Starting the Training Grounds Tower

Holy crap! I can’t believe we’ve arrived at the final major tower of Hogwarts! I’ve been eager and afraid to tackle it because of its complex geometry and the limited reference available. Let’s jump in!

The training grounds tower was added to the original castle out of sheer necessity. Alnwick Castle was used as a major filming location so they needed it to be present in the miniature. Stuart Craig’s team tweaked its footprint a bit and built it up into a much taller complex of towers; the bottom floors just looked like Alnwick while the upper floors took their stylistic cues from the original castle’s other conical turrets. Evidently Mr. Craig didn’t like the vertical extensions, because they were totally redone for the second film in a style that slightly foreshadowed the more Gothic look that would take over in the third film. (Interestingly, some COS shots still feature the SS version.) That revision stuck around till Half-Blood Prince, when it was replaced with a single tower echoing the bell towers’ design.

Since I’m working on the Azkaban castle right now, it’s that second iteration of the tower that I’m focusing on. And “focus” is indeed the right word, because I’ve spent a lot of time just staring at reference images and…thinking. Trying to piece it all together. Eventually, I started working on the facade toward the right:

This is the project’s first render with the OptiX denoiser, which wasn’t compatible with my GPU till Blender 2.90. Denoising is critical with path tracers like the Cycles render engine, where speeding up the render introduces more noise. I was using Open Image Denoise before, but OptiX is faster and it’s retaining more detail, so I’m pretty stoked!

Anyway, training grounds tower. It’s proving as challenging as I feared/hoped it would be. The modeling itself is not particularly difficult, but the paucity of high-quality reference images makes it difficult to piece together all the details, especially since I want to get the scale right.

I’m keeping an eye on the original version too, since the lower section is identical and I want to make sure I can reuse it without any issues.

In a twist that will shock precisely zero longtime readers, I’m finding lots of small discrepancies between shots of miniatures, location shoots at Alnwick Castle, CG long shots, etc. As usual, I’m striving for something of a happy medium, but weighted toward the main 1/24th-scale miniature.

There’s still a lot more to do on this structure, but it’s been 10 days since I last shared my progress and I think I’ll save further progress for my next post.

11 thoughts on “Starting the Training Grounds Tower

  1. Loving the start of this tower, it’s so complex and fun
    I was wondering where you find reference images to the miniature(s) because try as I might, I can’t find any!
    Thanks

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    1. My main tools are Google and the films themselves. It’s just a lot of very persistent searching, and then saving anything that could ever be useful in the future. Unfortunately, images of this part of the castle are indeed hard to find – it’s not just you, haha. There are parts where I won’t be able to get as detailed as I’d like because I simply can’t find any reference.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll try to remember to share if I come across anything truly Earth-shattering…the trouble is that I’m constantly searching for more, and oftentimes an image doesn’t seem all that special until I realize it’s the only one in my collection that documents a certain feature. It’s kind of hard to know what’s worth sharing.

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  2. It’s so beautiful! And it’s giving me flashbacks fo trying to find references myself for the map I’ve been tinkering on. Can’t wait for the before/after comparison of the 1st/2nd iterations of the tower.

    Also! Now that the new Hogwarts Legacy game has been announced, do you plan to one day add in that model to your versions? It looks to be mostly based on the film 6 model with some creative changes of its own.

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      1. It’s an interesting design, mostly based on the HBP version of the castle, but with its own creative twists like redesigning the Herbology greenhouses and somehow fitting in the old 1-3) entrance hall while keeping the courtyard that replaced it and updating it to suits its needs.

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    1. Ohh yes! The Hogwarts Legacy redesign looks stunning! I usually don’t like modifications that change the style of the castle’s overall architecture, but they did a great job finding a way to respect the earlier castle designs – but also to adding some “creative twists” as you call it ;). I’m looking forward to explore this new Hogwarts in game!

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  3. Hi Joe,
    Love you work, I’m currently working on a model replica of the castle. I’m mostly basing it on HBP, but I really like the training grounds tower from PS. I’ve looked at all your posts and all the comment sections to try and get as many reference pictures of the tower as possible, plus scouring the internet. It looks like you have more than I could find, is there any chance you could email me some ?

    Like

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