“Forbidden Journey” Dungeon Interior Layout

My arms have still been giving me intermittent RSI problems. But even when I can’t work on the project, that doesn’t mean my computer can’t! I’ve always wanted to figure out the layout of the indoor queue for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Universal Studios Hollywood, and without floor plans, photogrammetry is the best method I have for measuring it out. So I set up some Meshroom projects, prepared frames from some YouTube videos, and let ’em run while I rested my arms.

All I’ve got so far are the dungeons, on the ground floor. Functionally, these are just a way to get people from the entrance in the front of the building to the greenhouses in the back. In terms of story, these give the rider a chance to see the Mirror of Erised, the statue from the third-floor corridor in the first film, the entrance to Potions, the entrance to the kitchens, and so forth.

Kinda hard to understand what you’re looking at. Maybe a plan view with a faint aerial photo beneath it will help?

Funnily enough, the entrance to the kitchens does seem to be beneath the Great Hall, just as it is in the books.

Anyway, for good measure, here’s a quick flyaround animation:

Of course, this is missing the lockers and the retail space and the ride exit and any number of behind-the-scenes areas that I assume fill out the rest of the ground floor. Maybe someday.

Eventually I’ll do the main part of the indoor queue on the upper levels. Then the hope is to actually build a proper model of the exterior, and probably as much of the interior as I can as well. But since I’m busy with other parts of the H4D project right now, I thought I’d at least share a glimpse of what I’ve got so far.

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3D Photogrammetry Scans of Universal’s Hogwarts

One of the ideas that struck me fairly early in this project is that it would be cool to compare the theme park versions of the castle to the “real” versions in the films. If you’ve ever walked through the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando, Hollywood, or Japan, you know just how overwhelming it is to approach the towering facade of Hogwarts. Very effective theme park design.

Even so, much of the castle has been removed, the remaining sections have been modified, and the scale has been significantly reduced. (The filmmakers built their original Hogwarts miniature with a very specific real-world scale in mind.) The theme park version is highly evocative of the castle seen on the silver screen – specifically in Half-Blood Prince – but it’s still its own thing. (Three things, actually, since there are even slight differences between the versions at the three resorts.)

So…what would it look like to plop the Universal version down next to the cinematic version? That’s a question I intend to answer as the project progresses – hopefully with renders of them side by side! – but for now, you’re going to have to settle for these incomplete and very rough 3D scans of the Hollywood version.

These images are the fruit of photogrammetry, the science of extracting 3D measurements from photos. On a recent visit to Universal Studios Hollywood, I took about 400 photos of the castle. After heavily color-correcting these shots in Photoshop to bring out shadow detail, I threw them all into Meshroom, which dutifully set out to create a textured 3D model from the photos without any need for human assistance.

The first attempt failed. Unfortunate, but not surprising. There were angles I couldn’t capture due to the geography of the park and my own time constraints. (Not to mention the fact that we were trying to, you know, enjoy a day in the park!) Meshroom got confused and couldn’t connect all the disparate parts into one unified 3D model.

Not a problem. When I split the photos into six different sets that focused on smaller sections of the castle, Meshroom handled each set just fine on its own. Then I brought them together in Blender and manually lined them up with each other on top of an aerial photo. An HDRI sky added a bit of visual interest to the environment.

The scans needed a lot of manual cleanup, and even so, you can still see a lot of yucky fringes and artifacts, especially around the edges of each scan. That’s totally fine for my purposes…this is all just a rough guide for when I create my own model from scratch.

Still, interesting to look at, huh?