Over 20 visual effects studios and 1500 visual effects artists across the globe came together to deliver Amazon’s mega-series “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.” Companies such as Industrial Light & Magic, Weta FX and DNEG provided close to 9500 shots.
VFX producer Ron Ames says the eight-hour series is designed to play like a theatrical experience, however audiences experience it. He says, “Our target was the 65-inch screen at home, but we made it so that it would play technically beautifully in everything up to an IMAX screen. It is finished to a theatrical resolution.”
“Rings of Power,” streaming on Prime Video, is set thousands of years before the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, in the Second Age of Middle-earth. The show follows a host of characters including young Galadriel (Morfydd Clark), Lord Durin (Owain Arthur) and Elrond (Robert Aramayo), and centers around the rise and fall of Númenor, the creation of the Rings of Power and the formation of the Last Alliance.
From set extensions to glorious visual effects sequences, it took a global village of visual effects artists to bring Middle-earth to life, including the violent storm sequence in the first two episodes as Galadriel and Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) attempt to cross the seas of Arda.
Giving a sense of the enormity of the project, Ames says over 1500 artists worked on the series from beginning to end.
As for finding the right VFX studios, he compares it to a casting audition. Their goal wasn’t about who could do the job, it was ensuring everyone could come together and work cohesively to deliver the spectacle that was required of it. “It wasn’t hard to get people to work on the show,” he explains. “It was finding the right partner and who should do what, how do they work together?”
Ames says ILM (Industrial Light & Magic) and Weta FX were the first two studios to board the project. What made “Rings of Power” unique was “we found a way that all assets could be shared and they all talked to each other. So we were all working and pulling in the right direction.”
The Sundering Seas sequence took weeks to put together, with a special focus on making the waves look terrifying and violently strong. Ames says the lead actors shot the scene in an exterior water tank with gallons of water being poured over them.
He also calls attention to the smaller VFX scenes from set extensions to cast interactions. “When you have a dwarf and elf speaking to one another, that’s amazing methodology,” Ames teases. “The actors always came first. In those sequences, they wanted to look into each other’s eyes.”
Ames adds, “The rock breaking sequence took three days. Only one-half of the secret shot was done. It was then layered back together with multiple cameras that repeated themselves.”
The most important element to anyone working on the series was that the performance always drove the visual effects. Says Ames, “Performance and storytelling came first in every single case.”
Visual Effects Studios List for “Rings of Power”
Industrial Light & Magic
Rodeo Visual Effects Company
Rising Sun Pictures
Amazon Studios Technology
Cause and FX
The Third Floor
Plains of Yonder