The Prisoner of Azkaban Clock

Time travel plays a critical role in the climax of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, so Alfonso Cuarón decided to have some fun with elaborate shots that literally move right through a giant clock. Only one problem – the Hogwarts we’d seen in the first two films didn’t have any noteworthy clocks. So production designer Stuart Craig and his team created a new wing of the castle that comprised a crumbling courtyard, a rickety wooden bridge leading toward a new location for Hagrid’s hut, a new hospital wing, and…yes, an enormous clock tower.

These areas were realized as part of the main 1:24 scale Hogwarts miniature, as larger bespoke miniatures, and as partial physical sets. All of these were combined with visual effects to heavily feature this new area of the castle throughout the film, which is probably why this was the only film that really stood out to me in theaters as having redesigned parts of Hogwarts.

When we last saw the clock tower in my model, it looked a little something like this:

(Render from this post.)

Not exactly the most detailed model in the world. I’m not really sure why I stopped working on it, but no matter. It’s about time I finished it up. (Get it? About time?)

Anyway, for today we focus on…well, how we got to this:

That’s right, today we’re covering the clock face itself. This is the part for which I have the most detailed technical drawings, thanks to various photographers who’ve documented their adventures at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour.

The clock actually has two faces, forming a pair of intersecting circular patterns. I started by building each one independently, not worrying about the intersections or textures:

The clock face is separate from the tower for now; it will later be moved into position.

Then came the hardest part by far: cutting out the intersecting areas of the moulding around the circles. I’m not aware of a particularly quick or easy way to do this in Blender, but the TinyCAD add-on did remove some of the hassle. Still, I had to step away from the mess repeatedly. Here’s what it looked like during the process.

Eventually it all worked out, with fairly minimal “cheating” of the geometry. I went to bed haunted by visions of intersecting circles. (Not even kidding!) But it was gratifying to see the results:

I next decided it was time to add some textures – not so much because I cared what it looked like at this juncture, but because the different textures would help me visually distinguish between different components as I worked:

The clock face moves a little closer to the tower, in part to help me gauge the transparency of the glass material.

I wasn’t too sure how detailed I wanted to get when I first started the clock, but as I went, I became interested in greater and greater levels of detail. Soon, the complicated hands on the main face came together. (I stuck with the same time the clock shows in the beautiful transition to winter in the film, though I’m having some trouble figuring out exactly which hand is which…) EDIT: Just learned that this is an astronomical clock, and the extra elements aren’t just decorative! I think the smaller dial is for seconds, but they also had the minute hand move like a second hand in the film, probably to make the passage of time more visible. This also means I slightly fudged a few of the details…but oh well.

It’s worth mentioning that when it comes to the clock, the two differently-scaled miniatures and the full-scale practical element do have slight differences between them. Generally speaking, I’ve skewed toward the specific details seen in the larger miniature and the full-size version, but the level of detail is closer to the main 1:24 scale miniature. In other words, it’s missing the smallest bolts and grooves…this model isn’t intended to be examined SUPER up-close.

That brings us to the complete clock we saw earlier in the post. In addition to completing both faces, I added some basic gears back behind there; they probably won’t be visible 99% of the time, but perhaps they’ll give some visual hint of the inner workings we see in the film.

I’m not quite satisfied with the copper material, so I may go back and make some improvements at some point. But for now, I think the next step will be to build all the other detail on the front facade of the clock tower. There’s a lot – easily enough to fill up the next post. Be sure to follow for more updates!