the inside of that conservatory! Those fisheye shots may just be some of the coolest renders you’ve ever posted on this blog… which is saying something, haha. One more unsolved Hogwarts mystery ticked off the list thanks to this project!

    I think my personal fondness for this structure probably stems from it being chosen as the starting point for the POA end credits; at least, I’m pretty sure that’s what they were referencing. Awesome job with the dome, by the way (I love how it goes on in the space of a single render, like it was no big thing). And that’s some incredible detective work tracking down the model kit – how did you manage that? I’ve gotta know. 😉

    Oh, also, a question I’ve been meaning to ask! I know the Whomping Willow moves around a bit between films, especially Chamber and Azkaban – and I was wondering if, as the expert, you could throw any light on the place it finally ended up? As far as I know it’s not on the miniature at any stage, which is a shame; what would really helpful is knowing where it is in relation to everything else on the HBP top-down miniature blueprint…

    I have a feeling it may just be an undetermined number of steps down from the stone circle, haha, but also figured if anyone would know more precisely, it’d be you. 😉 Can’t wait to see the next update!

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    1. The model kit is actually referenced in the blueprints visible in the Warner Bros. Studio Tour. I had a hard time reading it, but eventually I realized it says “stock E.M.A. spiral staircase ST-7304; add handrail & vertical bars”. From there, it was just a matter of Googling around a bit.

      The Whomping Willow actually was included in the miniature for COS, though I don’t know if that miniature version of the tree made it into any shots in the film. I think probably not. Its location in POA is a little less definite, unfortunately, since that location was never built in the miniature. The backgrounds in the shots of the willow were digital matte paintings and cycloramas, so they didn’t even digitally construct an exact location in 3D space in relation to the castle.

      All that being said…I’ll tackle the landscape once the castle itself is complete, and at that point, I’ll certainly try to visually match up the camera angle relative to the castle and designate a location for the willow. I may even get ambitious and try to sculpt the tree itself!

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