Fortress rises on Haywards Hill – Lord of the Rings Secret Tricks revealed

Special Effects Director Speaks!

From: The Evening Post, Tuesday 23 November

Fortress rises on Haywards Hill

Lord of the Rings Secret Tricks revealed

by Simon Beattie

Special effects whizzes on The Lord of the Rings movies have built models up to 8m high in Warehouses in Miramar.

The trilogy’s special effects director, Alex Funke, at the weekend unveiled some tricks and techniques being used by Peter Jackson’s Weta special effects team.

Mr Funke, speaking to the Screen Producers and Director’s Association conference in Wellington, said the Lord of the Rings was the Holy Grail of film-making and required more than 1000 special effects shots.

Mr Funke was the effects cinematographer on blockbusters The Abyss, Waterworld, Starship Troopers and Total Recall – for which he won an Oscar. He said Weta – the visual effects company based at director Jackson’s Camperdown Studios – was building and filming miniature models. The footage would be superimposed onto live action shots.

It is believed that the partial set built in the stone quarry on Haywards Hill is for the scenes involving the battle at Helm’s Deep fortress.. A complete miniature set has also been constructed.

Mr Funke, from the United States, said some of the models were 8m tall, “We have warehouses full of them. We have huge space – about 3000sqm – for our use.”

Mr Funke said an almost constant cloud of smoke would be used in special effect shots to give the viewers the illusion of depth.

Almost every effect shot had been previewed on computers. In many cases they would be shot using cameras with technology that was 50 years old.

Data takers made sure the work of different camera crews and the special effects team corresponded.

Despite revealing some tricks of the trade, Mr Funke wouldn’t show any film clips of the scenes filmed so far.

“I would love to show you some rushes [film clips] of The Lord of The Rings, but security being what it is, I can’t.”

Star Wars creator George Lucas was reported to have said in a overseas newspaper recently that only his company, Industrial Light and Magic, would be able to create many of the shots needed.

Mr Funke disagreed. “I don’t think he’s speaking form an informed point of view. I think it’s going to be difficult, but we can do it.”