The Rings of Power brings the fabled Second Age of Middle-Earth to screens for the first time
“The [client side] VFX Team were looking for a vendor to be creative partners and come up with something special for this hugely important story-telling moment, and we were very excited to be able to offer our support.”
Outpost VFX Producer, Tom Barber touches on the excitement within the Montréal and Mumbai teams to take on such an iconic sequence within Amazon’s 2022 marquee production, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.
Set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power introduces us to the legendary heroes of Middle-earth in the Second Age.
During this time, elves, dwarves, and men have lived and thrived in relative peace since the end of the First Age which was marked by the defeat of the Dark Lord, Morgoth. However, the anticipation of evil’s re-emergence in Middle-earth has never been far from the minds of its inhabitants.
Barber outlines our involvement in the series: “We joined The Rings of Power relatively late in the show to help them with a specific scene which was both technically and creatively challenging; the making of the three elven rings.”
The sequence, showing the elves forge the three elven rings of three different metals, sets off a devastating chain of events leaving Middle-earth irrevocably changed.
As such a climactic and significant story point, the team knew the importance of the sequence’s success. “Our work was purely the melting, flowing, and mixing of the molten metal, along with supporting CG fire and smoke,” Barber continues.
“To bring life to the molten metal itself, we needed to create a large number of elements that interacted with the flowing base metal. To do this we created a crust on the surface of the liquid that would break up, move with the flow of movement and also re-mix into the metal in places.”
The team spent a lot of time finding real-world references to ground their work in reality: “We found references showing the different ways molten metal can move, how the crust behaves and how smoke, sparks, and light emit from the flow and interact with the environment,” Barber continues. “Along with finding our own references for the metal, we had a great initial guide from the first The Rings of Power teaser trailer, which was shot practically and contained many of the elements we ended up creating in CG.”
Besides creating the overall look and feel of the molten metals as they mix together, the team also undertook the challenge of separating them too. “The different molten metals needed to amalgamate to mix their powers, and then separate into three bands in a centrifugal bowl, to allow the decanting of each separately,” Barber recalls.
“For this work we again spent a lot of time trying to base our work on references, looking at how liquids move, mix and swirl together, but shots where this action took place were the ones the required the most creative exploration. Finding the look that gave that ‘ah ha!’ moment in the scene was a huge accomplishment that everyone was very happy with,” Barber continues.
With Outpost joining production after a lot of the project had already gotten underway, the team were keen to hit the ground running and slot into production as seamlessly and efficiently as possible. “Coming onto such an established show was a great experience, with the VFX Producer Ron Ames and VFX Supervisor Jason Smith already having been working on the project with their team for years,” Barber concludes. “We felt honoured to be able to join them for part of this project, and they were incredibly supportive throughout the whole process. Even though the time zone difference with New Zealand didn’t make it easy, Jason and the team always made time to talk to our VFX Supervisor Richard Clegg as we developed the look of our work.”
Outpost VFX Supervisor, Richard Clegg adds: “Working on forging the rings for the final episode of The Rings of Power was such a fun, creative and technical challenge. To be able to create something that is magical yet believable, and such a huge part of the Tolkien story line, was amazing. It was such a great experience with our super team of artists and the wonderful clients.”
Watch season one of The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power on Amazon Prime now.