Transfiguration Classroom

In the early Potter films, scenes in Professor McGonagall’s Transfiguration classroom were shot on location in the chapter house at Durham Cathedral. As part of their efforts to make the original exterior miniature somewhat consistent with the location shoots, Stuart Craig and his team adapted the exterior of the chapter house as part of their design.

I say “adapted” because the details don’t really match. Still, it’s very clear that this structure just south of the middle courtyard (also adapted from Durham) was intended to be the exterior of the classroom.

Here’s the basic shape of the structure:

My “reference board” for this structure is one of my smallest. This is partly because it only existed for two films and partly because it’s not that big or complex a structure…but it’s also partly because reference is really, really scarce. Like…a couple of shots in Chamber of Secrets and a behind-the-scenes photo from Sorcerer’s Stone, plus the floor plan that sits beneath the model. Still, it’s enough to reconstruct what most of it looked like…

…except I have literally zero shots of the far side of the structure, the one facing the courtyard. I’d be in heaven if I could find a shot of the original miniature from an angle like this:

It would clear up my questions about the side of the Transfiguration classroom facing the courtyard, not to mention the original training grounds tower roof on the right. Again…maybe someday. In the meantime, I’m leaving the wall facing the courtyard blank.

Anyway, here’s the less mysterious side with all the nice details:

And, as promised last time, here’s a slider comparing the whole area in the first film (left) to the redesign in the third film (right), including the relocation of the suspension bridge:

Next up…dare I try to tackle the original quad?

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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.

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!