Sorcerer’s Stone Corrections & More Astronomy Tower

Sorry for the delay in this post. Loooooots of stuff going on in my personal life – some of it really good, some of it not so much.

I was slowly working on the Astronomy tower in the midst of all that when this spectacular YouTube video dropped on the official Wizarding World channel. The never-before-seen photos of the original castle inspired me to revisit some areas, the first of which I documented in this video of my own:

I’ll warn you that it’s a slow video, but I got requests for some modeling without the usual time lapse speedup, so…there ya go. Here’s the unadulterated render from the end of the video.

I’ve got more fixes to make based on the new photos, but I’ll save those for a later post and round this one out with a bit of Astronomy tower progress.

There’s a lot of detail in the main turret where several important Half-Blood Prince scenes take place. Here’s an interesting “deconstructed” view as I start to build the area that also existed as a full-scale set. This is the lower level where Harry hides during the climactic confrontation, but without anything added above it yet:

Funnily enough, this is closer to how the book version of the tower would look, in that it’s got a flat top and crenellated ramparts.

One challenge is that the dimensions of the full-scale set don’t quite match the dimensions of the miniature, at least according to the available blueprints. I’m aiming for something of a happy medium – the goal is for it to look the way it does in the film, if a little less detailed.

Here the arches are starting to take shape. These were a little tricky because of the way they curve:

Continued progress on this tower will also have to wait till a future post, but in the meantime I thought I’d at least share something.

More “Forbidden Journey” Queue Photogrammetry

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.

GOF Boathouse Stairs

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:

Hoping my next update will not take this long!

GOF Viaduct Courtyard Area

When we last saw the Goblet of Fire Hogwarts model, I had grabbed some elements from the clock tower area and duplicated them in front of the Great Hall. Since then, I’ve adapted those elements to create the new entrance hall and viaduct courtyard.

Here’s the fixed-up version (right); slide to compare it to the render from last time, just showing the unaltered clock tower and courtyard elements (left):

(Ignore the way the “link building” roof gets steeper; that’s just a fix because I realized I’d made it too low.)

Here’s are some miscellaneous shots around the area:

This next one gives a good sense of what details I put into the clock, as well as what details I didn’t:

Conspicuously missing in that last render is the “pepperpot” building next to the Great Hall – hence the gap in the balustrade toward the right side, immediately adjacent to the courtyard. I think I’ll probably be adding that building next.

Starting the “Goblet of Fire” Castle!

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!

Continuing the Original Hogwarts Landscape

Still having RSI issues, but fortunately, sculpting doesn’t seem to aggravate them too much if I stick to the Wacom stylus in the right hand and the 3D mouse in the left. Anyway, more base meshes to be sculpted into the Hogwarts terrain:

You can see that I switched over to the first film’s castle there. I love the way the cliffs just under the back of the Great Hall buckle inward. They create a really cool silhouette that you can see in the first couple films. That area underwent small changes in Prisoner of Azkaban and then bigger changes in Goblet of Fire. It ended up with a convex shape that I find…more realistic, but less interesting. In fact, I think that whole corner of the terrain looks best in the early versions. It’s got some cool, designy rhythms to it, with asymmetrical outcroppings leading your eye upward to the Great Hall. They’re not as evident in the base mesh, of course:

We’re off the edge of the map here. Literally – I don’t have any technical drawings that go all the way out to this corner. But that doesn’t really matter, because it turns out the drawings aren’t very accurate for the terrain anyway. I don’t have any photogrammetry of this version of this area either, so it’s just a lot of flipping back and forth between different reference photos (with different lighting, focal lengths, resolutions, image quality, etc.) and trying to match every angle I can. It’s definitely a challenge. But it’ll be worth it to be able to showcase the way the landscape changes around the castle!

Anyway, that completes the base mesh for this chunk of the terrain…time to sculpt! I was a little nervous about the terrain on the two sides of the boathouse stairs matching up, since I’m building in two completely separate chunks. So it was exciting to see them starting to visually come together as if they’re one continuous landmass!

One of the amusing parts of this technique is just how insanely weird the undersides get:

It becomes very obvious that I started out by mushing a bunch of blocky shapes together, with no regard for how the bottom looks. Why not clean it up? I might at some point. But it’d probably be more work than it’s worth. I’m gonna stay focused on the parts that are visible.

The render below really showcases the difference in detail between my first sculpting pass and my second. The stuff to the right of the boathouse steps has had the second pass, while the stuff to the left hasn’t had it yet:

Even so, that’s starting to look positively Hogwartian!

This was the point at which I jinxed things by being too excited about the results I was getting. Something went wrong and shifted the whole cliff out of alignment in a weird way…twice. Still not sure how it happened. I had to revert to an earlier auto-save and redo a bunch of work in the area below…twice. Definitely frustrating. But it would have been way worse if not for the auto-saves…thanks, Blender!

That completed the first sculpting pass for this whole chunk of terrain beneath the Great Hall. The more detailed second pass should be in the next post!

Great Hall Balconies, Pepperpot, & Pre-DH Boathouse

Work continues on the Prisoner of Azkaban iteration of Hogwarts! I guess my return to the project might have legs.

(Forgive the exposed interior glow panels on the right again.)

With the Chamber of Reception complete, I moved on to the terraces or balconies surrounding the Great Hall, plus the foundations below. Good lord, the geometry of these corbels gave me a headache as I tried to reconcile a variety of imprecise measurements and calculations. I’m pretty happy with how they turned out, though. And I sure was thrilled when the spacings of the corbels and the torches lined up! I added the finishing touches to the pepperpot as well.

This also afforded the opportunity to check out some angles not seen in the films, such as this nighttime view looking toward the head of the Great Hall from the balcony outside:

Soon I was faced once again with that perennial question: what next? At first I considered doing the crenelations outside the Chamber of Reception and the steps down to the boathouse, but as I assembled reference images, I found myself drawn to the boathouse itself.

It’s a simple structure with a lot of good reference out there, since it never changed till the digital rebuild of the castle for Deathly Hallows (when it was completely redesigned), and visitors to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour can get quite close to that part of the model. As a result, it came together pretty quickly. Here it is in complete form:

I really like that last one. I wanted the boathouse to “pop” in front of the similarly-colored castle behind it, so I went with a shallow depth of field and ended up with this render that kinda looks like a miniature itself. You can even see the witch-and-black-cat weather vane at the top. And, as I mentioned last time, I finally got a decent stone floor texture going, though I’ll probably still tweak that some more.

Next up…the boathouse steps, I suppose? Speaking of which, it just occurred to me that the first-years have to climb the height of a 14-story building to get from the boathouse to the Great Hall for their Sorting. Between that and the nerves, it’s amazing they all manage to stay on their feet.

We’re Back! …at Least for Now!

Well, it only took a pandemic to get me back into this project! After the better part of a year working on other stuff, I’ve reopened my Hogwarts 3D model and begun adding onto it again. I still have some other big projects I’m working on, so I don’t know how much further I’ll get or at what speed, but it’s nice to at least have an update!

The first order of business was to finish up the main window of the Great Hall. The exterior version of it, that is – in interior scenes, the top of the window has a pointed arch shape, whereas the miniatures (and, for Deathly Hallows, computer models) used for exterior shots had a rectangular shape. Here’s a render of the end product, using a familiar camera angle from last year:

Felt good to have that finally finished! Next I began the central spire above the Great Hall, as well as the dormer windows along the roof. That spire is notable because of how steep it is. The castle originally had a lot of short spires, most of which became much steeper in POA, but this one was steep like this from the beginning:

Just like olden times, I got to wrestle with different references (film frames, production photos, photos of the model from the Warner Bros. exhibit, technical drawings, photogrammetry from the films, etc.) and try to reconcile them all into consistent dimensions. This can be surprisingly difficult at times, although it got easier when I remembered that the Great Hall got widened after POA – that explained some of the biggest discrepancies.

With the addition of more detail, the Great Hall itself is now finished, more or less:

I say “more or less” because the other side of the Great Hall is where it interfaces with the chamber of reception/entrance hall, depending on your preferred verbiage. That side is currently a featureless wall:

The next steps will be to start adding the entrance hall, which will cover most of that blank wall. Then we can add some of the terraces around these structures and the small building that connects the Great Hall to the marble staircase tower next to it. More to come, I hope!

On a more serious note, if you’re reading this during the COVID-19 pandemic, I hope you and your loved ones are safe and well-isolated, as dictated by the severity of the situation in your area. These are crazy times and (he reminded himself) it is more important than ever to be forgiving and patient with each other – and ourselves. Sending lots of love!