The Marauder's Map v1-v4
It's been a while since I finished this replica (2016), but I've decided to give you a little inside look into the making process. As you'll soon discover, it took me almost 12 years to actually finish the prop to my liking. The project went through several iterations and, to this day, I still like to sit down and go through my previous versions, test prints, sketches and all that development stages. I like to keep every version of every prop I make, including this one. The same goes for my visual effects, where I too keep all the stuff I make, it's just digital (so it takes a lot less space... well, real-life space, I'm running out of HDDs). From time to time, I get sentimental and re-discover all the work I put into my projects.
If you're wondering why I've decided to make this, there are several reasons. First and foremost, I love movie props and I love making them. There's also the official replica that you can buy, but you probably know my opinion about the matter - I own the replica, and it's bad. The funny thing is, I bought the official replica just days before finishing my own replica (this one), because I've just visited a Harry Potter expo in Belgium, they were selling it and I've been curious about it. Don't get me wrong, I knew the replica like the back of my hand, because I've studied tons of images, so I knew it was pretty inaccurate. The thing I was curious about, was the paper and the craftsmanship of the replica. I thought that when I get to hold it in my hands, it will feel more like 'the real deal'... but I was disappointed.
Anyway, since I've just finished my own replica (which I wanted to show to the world, because I was happy about it) and since I had this momentary anger about the official replica, I've decided to demonstrate the flaws of the official replica by comparing it to mine. Not a very good choice. I didn't realize that most of the fans have access to the official replica only, so the video turned out looking like a self-serving bragging. I took the sound off of the video, so it won't haunt me anymore, but people can still use it as a reference for building their own replicas. Maybe I just got a bad piece, but I still think that the official replica is a missed opportunity design-wise. I know that the pages they used were designed by the same people that designed the pages you can see in the movie, I just don't understand why not give the fans what they want - the map they can see in the movie. It's this decision that I'm criticising, not the design or designers.
But enough of that, let's get to the fun stuff! Here goes the full evolution of my replica, and a few images of making the final replica.
This is going to get awkward, as I'm not very happy with the previous versions of the replica, haha. But that's exactly why I kept going and making it over and over again. I attempted to make the first replica when I was about 12 years old - that's when the Prisoner of Azkaban movie came out. I was immediately captivated by the look of the Marauder's Map.
From reading the book, I pictured the map as a boring piece of parchment. This is actually the whole deal of the map - that it's not meant to look suspicious, which the movie version most certainly does. But I get it. To display every corner of Hogwarts on a single piece of parchment is not very doable, and to make it look appealing for a movie on top of that is more or less impossible... and I just love the way they handled this thing. Beautiful design and idea behind the folding structure of the map, nice work.
As you can see, the first replica looks ridiculous - mainly from the inside, as I didn't look on any reference images, and the movie was not on a DVD yet, so I couldn't use it as a reference. But I have to cut my younger self some slack - I was just a kid, and I actually like the intro drawing. I guess I found an image of the closed map, so I used at least some reference.
If you've seen the rest of my webpage, you know that I specialize mainly in visual effects and 3D graphics. As time went by, I became more skilled in 2D graphics, and some images of the official replica resurfaced on the internet. They were not nearly as good as you can find now. They were not meant to be printed as a replica of the replica, they were just some casual photos that people took. I was pondering the idea of creating the map digitally for some time now, so I took the opportunity that I finally had some reference images, and I started working on my v1 replica (that's what I call this one).
I had a lot of decision-making in front of me. Since this was the very first time I attempted to do something like this digitally, I was completely unprepared and most of the choices I made didn't make it into the final prop that you can see today. I've decided to make the map completely digital, that's about the only decision that stayed with me the whole time. I found a font that was the most similar to the one used in the map. I say 'the most similar', but the font is still very different, you just cannot mistake it for the original. Since I had to figure all the things out, I didn't care much about the font. I also decided to print the parchment texture on a white paper, but most importantly, the resolution of the individual pages was not enough for an HD print, as you can see below - the details are pixelated. As you can see on the image above, I've created two of the props - the one on the right is a prototype without the back sides. The other one had the back sides glued to the front sides, it was not printed on the same paper. This made the paper too thick for parchment.
That's the first version. As you can see, there was a lot of room for improvement. For the second version, I tried to find a different paper. Something that would look more like a piece of parchment without the need of printing all of it. I tried different types of paper and even a wrapping paper, but none of it gave me what I was looking for, so the second version stayed unfinished.
Now that I established some workflow on this, I started to dive deeper into the details of the map. Most important of all, I've decided to create my own font based on the original prop. After all, all you can see on the map, where ever you look, is the text. The font is mostly hand-written and scanned. I've never tried to make a font before, so again, this took a lot of time.
Since I didn't find the correct paper yet, I continued printing the map on a regular white paper - but this time from both sides. Also, this is the first time that I've decided to add the missing page from the Half-Blood Prince featuring the 7th floor corridor. This page is missing from the official replica, because they didn't update it after the new films came out.
This time, I spent a lot more time tinkering with the look of the parchment for printing. I did a lot of test prints, as you can see below. It's not the worst result, but you can tell that the base is white - especially when you cut the paper, you can see the white edges.
I did a lot of test prints of the final pages as well, just so I could figure out how to put it all together. Since I was adding the 7th floor corridor page, I had to design two more pages to keep the map symmetrical. This was quite fun, because I had a free reign over the whole page, so I could do whatever I wanted.
To check out the layout of the map, I printed it in a smaller scale, and put it together. This allowed me to check what I was doing without wasting too much time and printer ink on it. And, of course, the miniature looks cool.
The layout of the map is very important, and I dedicated a lot of time into planning this. As you can see, I created several types of layouts. This helped me to prepare the pages for the final printing, because I knew exactly where the glue seams will be.
The v3 replica was not too bad, but I still felt that I could do better. I still don't like the fact that it's printed on a white paper, and the fonts that I created also need some work.
Most of the problems I had with this map were caused by the official replica - I used reference images of the replica to guide me, but the replica is really different from the prop from Prisoner of Azkaban. That means that the layout of the map is all wrong, there are some pages missing, the design of the pages is also very different etc. etc.
I still wasn't too happy with the resolution of the pages. It was a little bit better than the previous one, but you could still see some pixelation.
After watching the Prisoner of Azkaban and comparing it to my replica, I've decided that it's time to really put some work into the precision of my work. Until this moment, I was basically trying to recreate the official replica. But that's not what I wanted, I wanted the map from the movie, and that's different from the official replica. That's why I've decided to start again from scratch, throwing out all the reference pictures of the replica and using just the movies as a reference.
I started by trying to finally figure out my problem with the paper. I tried several ways to age the paper, but none of it worked very well. But I still kept trying, because I simply wanted to finally solve this.
One day I was going through a stationery store (again), and I finally found the kind of paper I was looking for. I immediately brought it home and started to work on the parchment texture for it. It worked just the way I imagined, so the problem was finally solved for good.
After the paper problem, the second thing you see the most, is the text. That's why I've decided to create the fonts again from scratch, using the knowledge I gained when creating the previous fonts. I didn't try to speed things up, I really wanted to do this right, because the whole map is based on this.
Once the fonts were finished, I could start working on the pages based on the movie prop. It was often very difficult, because you can't see the map in the movies that much. Some pages were never seen in the movie, and one page (7th floor) has two different designs... it was actually much more difficult to choose between those two, than working without any reference.