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Archive for November, 2002

Second TTT US TV Spot

Ringer Spy Peter has sent in a Quicktime encode of the US TV spot that complements the one we posted last night. Whilst there is no new footage (all shots are taken from the most recent theatrical trailer) – it does concentrate on the various CGI/effects shots, and is worth a look if you want maximum hype-exposure. [More] Here be Spoilers!!

Posted in Movie The Two Towers

Game Technology Stars In ‘Rings’

In “The Fellowship of the Ring,” the first movie in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, audiences had a brief glimpse of a shadowy figure climbing a distant wall. In “The Two Towers,” the trilogy’s second installment, that distant shadow becomes a vital presence. [More]

Posted in Andy Serkis, Movie Fellowship of the Ring, Movie The Two Towers, WETA Digital

Game Technology Stars In ‘Rings’

By Steven Kent
Special to the Tribune
Published November 30, 2002

In “The Fellowship of the Ring,” the first movie in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, audiences had a brief glimpse of a shadowy figure climbing a distant wall. In “The Two Towers,” the trilogy’s second installment, that distant shadow becomes a vital presence.

Gollum, a degenerate creature corrupted by the ring, is a tangle of deviousness and emotion. He is shorter than a man, yet has disproportionately long limbs and an elongated neck.

“It was important that Gollum be as real as the other characters,” said Remington Scott, motion capture supervisor for Weta Ltd., the New Zealand studio where much of the special effects work for the trilogy is created. “He had to be real emotionally, psychologically and physically because Frodo [the ring bearer] is supposed to see himself reflected in Gollum. Motion capture is the only way to do that.”

Motion capture is a technology used by video game designers and filmmakers that assigns real movements to computer animated characters. Electronic Arts, for instance, uses motion capture of real professional football players to create movements for the virtual players in its “John Madden NFL” series.

To bring quarterback Kurt Warner to life, game technicians capture his steps, his timing and the way he whips his arms. But bringing Gollum to the screen required something more subtle and exacting: Scott had to capture conversations.

To do this, he worked with actor Andy Serkis, who played both the voice and body of Gollum. “[Director Peter Jackson] hired Andy to come down and do two or three weeks of audio recording for Gollum because they were originally going to animate him,” said Scott. But “Pete liked his physicality enough that they kept him on set during production.”

The technique captures actors, dressed in black lycra suits studded with reflective white balls, performing scenes in the capture zone. The cameras do not record the actors; rather, they record the movements of the light-reflecting balls. This information is translated into computer data, which are then used to create skeletal models.

Graphic artists then design skins, placed over the skeletons, to create animated characters with realistic movements. Gollum, however, with his unique physique, posed an additional challenge.

“Andy’s proportions are very different than Gollum’s,” said Scott. “Over the years–I think he has been alive for 500 years–Gollum has changed. He has gotten long limbs, a long neck, and grown very thin.

“If we took Gollum and mapped him over Andy, he would move very strangely. We had to retarget Andy’s bones into the bone structure of Gollum.”

Scott’s team did this retargeting on the computer, stretching Serkis’ limbs and making him proportionally smaller overall.

For the first film, a 16-camera motion-capture studio was used. But that proved inadequate to create Gollum, so Scott increased it to 24 cameras to create a larger zone.

“When I first came out, we had 16 optical cameras,” said Scott, who joined the filming for the second installment, which opens in theaters Dec. 18. “This gave us 5 meters width by 5 meters length with 4 meters height. It was not a large zone. It was very limiting.”

Even with the extra cameras, creating motion capture stage versions of the real settings used in the movie was demanding. “There was a scene in which some Hobbits walk down a mountain. Gollum crawls down.

“They actually shot the Hobbits on some hill somewhere in New Zealand, I have no idea where. We had to track their positions in space and the plane of the ground. That way we could put Andy onto a plane that we had to create physically [in the studio].”

Still, Scott’s zone was far smaller than a mountain. “We had to build a mountain in four or five pieces,” said Scott. “We would have Andy crawl down one portion of the mountain, roll the next one in, and have him crawl on that one.

“Gollum runs around a lot, so we had to create a stage on wheels so that we could reposition the stage within the zone area. That way we could capture Andy, then blend it together later in edit.”

Real-time direction

And there was one other requirement. Because Gollum’s part was so integral to the success of the movie, Jackson insisted on directing Serkis’ motion-capture sessions himself. He could not, however, properly direct scenes in which Gollum speaks with Frodo and others simply by watching Serkis alone in a capture zone.

“It was essential for Peter to see Andy’s performance retargeted as Gollum in real time,” Scott said. To do this, Jackson watched a monitor instead of Serkis and the zone.

Movements synced with actors

“Peter would look at a visualization monitor the entire time,” said Scott. “He would be sitting right next to me, and the stage is right in front of him; but
he’s not looking at Andy, he’s looking at a monitor.

“What he saw was a fully rendered and retargeted Gollum in real time, but that wasn’t enough. He had to see Gollum grounded in the shots, so he could see him in relation to all the other actors and what they were doing.”

To do this, the computer superimposed Serkis’ data over still plates of scenes from the movie. The image of Gollum was placed in the actual scenes, and Jackson was able to see where he would appear and how his movements synced with the placement of the other actors.

Steven Kent is a freelance writer based in Issaquah, Wash.

Posted in Old Special Reports

Sean Bean Sketch Up For Auction

Nona writes: Some recent Sean Bean artwork is going up for auction next week on Ebay for the Dorset Wildlife Trust. (a sketch of an orchid). [More]

Posted in Sean Bean

Treebeards Voice Description?!

FANZ writes: I am a New Zealander and yesterday I was at the ‘Warehouse’ and i saw all the new ttt action figures. One of which was a huge Treebeard figure. It had a ‘try me’ feature and if you pulled on a branch it would speak (a very Gimli-ish voice) so just informing you guys that big spoilers are out there to find.

Posted in Movie The Two Towers, Toys, WETA Workshop

TV Watch: Elijah To Appear On Regis & Kelly

Elijah Wood (Frodo) will be on the early morning chat show ‘Regis & Kelly’ on December 13th. Set those VCRs!

Posted in Elijah Wood, Television

Ian McKellen SNL Repeat

Serena writes: “Hello! I just saw a commercial on E! for Sir Ian’s episode of Saturday Night Live from last season, and it will be showing tonight at 10PM Eastern on E!.”

Posted in Ian McKellen, Television

International Release Dates For The Two Towers

With less than a month away until the worldwide release of The Two Towers, many Ringers look forward to the date of December 18 with great anticipation. However not all countries will be lucky enough to receive Peter Jackson’s second part of the trilogy on that special day, some countries having to wait a week, two weeks, and in some cases into late January before seeing The Two Towers released. Therefore, we at have updated our International Release Dates page for the release of The Two Towers and invite you all to check to see when the movie is officially released in your country. [More]

Posted in LotR Movies, Movie The Two Towers, Premieres

Holland Gets Soundtrack Early

Indûr Dawndeath writes to say that Howard Shore’s Two Towers soundtrack is now available in many stores in Holland. Considering the way the DVD release date was adhered to, there’s a fair chance that people everywhere will be able to find the CD early as well.

Posted in Music

Media Watch: The Scotman Interviews Liv Tyler

From the Scotsman: Liv Tyler arrives in the piazza of a New York hotel wearing blue jeans and a white Marc Jacobs blouse, with a Hermes bag slung over one shoulder. I received a tip there’s a Billy Boyd article somewhere on the site as well, but I can’t seem to locate it. [More]

Posted in Old Main News

Vote For Your Film Of The Year!

Dave_Smoketoomuch writes: BBC’s Film 2002 is running a Film of the Year poll (it runs from December 2001 to December 14th 2002, so FOTR is elligible). UK residents only, however. [More]

Posted in Old Main News


The UK paper, The Guardian, says more classic titles such as Lawrence of Arabia will be hitting IMAX screens as well as two major titles next year, the third Harry Potter and LoTR films. These films will not be cut down in time like Star Wars was, but instead will have an intermission as the reels will have to be changed. They will appear on IMAX screens on the same release date as they will hit regular theatres! [More]

Posted in Old Main News