COS-OOTP Training Grounds Tower, Cont’d

Whew, sorry for the long delay…the months of sitting at my home desk have taken their toll on my arms, and I’ve had to significantly limit my computer use. This will be a shorter post as a result. I’m starting physical therapy soon…if you’re feeling particularly generous and you want to help support my recovery, my Venmo handle is @Joe-Cardello, for what it’s worth. 🙂

Anyway, let’s continue with the version of the training grounds tower that was seen throughout the middle of the Potter series, including Prisoner of Azkaban. As we work our way around to the west facade, my reference material becomes even scarcer, but I’ve got just enough to piece it together in a reasonably accurate way. I started with plain walls, deciding to add the windows and so forth later:

Here’s a view from overhead once I’d roughed in the main shape of the building. At this point, I wasn’t worried too much about cleaning up the intersections between walls and objects…I just wanted to make sure the layout made sense three-dimensionally:

You can see just a bit of the tiny courtyard in the middle. That’s one area for which I truly have zero reference (other than the basic floor plan). It roughly corresponds to the cobbled inner courtyard at Alnwick Castle, which was actually used in the location shoots for the first film, but the version in the miniature is much smaller and it has a different shape because of the way the Alnwick floor plan was reconfigured around it. So the layout of any doors, windows, or other decorative elements on that part of the miniature sadly remains a mystery.

As I said, I have less progress to share because of my ergonomic issues, not to mention the simple fact that this is a tricky structure to figure out. But I’ll at least fill out the rest of this post with an aerial overview of my POA castle so far:

Take care of your body, take care of your mind, and don’t be an ass to people who identify as transgender. See you soon!

Finishing the Ruined Fountain

Okay, time to wrap up the fountain in the clock tower courtyard from Prisoner of Azkaban!

First up – finishing the statues. I believe the original Mexican symbology has the golden eagle perched on a prickly pear cactus, but the base of this statue appears to be a nondescript rock, and that’s what I’ve modeled it after. It was fun to glob that together with Blender’s “clay strips” sculpting brush; I also rigged and posed the eagle’s mouth and claws to hold the rattlesnake, whose body started as a squiggly Bezier curve with a circular cross-section. I enjoyed trying to match the sinuous, energetic gesture of the original.

The snake’s head was sculpted separately with its jaws already fully open…no need to worry about rigging and posing this fella. Good reference is scant for the head; as with the eagle, I relied on photos of real animals to help me fill in the gaps, but it was surprisingly hard to get a good “likeness.” Oh well…at least I planned out the retopology a little better than with the eagle. That enabled me to graft the head onto the body and bake a normal map from the head sculpt. He still looks kinda funky without fangs, but they appear to have been weathered away in the film.

With that, the only things remaining were integration with the main model and damage/erosion! Not too shabby-looking, right?

Integrating this into the main model ended up being very easy. There are four statues: one at each corner of the fountain. As I placed these, I spotted some angles and proportions that were a little off, but I suppose that’s the downside to working on the statue in its own file. Oh well. The complete fountain still looks pretty cool!

I suppose it’s a little misleading to describe the fountain as “complete” when it didn’t actually have…you know…a fountain…so let’s run some fluid simulation!

Not great, but it’ll do, especially because we won’t normally be this close.

The last step with this fountain was to destroy it a little. There are big chunks of it that have crumbled away. After creating some jagged meshes to cut these away with Boolean modifiers, I arrived (after over 2 weeks of on-and-off work) at the complete fountain!

Now it just needs a courtyard to surround it!

The Ruined Fountain Strikes Back

Let’s continue building the ruined fountain from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban! I developed a hankering for some texturing, so I created this new material for the fountain. I used the same basic procedural texturing principles in Blender’s Cycles render engine that I used for the castle’s main materials – lots of strategic layering of Noise and Musgrave nodes at varying scales, mainly. The trick is to get this one to work a little better for intricate objects seen at a closer distance while retaining enough low-frequency detail to still look interesting when seen from further away. I think we’ve got a decent start:

I may even end up using this for the surrounding courtyard; it was designed/built at the same time in real life, and probably “in universe” as well. We’ll see how well that works once we get there.

In the meantime, gotta build some columns for this pediment to sit on. This is where I start having to rely more on photogrammetry (and photo reference) for dimensions, so the precision does go down a bit. Should still be quite close, though.

As I described previously, this is the intact fountain, prior to the damage we see in the film. I’ll be matching the damage in my model, but first comes the finishing touch on the fountain structure: the statues! I recently learned that these are an homage to Alfonso CuarĂłn’s heritage; the image of a golden eagle devouring a rattlesnake is important in Mexican culture. I’ll try to do right by that symbology!

First I studied a bunch of images of the statues as well as photos of real golden eagles and sketched out extremely rough orthographic views in Photoshop. I dropped these into Blender and created a base mesh – just a very rough shape upon which to start sculpting.

The actual eagle statue is frozen in motion, twisting as it grabs the rattlesnake. But sculpting these things is much easier if you start with a symmetrical pose, so that’s what I’m going for here. Then I’ll actually use animation techniques to give it a dynamic, asymmetrical pose.

Or at least, I will once I stop being a whiny baby and get back to work on this bird. For now, I’m fed up with trying to get the feathers right, so I’ve temporarily retreated to my comfort zone to make more buildings.