I’ve long known that this structure would get at least one post to itself. It’s big, and so rich with detail! It’s also a weird throwback for me – the first render I did for this project was of the astronomy tower. Or at least, a simple proof of concept. Funnily enough, I never seem to have shared that render, so here it is in all its glory:
Beautiful, I know. 😉
Anyway, as you may know, the original Hogwarts featured the Defense Against the Dark Arts tower – so named by fans because a pullback in GOF implies that Moody’s office is in there. This structure moved but remained fundamentally unchanged all the way until HBP, at which point it was removed, redesigned, and reincarnated as the taller, fancier astronomy tower, which sits where the Dark Tower sat for years 3–5.
From the beginning, the books describe this tower as the castle’s tallest, located very close to the main entrance. The top has crenellated ramparts and a door to a spiral staircase. That’s about all we get. Since the tower was never featured in the first five films, its location, appearance, and even its existence weren’t established in the film canon. But all that had to change in HBP. The filmmakers needed an iconic tower from which a certain somebody could fall in the film’s climax.
As described in my recent blueprint appreciation post, we have some great elevations, sections, and plans for the final design:
It was thus tempting to just build based on these, but I decided to still assemble other references as usual. I was glad I did, because there are details visible in real life that aren’t in those drawings. I even found a few spots where they added extra windows or whatnot. Another complication is that the tower was created at 1:24 and 1:10 scales, plus (I suspect) an even larger miniature or CG asset for the nighttime shot that ascends past Ron, Lavender, and Draco. (That last version has a different design that I’ll ignore.) And then of course there was the full-scale set. I decided to aim for roughly the amount of detail on the main 1:24 miniature, while still paying attention to the others.
Anyway, I captured part of the process in this time lapse:
Or if you just want to look through some renders, enjoy these!
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m not sure about some of the details inside the quad. It’s hard to find good reference. One particularly mysterious spot has been the wall that cuts the southeast corner at a 45° angle in this old render:
But then I found this video from Plowman Craven, a company that worked on some of the films. About halfway through, there are partial CG models of the OOTP castle. The last few frames of one of the shots give a low-res view of part of that wall. It’s not much, but along with the other glimpses we have, a better sense of what that wall looks like is starting to emerge.
First of all, I’m taking this as confirmation that the big window to the marble staircase was really there – and slightly higher than where I had it. There’s also a horizontal ledge just above it, and the top of the wall descends toward the right. This actually shows up vaguely in a few other images, now that I look again. It even looks like there might be multiple levels to the flat triangular roof area.
Anyway, I still don’t have anywhere near as close a look as I’d like, but here’s my revised attempt at recreating that wall as it might have appeared in the first three films.
In GOF through HBP, it would have looked similar; the floor was just moved up and the cloister removed.
Speaking of HBP…let’s start that version of the castle! There were numerous changes in this film, but by the far the most prominent one in the final cut of the film is the new astronomy tower. Here I’m prepping the surrounding areas:
The Durham section’s central tower (toward the right) has been shortened by 24 feet so that there are only 3 rows of small windows in the middle section rather than 5. I’d imagine this was for the sake of balancing the silhouette with the new astro tower.
But that tower is going to be a project unto itself, so I think I’ll save that for the next post!
Hogwarts didn’t change much in Order of the Phoenix; I was able to knock out the major changes in no time.
GOF on the left, OOTP on the right, and you can slide to compare:
As you can see, the south side of the quad building was changed. (The poor little GOF version only lasted one film!) I suspect this was because the quad floor was raised quite a bit in (I believe) GOF. The other change noticeable from that view was the addition of spires at the corners of the clock tower courtyard, on the far left.
Here’s another comparison, with SS on the left and OOTP on the right, to show how far we’ve come in the first five films:
(The SS landscape has been hidden to make it a “fair” comparison with the OOTP version, which doesn’t have any landscape yet.)
Anyway, back to GOF vs. OOTP:
We can see here the other big changes: the steepening of the spires at the viaduct entrance, the addition of a couple new spires, and the addition of Snape’s window, in the dungeon level just to the right of the stone bridge. These tweaks were all featured in a single shot that pulls out of Snape’s office, through the window, and up into the snowy sky above Hogwarts, past the steep spires.
Otherwise, Snape’s window is pretty hard to glimpse; it’s basically out of sight at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, and there are no other exterior shots of it in the films that I can think of. So here’s a closer view of my recreation:
At close range like this, you can see that the tracery on some of the windows is pretty flat. But I only have so much time to devote to this project, and I’m already drowning in polygons.
Anywhoodle, let’s wrap up with another SS vs. OOTP comparison, showing the whole castle.
Same castle, but…not! Which is kinda the whole point of this project, I suppose, haha.
By the way, I’ve been careful with my phrasing in this post, because these are not ALL the changes in OOTP. The stone circle by the wooden bridge mysteriously disappeared (only to reappear in future films), but I haven’t built the stone circle yet so there was nothing to remove. I also may build Hogsmeade Station when I build the environment, and that got a brand-new design and location in this film.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire saw the addition of the owlery. It sits apart from the rest of Hogwarts Castle, on a steep outcropping of rock that was added atop an existing hill. Interestingly enough, this little tower never went through any changes after being added (as far as I can tell), so I’m only having to build it the one time.
Some of the details are rather tricky to work out. Kinda hard to find detailed photography of some parts of the structure. And the architecture is a little different from the rest of the castle, too – after all, it’s built for birds, not for people. It’s very…airy. Lots of complicated holes and ledges. That’s great for letting owls in and out, but it does mean the interior is more likely to be visible, so I have to pay more attention to the interior geometry than usual for this project.
Here, some of those holes are starting to take shape:
There’s not enough detail there for it to look right, though. It’s more recognizable in the next render:
The other side has a similar set of openings:
Then just a few more details bring the owlery itself to a finished state!
I say “owlery itself” because I haven’t yet built the steps leading up to the owlery. These are going to be tricky. They don’t show up in any of the blueprints I’ve seen, and good photo reference is pretty hard to find. I’ll probably have to look into whether the versions in the video games seem accurate, and maybe rely on those. Anyway, I’ll save the steps for a future post.
For today, we’ll wrap up with a couple of impossible views. Ever wondered where the owlery was in relation to the old Quidditch training grounds?
Technical drawings are the thing that made this Hogwarts project possible, full stop. I don’t remember which of these was the correct order of events:
I stumbled upon some blueprints online and thought, Wow, I could actually do a 3D model investigating the changes!
I thought, Wow, I’d really like to do a 3D model investigating the changes! and subsequently found some blueprints online.
But either way, I don’t think I ever would have started this thing without some floor plans to guide me.
For the first film, I’ve got two different scans of a single plan of the miniature. One is a high-res B&W scan; the other has much lower resolution and a tighter crop, but it’s in color. Interestingly, their perspectives don’t match, suggesting that one or both of them may have actually originated as photos, not scans. But regardless, here I’ve tried to align them together, applying the low-res color data to the high-res scan. I’ve also rotated it (to match the plans for the other films) and corrected the perspective.
I have a few observations. First of all, this is evidently the fourth revision, dated January 14th, 2001, but there were likely other revisions after this. I say that because this plan is not completely accurate. Flaws I’ve noticed:
The Great Hall balcony has the wrong shape – the corners are square and it doesn’t wrap around the north side of the structure.
The training grounds tower doesn’t indicate the circle tower where it meets the Durham courtyard structures.
The quad interior has the wrong dimensions.
The walkway along the east side of the quad exterior appears to have a single level, and the elevation is marked as (I believe) 220′. This is the same level as the adjacent stone bridge. The final design for the first film moves the walkway lower down, with the part nearest the bridge even lower still. This also calls into question the accuracy of the area north of the quad, for which I sadly have no adequate photo reference.
Still, this is an absolutely invaluable look at the original castle.
Sadly, I have no floor plans for the miniature in the second or third films. I very much appreciate Warner Bros. posting these Prisoner of Azkaban elevations at the Studio Tour in London, though:
These cover many of the main changes to the castle in that film, and they were the reason I started my project with the Azkaban castle.
Goblet of Fire is an interesting one. I do have one partial floor plan, but the whole Great Hall/boathouse area is all wrong, as is the quad interior. I suspect that one wasn’t the final revision either.
As you can see, this consists of two scans or photos overlaid on top of each other. This composite I did not do – this is how the image was posted by user “decat” at the RPF.
This drawing provides evidence for the quad cloisters still existing in POA. Presumably, they were still part of that version, and at the time this drawing was created, they simply hadn’t yet decided to raise the quad, add the new arch, remove the cloister and fountain, etc. This is also the only plan I have of the training grounds tower from the COS redesign, and of the adjacent pathway that would eventually change in HBP.
I have no drawings of the miniature from OOTP. Fortunately, not much changed, and the changes that did occur will be easy enough to replicate with help from photogrammetry measurements.
The final HBP floor plan was actually released by Warner Bros. in the book Harry Potter: Page to Screen. It’s a two-page spread, which is wonderful for being able to read all the writing, but it does put an unfortunate seam right in the middle:
Still, it’s a fabulously detailed view of a critical production document and I’m grateful for it. I’m not aware of any inaccuracies here.
The same can almost be said of the earlier version on display at the Studio Tour:
The odd tapering crop is the result of perspective correction, since the original photo was taken at an angle. Note the lack of even the small HBP training grounds tower, the dotted outline of the old DADA tower to be removed, and the more detailed plan of the new astronomy tower.
If that’s not enough for you, though, don’t worry – when it comes to the astronomy tower, MTV News has your back! (Of all sites!)
I haven’t built the astronomy tower yet as of this writing, but this drawing is going to make it a cinch.
The main DH floor plan has also been officially released, albeit with some photo overlays that obscure some of the writing:
That film’s substantial changes are on full display here. The Fantastic Beasts castle is virtually identical; if they did create any drawings for that one, I haven’t seen them.
The real danger in studying these closely is that they refer to all the countless detail drawings that have not surfaced, and likely never will. Always leaves me feeling like the proverbial mouse for whom that cookie was simply not enough.
But ultimately, there’s a real beauty in all these drawings, even if I always find myself wanting more. I’m grateful to the deeply skilled drafters who brought these to life, and to the folks who’ve made them available to us fans!
Before we get to the meat and potatoes of today’s post, here’s a comparison requested by blog reader “The Englanderish.” We’re looking at the original design of this area (left) versus the Goblet of Fire redesign (right), but with their positioning adjusted so that 2the Great Halls line up.
Anyway, let’s build off of this previous post with interior photogrammetry for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey! The Hollywood version, that is. Here’s the single rider queue snaking up to the second floor to rejoin the main queue in the (roughly sized/positioned) Gryffindor common room:
As I’ve described in the past, this photogrammetry is just a tool to provide me with dimensions and layout for areas where I don’t have sufficient technical drawings. I’ve never seen any blueprints of this ride’s queue. So no matter how fragmentary these automatically generated models may be, they’ll be invaluable when I try to actually model everything.
Here’s the start of the Express Pass queue:
This room feels reminiscent of the Chamber of Reception. Not a bad way to make up for skipping the first part of the normal queue. Some of the talking portraits are also duplicated here, in order to provide a similar experience for riders with Express Pass.
The Express Pass queue ends up next to the main queue in Dumbledore’s office. From there they continue into the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom and proceed toward the Gryffindor common room:
I know it’s confusing to look at. Here’s a mildly helpful plan view of the second floor (first floor, for you Brits) so far:
Still more work to do, but I thought it’d be fun to share my progress.
I’m back! I’ve been way too busy to put much time into Hogwarts, but I’ve been able to sneak in enough moments here and there to have an update for today.
Big staircases with lots of landings and odd angles aren’t necessarily super fun for me, but they’ve gotta be done. The GOF version of the boathouse stairs kept the same look as the original, but they were all reconfigured so they could meet up with the viaduct courtyard. They only changed once more, in DH, when the viaduct courtyard and boathouse both changed.
I started cannibalizing bits and pieces of my original build to create the GOF version, working from the bottom up:
At this point, it was just about getting the pieces in place. I knew I’d fix all the spots where they intersect once I had the overall setup right.
As I finished arranging the different flights and landings, I was surprised to discover that the steps were vertically overshooting the viaduct courtyard by a significant margin. On the left is the too-tall version; on the right is the same thing after squashing the whole thing down a bit:
Then it was just a matter of clipping off all the extra bits so the pieces actually fit together neatly – the most tedious step of them all – and adding the flambeaux that light the way. Here are the complete GOF steps on the right, compared to their predecessors on the left:
We’ll wrap up for today with an interesting plan view of the GOF castle, with the original boathouse steps superimposed as well:
The next additions to the Goblet of Fire castle were the “pepperpot” and the foundations of the viaduct courtyard:
I like that angle!
Next, I moved back around the backside of the Great Hall to begin adding the quad building. The south wall was changed in GOF – a new archway acts as another entry into the quad itself.
Speaking of the quad interior, check out this POA/GOF before-and-after:
I should reiterate that some parts of this are a little speculative…I don’t know for sure that the lower floor, the cloisters, and the fountain were still there in POA. But the best evidence seems to point toward that being the case. And as a reminder, the balustrade toward the bottom left in the POA version is pretty speculative too. And of course, if you’ve played the video games a lot, the lack of cloisters on the right might look pretty weird, but as far as I can tell they never came back after POA.
I’m starting to notice an interesting shift in myself. I’ve tended to think of myself as having an especially big soft spot for the first few castle designs. But as I move the virtual camera around my growing model of the GOF castle, I’m appreciating its aesthetic more and more. It holds up really well from a lot of angles. They did a really good job of choosing camera angles that flatter the earlier castle designs, obscuring some of the clunkier elements. But the GOF castle doesn’t really have many bad angles to begin with.
Anyway, here you can see me preparing to add the viaduct:
And now with the viaduct in place:
It may seem like that would be a simple matter of dropping in the existing viaduct, but it actually took some effort. The switch from the Chamber of Reception to the courtyard causes the whole viaduct to swivel a little, and I had to compress it a bit to fit the new angle. I wonder if the original modelmakers had to rebuild the whole viaduct from scratch or if they were able to squeeze the original viaduct into that space somehow?
Anyway, my next move was to drop in a whole bunch of stuff from the POA model that didn’t change for GOF, creating a much more complete castle:
As part of those efforts, I also finally added a missing detail at the base of the Dark Tower – a little entry stairwell that’s hard to find shots of. Here’s my best attempt at bringing it to life, based on the available information:
The main elements the GOF castle still needs are the owlery, the boathouse steps, and the terrain. Saving those for a future post!