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September/October 2022

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Arthur, Maxim Baldry, Nazanin Boniadi, Morfydd Clark, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Charles Edwards, Trystan Gravelle, Sir Lenny Henry, Ema Horvath, Markella Kavenagh, Tyroe Muhafidin, Sophia Nomvete, Lloyd Owen, Megan Richards, Dylan Smith, Charlie Vickers, Leon Wadham, Benjamin Walker, Daniel Weyman and Sara Zwangobani. PRODUCER RON AMES Ron Ames is one of the show's producers and sees The Rings of Power as a new type of production that bridges both feature film and television formats. "It's this hybrid form," says Ames, whose credits include The Aviator, Avatar and Real Steel. "It is theatrical production — streaming. I think we repre- sent that. I think some of the other shows — The Mandalorian, Game of Thrones — represent a new form of filmmaking, which is not TV and it's not a feature film. It has its own unique cadence, quality and storytelling, because there are three acts created for each hour and then (they) flow into the other. So even how it's written and carried through, how the music is done…We had a full eight hours of orchestrated music by Bear McCreary in London at Abbey Road Studios and Air Studios, and also in Vienna with our choirs." Collectively, the series spanned 385 shoot days (214 main unit, 126 second unit, 45 splinters), repre- senting 786 hours of footage and 24,659 takes. "That's a lot of material," says Ames, who equates it to four two-hour features. Production took place in New Zealand and visual effects tasks were distributed to a number of stu- dios throughout the world, including ILM and Weta. Employing a cloud workflow was the only way to make the production and post possible. "It was a vision from the beginning," says Ames of the workflow. "We wanted to be cloud-based. I said, 'Can I have unlimited Amazon storage and connectivity?' And they said, 'Yes!' We had a full cloud-based production, so what that meant was, everything from camera originals were pushed to the cloud daily. We had servers, but the servers only were a place for stuff to go and then (get) pushed directly to the cloud." Metadata was also tracked from beginning to end. "We had every piece of metadata, from visual ef- fects, script supervisor, on-set DIT, onto the camera systems, everything went into the headers of the footage and never left. So all along, through post production, we knew every piece of data and that could be shared with any of our vendors — both on the post side and on the visual effects side." The production made use of Ncam's Reality cam- era-tracking technology, which provides realtime previsualization of environments, set extensions and CGI elements directly in-camera while shooting. "While we were shooting, the director of pho- tography and a cameraman could actually see those backgrounds, and the actors could see those backgrounds," he explains. "So while we didn't have an LED wall, we had Ncam playing back, in realtime, the backgrounds. That's what we used to do thousands of temps. When we were editing and the showrunners were looking at stuff, we were temping it as we went. We did thousands of temps using basically another form of virtual production, just not an LED wall." Ames collaborated with Blackmagic Design to create a cloud-based color correction solution, the results of which are now included in DaVinci Resolve 18. "I gave them a year's warning," Ames recalls. "I said, 'I want to color correct this, sitting in New Zealand, with Skip (Kimball) in LA, or at his home in Idaho.' We have the same monitors, and in realtime, we would color correct. So that's what we did. It was the most amazing thing!" This way of working, with realtime previews and a global talent pool, all sharing media, is what Ames describes as "a dream come true" — and not one that's solely reserved for big-budget productions. "If you were an independent film — and I have done small features with visual effects — you could use the same systems," he explains. "You do not have to be of a production of this size to bene- fit from this material. It is a new world because everybody now is working in this hybridized form…I believe this is modern filmmaking…Everybody worked as a singular team. It wasn't like, 'Okay, we're going to finish it and you'll get it.' There was no silo-ing. I think the process, to me, is as exciting as the result." VFX SUPERVISOR JASON SMITH ILM's Jason Smith served as the film's visual effects supervisor and says one of the first things he did, along with the showrunners, was map out the show and brainstorm on how they were going to meet its visual effects needs. "In some of those first weeks, Ron (Ames) and I stood at a white board, with our (list of) vendors that we wanted to work," he recalls. "And we just started listing the beats that we thought each one would be good at." Many studios, he points out, have the supervision and artistic skills to pull off difficult work. However, for The Rings of Power, the volume of shots re- quired would present an additional challenge. "To pull off work at scale, with a large number of shots at a high, high quality bar and high difficulty — difficult creature work as a good example, or diffi- cult environment, or especially difficult simulation work, like water and things like that — those kind of tasks, when you read them in the script, you can al- most immediately start thinking of certain vendors." ILM, Weta, Method, Dneg, Rodeo FX, Rising Sun Pictures, Atomic Fiction and Creative Cantina all brought expertise to the project. "It's literally like making an eight-hour block- buster," says Smith, who worked on the original Transformers, The Revenant, The Avengers and Pirates of the Caribbean, but had yet to work on a streaming series. "I come from a background of big films, so I'm used to doing 2,000 shots. That's been my expe- rience. And to come on to this one and have four times that amount percolating around…It's been a new experience for me, I have to tell you." One reoccurring effect that was needed for the series was that of a vast ocean. In Episode 3, Galadriel (an elf) and Halbrand (a human) are rescued from a raft during a storm and attack, and in Episode 5, a fleet of sailing ships prepare for an expedition from Númenor to Middle-earth. "We knew we had to generate a way of cre- ating oceans that was reliable and repeatable," explains Smith. "We went out and shot aerial plates of oceans, and marine plates of oceans, knowing that some of those would be plates in the show, of course. But we also knew that we were going to shoot dozens of these plates that would only be ref- erence for Industrial Light and Magic, who we chose to handle most of the water work on the show." According to Smith, ILM has a very strong 12 POST SEPT/OCT 2022 Conveying the scale of the island of Númenor was the film's greatest VFX challenge. DaVinci Resolve was used for color grading.

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