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.
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:
If you’ve followed this project for a while, you know I jump around a lot. I’ve got a master “to do” list, but sometimes I get bored with an item – or, in the case of the walkways and cliffs from last time, sometimes I run out of references. So I decided to jump over to an all-new phase of the project: creating the Goblet of Fire iteration of Hogwarts!
I started with the south end, where the Great Hall is. Some of the surrounding structures didn’t change at all from the previous film, so I ported those over. But the Great Hall itself got tweaked and slightly repositioned. Let’s start with just the design changes – easier to compare the Halls when they’re still in the same spot.
Original on the left, GOF redesign on the right:
The main difference is that the front was lengthened. This section with the bigger window corresponds to the entrance hall, a set that didn’t really fit very clearly into any part of the original Great Hall/Chamber of Reception structure. When the length was extended, the dormer windows and central turret on the roof were adjusted to keep things visually centered. The turret at the back/top of the hall was also redesigned as well as duplicated at the front of the structure.
So that’s the new design. What about the new position? Well, it’s easiest to show that by overlaying the GOF Great Hall onto the original castle:
The original position is the one that’s higher up and closer to the big marble staircase tower. The new position allowed for a redesigned “link building” between the entrance hall and the marble staircase tower – again, better matching the interior sets – and put the Great Hall closer the same level as the viaduct and its new courtyard. (Originally, the Great Hall was significantly higher than the viaduct; students had to climb all those Oxford stairs in the Chamber of Reception to get up to the Great Hall.)
Here I’ve added the link building:
The reason the rest of the GOF castle is missing is simple: I’m doing it one structure at a time, whether that means simply making its previous version visible or actually building new stuff.
The next structures to tackle are the new front of the Great Hall/entrance hall building (replacing the Chamber of Reception) and the viaduct courtyard. I believe the courtyard was brought to life by redressing the clock tower courtyard set from the previous film. I started this area by duplicating and repositioning the corresponding elements from the clock tower area, resulting in…this:
Yeah, the clock tower is definitely taller than the Great Hall. Lots of other things to tweak, too. All that and more in a future post – make sure you hit the Follow button (at the bottom of the page on mobile, to the right on desktop) to get notified of new updates!
We’ve now got four chunks of Hogwarts’s original terrain finished. In my model, they’re divided as follows:
The blue chunk below the viaduct entrance is separate from the purple chunk below the Long Gallery because the blue chunk was redone in Goblet of Fire. The gold and green chunks on the other side could have been combined with each other and/or the blue chunk, but separating them improves sculpting performance.
The next chunk I added was a small patch that’s exclusive to Prisoner of Azkaban. They slightly built up the area just beneath the corner of the Great Hall, giving it a slightly different profile. (All of this terrain had to be redone when the Great Hall was shifted in Goblet of Fire, but the redesign was more similar to the POA version than to the original.)
Sorcerer’s Stone on the left, Prisoner of Azkaban on the right:
But there were bigger changes in POA, of course. When they added the clock tower, wooden bridge, and so on, the surrounding terrain was totally redone. So in creating the bluffs that originally led down to the lake back there, I have to be able to swap them out with the POA version without affecting the adjacent terrain (shown in green above).
Techniques here are the same as what we’ve already seen, although it’s interesting to see the updated rock textures (sans moss) on the base mesh…
This is where photogrammetry stops being useful and I just have to closely study the few available reference images. (Blueprints aren’t super helpful either, since the terrain only follows them very, very roughly.) Another complication is that some VFX shots actually cut off parts of the miniature, particularly in this area; in those cases, I’m trying to treat the complete miniature itself as canon.
More base mesh:
No, you’re not crazy – the mesh protrudes right through the walls of the terrace in some spots. That’ll be fixed soon enough; it’s not hard to shave off excess landscape.
What’s going to be harder is the ravine between the two halves of the castle. That’s where even photo reference starts to dry up, at least for this original version of the castle. Photogrammetry from the big overhead shot in Chamber of Secrets will help me with the north side of the ravine, so I decided to work on that before trying to tackle the south side:
Meanwhile, around the front side, I’ve finally added the tiny lower walkway that seems to curve through the base of the stone bridge:
Sadly, I still can’t find any clear, reliable, pre-POA information on where exactly that walkway goes on the other side of the bridge. I’m starting to think that the one available SS-era floor plan of this area isn’t accurate.
This post is getting long…I’ll save further progress for the next one!
The next thing to add was roof flashing. It’s been on my to-do list for ages. (Not sure why I haven’t just been adding it as I go…) It’s not very glamorous work – no one looks at a render and goes, “Oooh, look at that beautiful roof flashing!” – but the model just doesn’t look quite right without it. Here’s what I’m talking about, as I started to add it:
There are ways of doing this kind of thing automatically, but I wanted it to look a little imperfect, so I used Blender’s “Snap to Face” functionality and drew it all in manually.
Here are the SS and POA models with all the flashing added:
(If you want to see the flashing itself, I’d recommend right-clicking to open the images in new tabs so you can view the full resolution.)
It feels like time to work on the COS version of the castle, doesn’t it? In almost every way, it’s just an intermediate step between SS and POA, so I figured it shouldn’t be too hard. Everything south of the ravine is identical to SS, although the real miniature did receive some touchups. It’s the north side that changes.
After mashing together the appropriate elements from the SS and POA castles, I proceeded to create the new training grounds, with their relatively flat lawns that existed only in this film:
I really like this version of the castle. Here’s the above render’s isolated mist pass, too, just because it looks cool:
But there’s one major element missing: the Whomping Willow! That’ll likely be the topic of my next post.
By the way, the original quad continues to vex. Deeply. I’ve really been enjoying the discussions in the comments about the cloister. It’s led me to a very divisive debate (in my own head) about whether its design owes more to Gloucester Cathedral or Lacock Abbey. I was pretty confident in the answer being Gloucester…but now I’m really profoundly split.
Reasons to think it’s Gloucester:
The whole courtyard is labeled “Gloucester” in the later films’ floor plans (after the removal of the cloister in question).
The quad building has Gloucester-style windows on south outer façade, and they almost had them at the same level on the west façade as well. All of these are around the same level as the cloister.
The paths and fountain aren’t an exact match to any location I’ve found, but they’re a lot closer to Gloucester than to Lacock.
The Lacock courtyard is never really seen in the films; the Gloucester courtyard is, if only very briefly.
Reasons to think it’s Lacock:
I thought all the films’ floor plans labeled the courtyard “Gloucester,” but I realized that what I’m reading on the early plans is just the word “cloisters.”
There’s a floor plan from the first film that shows the way some sets and real-world locations fit together in the filmmakers’ imaginations. It is substantially different from the layout of the miniature, but the Lacock Abbey courtyard and cloister are placed right next to the grand staircase.
From the overhead shot in COS, it looks like the cloister is rather tall, with a blank stretch of wall above the tracery. Lacock’s cloister has a similar design; Gloucester’s doesn’t.
Lacock is a closer match to the size of the quad.
Soooooo…yeah, I’m pretty split. For now, I’ve added the blank bit of wall and raised the cloister roof accordingly, but I haven’t changed the tracery to match Lacock. I’m waiting till I (hopefully) find some more reference material.
Anyway, be sure to “follow” so you can be notified when I post the Whomping Willow!
I promise we’re going to get to sculpting the decorative dragons from the tops of the greenhouses, but first I wanted to share a “before and after”. A reader who goes by kronkolweg pointed out that my castle’s bricks were a little big. It had already been starting to bug me a bit, and this was just the kick I needed to get off my butt and fix it.
For the original castle miniature, one or more brick textures were hand-sculpted, molded, mass-produced in FastCast resin, and glued to the miniature’s wooden understructure before being hand-painted. There was a transition to more detailed plaster-based textures starting in Chamber of Secrets – I’m not sure if any of the original resin brick textures ultimately survived through to the final Half-Blood Prince iteration of the miniature. In any case, the overall effect is the same, and my procedural brick material mimics it without requiring me to individually texture each wall. The thing is, when I created this material (as documented here, here, and here), I had much less of the castle built, which meant I had fewer points of comparison for the scale of the bricks. Frankly, I don’t remember how much actual measurement there was, as opposed to simple eyeballing, but it’s become clear that the results are a little oversized.
So, being the Excel nut that I am, I sat down and made a spreadsheet. I took horizontal and vertical brick counts for various areas of the castle, comparing my model to the miniature. There’s a certain margin of error in the scale of my castle, and the bricks of the miniature are not necessarily of completely uniform scale, so I averaged the different measurements and arrived at my brick adjustments: a 34% reduction in width and a 21% reduction in height.
The interactive sliders below compare the old larger bricks (left) to the new smaller bricks (right):
The difference is subtle from any real distance, but it’s more accurate now, which always feels good.
With this tweak completed, I shifted my attention to those greenhouse dragons! Fortunately, they’re all identical, so I only had to sculpt one. I did so in a separate file, and – well, if you’re interested, just watch part 1 of the video.
Frankly, I can’t get enough of these sliders, so let’s compare the base mesh to the full-resolution sculpt…
…and now comparing the full-resolution sculpt to the retopologized version with normal mapped details:
If the differences seem really minor…good! The point of retopo is to vastly simplify the geometry, which makes the asset a lot more manageable. The sculpt on the left has over 1.3 million faces; the retopologized version on the right only has around 1,500. Much easier on the computer! Of course, that eliminates a lot of details; baking and applying a normal map is a way of faking those back in, hopefully with an end result that’s nearly indistinguishable from the original sculpt. (In this particular case, there are a few small artifacts in the shading, but these are not noticeable when color is applied and we move the camera away a little.)
You can watch this whole process in part 2 of the video:
The retopology process is still a lot slower, harder, and more frustrating for me than I’d like, but in the end I was satisfied with the result, so I created an appropriate material, brought the mesh over into the main castle model, and duplicated it to the appropriate spots on the single greenhouse I’d already created. Voilà!
That’s a wrap for the dragon, and for this greenhouse overall! The next steps will be to duplicate this greenhouse and create the other two design variations on it. Then I’ll be able to move on to the domed conservatory, the curtain walls surrounding the greenhouses, and hopefully some ground cover and footpaths. Be sure to subscribe to this blog and the YouTube channel for updates as they come!
Here we go – those bell towers need to be completed. I finished the intricate openings and decorative motifs in the middle parts of the towers. Fortunately, these never changed in any of the films, even when the tops of the towers changed, so I only had to create them this once!
Then, to complete the bell towers, I added the tops of the towers, which are very similar to the top of the central tower – just shrunk by about 23%, and with a few minor design differences. I was grateful for this not only because it allowed me to reuse elements from the central tower, but also because I discovered a mistake in the central tower in the process. All fixed now!
Of course, there are two versions of the bell towers: the original design, and this Prisoner of Azkaban redesign. With the latter complete, I decided to switch over and do the former as well!
Sadly, photogrammetry is no help when it comes to the original tops of the bell towers, but their simple design is pretty easy to eyeball. A few of the smallest details were educated guesses – for instance, I’ve added windowpanes in a few areas that could just be openings.
Anyway, enough talk – let’s compare the two designs! Drag the slider below to compare the original Sorcerer’s Stone design (left) to the Prisoner of Azkaban redesign (right). (The smaller tower above the Long Gallery will also come and go, since that was added in Chamber of Secrets.)
Here’s a reverse angle:
Surprise – there’s the original design of the central tower, too! I snuck that in there as well.
Viewing the whole castle from lake level, you can really see what a difference this simple redesign of these three towers made in the castle’s overall silhouette and character. My model is also looking a lot more complete overall!
Adding the wall between the bell towers was easy, since all of its elements are similar to stuff I’ve already created. I briefly considered tackling the greenhouses next, but then I got distracted by the adjacent walls that bring us to the training grounds tower and the middle courtyard, which will probably be where I go in our next blog post.
In the meantime, Ms. Rowling continues to tweet disappointingly misguided things about transgender people. For what it’s worth – if you, dear reader, happen to be trans, non-binary, or a member of any other oft-marginalized community, know that this Hogwarts (incomplete though it may be) will always be there to welcome your awesome self, and so will I.
Golden eagles and moving staircases can get frustrating. Sometimes you just need to return to your comfort zone and make some turrets. That’s what led me to spend some time (for once) on a version of Hogwarts that’s NOT the one from the third film! We’re going all the way back to the beginning, to a simpler time before the back of Hogwarts got its elaborate clock tower and courtyard. We’re going back to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone!
In addition to giving me some relief from the project’s more challenging tasks, this gave me a chance to play a bit with this project’s whole primary purpose: providing 3D comparisons between different versions of the model. So I built a new version of the quad’s outer wall, but in its original state, before the hospital wing and clock tower and so forth were added for Azkaban. It’s very difficult to find information about this area of the original model, but I think I’ve been able to get a pretty close facsimile:
Still woefully incomplete, of course, but the cool thing is that I could keep the camera in the exact same spot and render a direct comparison with the (also incomplete) POA version:
This is the kind of stuff I want to get into when the project is reaching its final stages. I’d even like to let the camera glide slowly around the model as things change from film to film…I think that would be visually appealing and very informative.
(Now’s also as good a time as any to point out that I’m now on Instagram; I don’t necessarily post a lot, but feel free to follow there as well if you’d like!)
Anyway, no idea how long I’ll be working on this SS version of the castle right now; I’ll have to get back to those statues sooner or later. We’ll see what my next post ends up being about!
[EDIT 8/14/20: Wow, this post continues to be among the most popular on this blog! Clearly I’m not the only one interested in the changing architecture of Hogwarts. If this is your first time visiting, be sure to check out the rest of the blog too!]
All right, time for that mega-post I’ve been slowly working on for the last few weeks! Finishing this today has been a nice distraction as I try to recover from a nasty cold and/or ear infection and/or laryngitis and/or sinus infection. Off to see the doctor in just a bit to figure out what’s going on.
Anyway, if you’re anything like me, you probably only caught one or two of the changes to Hogwarts while watching the films…and even then, perhaps it was barely a conscious realization. That’s good! That means the filmmakers were successful in preserving the “feel” of Hogwarts even as they had to change, add, and remove certain structures to meet the needs of the various stories (and various directors). Because yes, they made changes throughout the films – large, small, and everything in between.
Just what were those changes? Let’s take a small detour from my model work and find out! Here are the changes I would consider major, in chronological order. I’ve attempted to find photos that illustrate the changes, though the angles are often very different. It’s definitely not an exhaustive list, either. There are plenty of small tweaks I’ve left out – adding a small extra turret, slightly moving a wall, tweaking the angle or height of a structure, etc. Those will be part of the model, but there’s no sense detailing every one of them here. Oh, also, I’m also just looking at exteriors; the interiors aren’t really part of the scope of this project. Even so, it’s gonna be a long post. Bear with me.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Stuart Craig and his team designed and built the first iteration of the castle. It’s a physical miniature at 1:24 scale, although it’s still so huge that a person can stand at lake level and their head won’t even reach the bottom floors of the castle.
Side note: this may be my favorite shot of the castle from any of the films. I do really like some of the changes to come, but boy, does this image stick beautifully in my mind.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Here’s where things start to get interesting. Relatively modest changes, but still noticeable…
To accommodate the Herbology scene, the greenhouses were added to the northeast corner of the castle. (The “before” shot is of a 3D model created by Matt Wright during the production of the first film – check out his website!)
The Whomping Willow was added nearby, on one of the lawns of the real-world Alnwick Castle filming location.
The curtain walls walls and small towers surrounding those lawns were redesigned to look partially ruined and less Alnwick-like.
The roofline of the nearby training grounds tower changed. (At this point, this structure is still basically a section of Alnwick, but with a different taller roofline.) The below comparison also gives you another view of the change to the curtain walls.
Not too many changes, right? Oh, just you wait…
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Okay, big changes here! The first is stylistic. Most of the spires in the first two films are fairly short. But in this film, many of them were made significantly taller and steeper, creating a much more Gothic look.
Time plays a big role in the film’s climax, so a new clock tower was added behind the castle. This was connected to the existing structures with a new enclosed bridge, which also attached to a new hospital wing on top of the existing castle. Attached to the new clock tower is a new courtyard, and attached to the courtyard is a new wooden bridge across a ravine. (This was one of the few additions I noticed when I first saw the film.)
At the other end of the wooden bridge is a stone circle and a path leading down the hill to the new site of Hagrid’s redesigned hut…all the way on the opposite side of the grounds from its location in the first two films! (The nearby Whomping Willow similarly moves somewhere down here.)
What Dumbledore refers to as the “Dark Tower” is added as the location of Sirius Black’s holding cell. This necessitates the slight relocation of the semicircular tower and suspension bridge that were already in this area, as well as the removal of a small structure modeled directly after the Chapter House at the real-world Durham Cathedral (another filming location for the early movies).
You can also glimpse some significant changes to the landscape in the shot above. You know the Quidditch training grounds seen mainly in the first film? The spot where Harry learns to fly? Yeah, the landscape literally swallows up much of this area as new hills form behind the school. The curtain walls that enclosed this area now disappear right into the hillsides, as you can see near the bottom left. This is part of a larger trend of removing Alnwick Castle influences from the castle over the course of the series.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
A much more modest set of changes, but important nonetheless. For one, the hills behind the school added in the previous film become the location of the owlery, a relatively small tower that stands alone on a rocky outcrop.
The entry area at the front of the Great Hall is revised with a second clock tower and a new courtyard (often referred to in fan circles as the Viaduct Courtyard) is added in front.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Whoa. No major changes here that I’ve been able to find, although a few of the remaining short spires get steepened to match the changes in POA.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
This was the last film to use the physical miniature, so this is the version that can now be seen in person at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in London.
The Astronomy tower plays an important role in this film, and the team ended up designing an entirely new tower to fit the bill. To make room for it, the Dark Tower and the semicircular Defense Against the Dark Arts tower get axed, although the new Astronomy tower does share some design elements with the latter. (The snowy “Before” shot is from Chamber of Secrets, in order to better match the angle. Ignore the pre-steepened spires on the nearby towers.)
One of the last few vestiges of Alnwick Castle, the training grounds tower, gets replaced with a much simpler version with a smaller footprint.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2
The filmmakers decided to go with an all-digital Hogwarts for this final entry, for better flexibility in shot design (and to make it a lot easier to create battle damage). Although the CGI Hogwarts is generally designed to be identical to the miniature, there are still some changes.
For starters, the Viaduct Courtyard gets significantly enlarged, as this is a major location in the Battle of Hogwarts.
The original viaduct – a feature dating all the way back to the first film! – is removed. Instead, there’s now a new, larger viaduct. Rather than connecting one half of the castle to the other, it connects the castle – specifically, the enlarged Viaduct Courtyard – to an adjacent area of land. (The area of the courtyard that connects to the viaduct receives some new gatehouses, too.) This is the location of several notable scenes, including the final scene before the epilogue.
Down at lake level, the boathouse is seen up close for the first time, and it gets a somewhat revised design. (The DH shot is a render of the 3D model as posted by Nic Henderson on his website.)
Interestingly, what remained of the training grounds area – all the curtain walls and so forth behind the greenhouses – doesn’t make it into the CG version of the castle. Perhaps this is simply because they knew weren’t going to have any scenes back here. With that, the last traces of Alnwick Castle’s real-world design elements are removed.
Lastly, the wooden bridge that was added in Azkaban gets lengthened. (Before Neville blows it up, that is.) Still the same basic design, though.
Beyond the Potter Films: Universal, Fantastic Beasts, etc.
As the films were wrapping up, Universal Studios opened its Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, featuring an impressive Hogwarts facade on the exterior of its headliner attraction, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. This was built on a smaller scale, relying on forced perspective to make it look like it matches the scale seen in the films. The design seems to be somewhat loosely based off the front of the Half-Blood Prince version, as it includes the Astronomy tower (sorta) but the courtyard/viaduct configuration doesn’t reflect the Deathly Hallows changes. (The entire back of the castle is also missing, since it can’t be seen from inside the park.) Similar versions are later built in Hollywood and Japan.
Although the Harry Potter films end with Deathly Hallows, Hogwarts makes an onscreen appearance in the Fantastic Beasts series as well. It seems to be identical to the CG version seen in Deathly Hallows, though I haven’t looked at it in great detail. (Since this takes place many years before even the first Potter film, it essentially retcons the castle as having always looked the way it does in Deathly Hallows.)
The castle is also explorable (sometimes even on broomstick) through a variety of console games for the various films. The castle designs are typically similar to those of the corresponding films. There’s also Pottermore’s “Welcome to Hogwarts” feature, which seems to be based on the DH2/FB CG version, but I haven’t looked into it closely enough to be able to document differences, if any.
Whew. We’re coming to the end of this mega-post. Only one question remains: if all these changes can already be seen in pictorial form, why bother with a model? Well, here’s the thing…I’ve selected the best comparison images I could find for this post, but you’ll notice that as I said, the before/after camera angles are NEVER identical. Why should they be? The different films get to show the castle from different angles, under different lighting schemes, emphasizing different aspects of its design for a variety of aesthetic and plot-related reasons. The only problem is that it makes it a lot harder to do really quick and direct visual comparisons. Your brain has to adjust to the new angle even as it looks for discrepancies.
So the aim of this whole model project is simple: I want to be able to lock the camera down (virtually speaking) and watch the castle change from film to film. The parts that stay the same will be identical quite literally on a pixel-by-pixel basis, while the changes will immediately jump out. It’s going to take a while to get the model to that state, but I’m sure enjoying the journey. More to come soon!