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.

Suspension Bridge & Gryffindor Girls’ Tower

When we last saw the Hogwarts suspension bridge in my project, it was an untextured but fairly complete bridge to nowhere. Then, a few posts later, I said that I’d hidden the bridge so I could do some reworking, and that it would return “eventually.” I didn’t really expect that “eventually” would mean two years and a pandemic later, but there ya go.

In the intervening time, I discovered some issues with my original recreation of the bridge, so I just rebuilt it from scratch. The suspension bridge moved in Prisoner of Azkaban; I decided to start with that version, as I did two years ago.

I found that the two ends of the bridge weren’t quite lining up, but that problem went away with some slight cheating.

One challenge is that our only truly close-up view of this bridge in the films is during the dragon chase in Goblet of Fire…but that shot features a different design, and I’ve chosen to ignore it.

Adding the details, and hiding the buildings to the north so we can get a better angle (and let some more light in):

I suppose it’s only fair to also include a reverse angle, this time hiding the south block (and rotating the sky/sun 180°):

But of course, as I said, this is not where the suspension bridge started out. Originally, it was closer to Gryffindor Tower and lower down – in fact, you can see the small building it originally led to on the far left side of the render above.

Back on the opposite (south) side of the ravine, the tower containing the Gryffindor girls’ dormitories originally stood directly above the other side of the bridge. (Not going to dig into the design choice to deprive the girls’ tower of a spire or any discernable windows…) That tower disappeared completely when the suspension bridge moved in Prisoner of Azkaban, although the Gryffindor common room set still hints at its existence.

Again, it’s easiest to see this with half of the castle missing. Drag the slider to compare Sorcerer’s Stone (left) to Azkaban (right):

I should say that I am NOT confident in the accuracy or completeness of the lower left area of the wall in the Sorcerer’s Stone version. The floor plan seems to indicate some sort of terrace or balcony; if it was actually built, I’d imagine it was similar to the one on the right side of the render, in appearance and height. Sadly, I simply cannot find any reference for this area of the original model, so for the time being, I’m just building the main wall itself. Someday, man…someday.

I’d like to show you a similar slider facing the opposite direction, but I think that’ll be more fun and more informative once I’ve built the Transfiguration classroom (AKA Durham Cathedral chapter house). That’s next up on my to-do list…stay tuned for more updates! In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a more familiar Sorcerer’s Stone angle of the suspension bridge area:

And hey, why not – just as a fun bonus, here’s an overhead shot, but with the SS and POA versions both visible and intersecting nonsensically. I’m including the mist pass too because it just looks frickin’ cool.

3D Gryffindor Tower; or, Harry Potter and the Cursed Corbels

In the last week, I got fed up with some parts of the Prisoner of AzkabanHogwarts exterior near the suspension bridge that I really can’t find much information on. So I decided to switch gears and add more detail to Gryffindor Tower – in particular, I wanted to create the corbels that support the top part of the tower, where the boys’ dormitory is.

It turns out this is tougher than I expected, and it turns out explaining why is pretty tough as well. It has to do with the way the corbels shrink inward (or don’t) toward the center of the tower, and the way they extend all the way out to become part of the circular shape of the tower, and the way they have semicircular notches carved out between them. You can see a few examples of these designs in this shot from Sorcerer’s Stone, although Gryffindor Tower itself isn’t visible here.

This became quite a roadblock. Every time I thought I had it, Blender would spit out results that looked wildly wrong. So damn frustrating. So I did what any responsible adult would do: I threw up my hands and switched over to something completely different, a music project I’d been working on prior to the Hogwarts project.

As a result, I spent the last few days not thinking about polygons or Array modifiers or enchanted Scottish castles, and it turned out that this did a world of good…when a piece of missing hardware stalled my music project, I reluctantly decided to give the corbels another shot. And whaddaya know? I figured them out pretty quickly!

It took a mixture of Array and Screw modifiers on different objects combined with Boolean operations in a specific order. The results aren’t anything insanely spectacular to look at, but they’re decently accurate, and I should be able to use similar techniques elsewhere on the castle. (Ignore the vertical banding on the tower, by the way; you’ll sometimes see this in curved areas I haven’t yet bothered to smooth out.)

One interesting challenge with this tower is that some of the details actually change from shot to shot in a given film. The reason is simple: some of the visual effects shots in the films are actually composites of multiple miniatures on different scales. The main castle miniature was built at 1:24 scale, which is great from a distance. But for closeup shots, the team built larger versions of specific sections of the castle and composited them in with the main model. For instance, this VFX shot of Gryffindor Tower from Goblet of Fire is nicely broken down in a video at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in London. The first image here shows a smaller model with part of the tower removed; the second image shows what it looks like when the larger, more detailed miniature of the tower is composited in, allowing for quite a close shot.

This wouldn’t pose any issues for my model, except that it turns out there are actual design differences between the different miniatures in some cases. For Gryffindor Tower, I was specifically noticing the cornice around the base of the conical roof. It has a decorative sort of double curve to it here, right? Well, compare it to the main miniature in this photo from the aforementioned Studio Tour:

The cornice is much simpler and flatter. I’ve spotted a few other spots that change like this. So that raises the question…which version do I create? So far, I’m mostly opting for the most detailed versions I can find; notice that my render above includes the more detailed version of the cornice. But I’ve got to admit, it feels weird to built something that doesn’t fit with the design of the main model. (That’s another reason the suspension bridge is tricky, incidentally…its design actually changes depending on whether we’re looking at the main model or a closeup.)

Anyway, I gotta go build some more castle windows. More updates soon!

Hogwarts 4D Progress: “Azkaban” Suspension Bridge Takes Shape

One thing about me is that I don’t like to stick to any one part of a personal project for too long. So sure enough, I’ve put the Alnwick model on hold as I’ve jumped back to the Prisoner of Azkaban version of the castle.

At the moment I’m mainly focusing on an area of the castle that’s not very visible in the films. On a basic level, the castle (not counting any outbuildings, etc.) consists of two separate buildings that are attached by a few bridges over a deep, narrow ravine. The northern building is modeled largely after Durham Cathedral while the southern building includes the rather more unique designs of the Great Hall and Turris Magnus (the tall, steep tower with Dumbledore’s office near the top). It’s the southern building that I’m working on at the moment…but I’m focusing on the northern facade, the one that faces the other building. The filmmakers didn’t have many reasons to send their cameras through that area…but that doesn’t mean I can’t!

Obviously there aren’t any textures here, but this is another example of an area that’s approaching final levels of detail. The last few renders are especially cool to me because they’re from angles that would be impossible in the “real world” – the camera would be underground, or inside the northern block.

Some of my most proud moments since the last post have included sculpting a bas-relief Hogwarts crest (seen on the white square near the top of the last render above) and figuring out the Turris Magnus spire, whose shape smoothly blends from a hexadecagon (16 sides) to a circle near the base. I also like the suspension bridge, one of three footpaths between the two blocks of the castle. (Its biggest moment in the films is in Goblet of Fire, when the dragon chases Harry right through/past it…but that shot is over in, like, a second.)

Ooh, as an added bonus, here’s a fully navigable version of the model via Sketchfab. There are some numbered annotations that point out landmarks. I don’t plan on uploading one of these for every single future post, but I’ll try to do it from time to time so you can go exploring.

Have fun!