Night Falls on Hogwarts

I liked that fire material from the last post so much that I kept finding myself virtually lighting the torches and switching to that day-for-night setup. Eventually, I got wise and decided to create a dedicated “night mode” for the model. It has a different HDRI for the background (a cloudy daytime scene from HDRIhaven.com that I made much darker and bluer), stylized blue lighting to match the moonlit shots in the first couple films, and interior lights behind some of the windows. Compare:

Best of all, I realized I could use Blender’s node group functionality to create a single slider that would allow me to change all the different settings between day and night simultaneously. I also did the same for the two color modes (the warmer look of the first two films, and the desaturated look of the later films, seen above).

Both tasks were made easier by some behind-the-scenes organizing I’d been doing. The procedural (algorithmic) brick texture on all the walls had gotten really complicated, because I was layering so many different elements together in the pursuit of a realistic and visually pleasing result. For kicks, I thought I’d share what the brick material’s node tree looked like before:

Each of those little gray boxes (nodes) is a set of calculations, receiving inputs and sending outputs via those light gray lines that connect them to other nodes. I’d organized them into those colorful groups, each of which has a descriptive label, but it was still a pretty ugly setup and not that easy to use or “read.” Here’s the same material after visually organizing the node tree a little better:

Not only does this look cooler, but it’s a lot easier for me to just jump in and make changes or additions where needed. (Which I’ve already done repeatedly since taking that screenshot…the setup is even more complicated now, but still nicely organized.)

You might have noticed that long wall at the bottom right of day/night renders, connected to a small tower. These new additions will barely be seen in the final version of the POA model – they were part of the original model from the first film, but starting in Azkaban, the landscape became much hillier and it literally swallowed up most of the wall and the entirety of that tower. But I decided to build the whole thing now so that it would be easier to create the versions for the first two films when the time comes. Here’s another shot:

There’s also some work happening here on that wall beneath the hospital wing bridge, just to the right of Gryffindor Tower in this image. Here, let’s take a closer look with the clock tower and hospital wing temporarily hidden, and some improved texturing on the roofs and spires:

Windows, dormers, drainpipes, corbels, the whole nine yards. That wall is done now, and you can even see some work happening on the tower on the right. Fast-forward a bit, and here’s a closeup of that tower, now complete as well:

Some of this geometry was definitely tricky to get right, but it was worth it in the end. I also had a lot of fun with the decorative elements near the top – there’s a triquetra near the top of each dormer, plus some sort of decorative plaque just below. I couldn’t quite figure out what is embossed in the plaque, so I just sculpted something that looked similar and baked it as a normal map. [EDIT 4/24/19: I finally found a clear enough photo of the plaque – it’s the Hufflepuff crest! Guess I’ll have to go in and redo it at some point…] You can also see the new diamond-shaped muntins in the windows, which are now in all the windows of the castle so far. (I admit that I didn’t go procedural with these…I briefly tried, but it just seemed more efficient to use a single diamond image that I could tile all over the glass.)

Taking a closer look, though, the roof shingles aren’t supposed to get flattened out in some places like that. Always more to be done!