The Third Floor is thrilled to have been a contributor to Amazon Studios’ The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Season 1, streaming on Amazon Prime Video. Led by Visualization Supervisor Joe Henderson, TTF’s team collaborated with the showrunners and VFX Supervisor Jason Smith to visualize a multitude of sequences and environments to aid in the complex nature of producing a series of such epic proportions. TTF utilized an array of virtual production tools and techniques to facilitate shot exploration. From VR headsets and virtual cameras, all the way to onset simulcam. TTF was instrumental in the creation of an onset scale workflow, where actors of all heights could be transformed into their fantastical characters whether big or small.
The sequence of Galadriel approaching Valinor was visualized through previs and postvis as the director and director of photography explored lighting, mood and even green screen placements for the ship set. Final by the VFX team. Final VFX shot courtesy of Amazon Studios.
The living beings the series presents to viewers – from elves to dwarves to trolls, all have distinctive size differences. The visualization process provided an early way to explore and test methods to achieve believable scales, and develop setups for forced-perspective and motion-control.
“We would use lidar set scans from the VFX team to first lock us into the ‘real world’ and then from there we could determine where the camera would be, and then focus in on the approach to be solved for – are we making a small guy look big or a big guy look small, whose environment are we in and what technique should we use? ” Henderson said. “We would then create a Techvis plan that was informed by the lidar and camera blocking that would match the overall motion of the scene, and we would generate ‘scale’ points within the lidar space that we could use to reference all of our measurements. At the real location, physical markers would be surveyed into the ground by the onset VFX team to line up 1:1 with our Techvis.”
Simulcam technology was used throughout the production to help visualize the large environments in real time onset, including shots in Khazad-dûm, Numenor and Lindon. The TTF onset team helped to define and depict what the CG set extensions might look like, and were able to make changes to the assets in real time.
Large environments visualized in previs and based on art department design could be explored virtually to help define digital set extensions. Final VFX shot courtesy of Amazon Studios.
“We would receive blueprints or models from the art department and produce a version of the environments in previs,” Henderson said. “We would work with the concept team or VFX department to build out what the CG extensions might look like. This could all then be scouted using VR or a virtual camera. Using Vcam we could see our shots ‘through the lens’ and see the unbuilt set with extensions and begin to build a game plan for physical production. All of the information would then be passed on to production as techvis.”
In Episode 1 of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Galadriel and her companions explore the vacant fortress of Morogth and soon find themselves being attacked by a terrifying snow-troll. TTF worked with the director and stunt team to visualize the action in previs and to facilitate rehearsals and blocking.
Virtual blocking would help inform the filming of several fight scenes, including the Ice Troll Fight. Months before filming, TTF taped out the floorplan of the set onto a stage floor where the stunt team could rehearse the fight. Motion Capture was then utilized to record all of the actions which would allow the director to then use virtual cameras to pre-plan the entire scene.
TTF worked directly in New Zealand across multiple phases in close collaboration with the VFX production team.