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***TTT-EE Appendices Discussion -- Bigatures – Helm’s Deep and Barad Dur***


Oct 18 2010, 1:30pm

Post #1 of 11 (1928 views)
***TTT-EE Appendices Discussion -- Bigatures – Helm’s Deep and Barad Dur*** Can't Post

Hullo, welcome and waves, as we continue our journey through The Two Towers appendices. My chapter this week is Miniatures, or the Weta coined term: Bigatures. I will take over from One Ringer who did a great job last week. If you want to check out the chapter: Two Towers Appendices, Part Four: The Battle for Middle Earth Begins, Visual Effects > Minatures > Bigatures.

This chapter of the DVD covers 6 main structures/locations/events from the film:

Helm's Deep, Barad Dur, The Black Gate, Fangorn Forest, Osgiliath, The Flooding of Isengard.

I plan to cover each of these in detail, though my weekly plan will be to split them up, you know, just encase you wanted to know.

Monday: Helm’s Deep and Barad Dur
Wednesday: The Black Gate and Fangorn
Friday: Osgiliath and The Flooding of Isengard

Where possible, I will input some actual model making expertise – my girlfriend studies set, theatre and model design at Uni and has worked on shows like Doctor Who and a host of local Theatre productions, as well as my own MST3k-esque humour in places (if you don’t know MST3k you should check it out). So, set your alarms (U.K time) and settle in for a good read (I hope).

A bit of background on Miniatures/Bigatures:
Bigatures is a term referring to miniature model that is of a large size, Christy Hennah named them as a joke, Bigatures. PJ had decided to create small-size models and design them to the last detail and then add some digital work, instead of creating them as fully digital locations. Because of the quality of the shots needed from these miniatures, some of them we’re built on a massive scale to hold up at such close range when filming.

Helm’s Deep:
We will start with a quote from Alex Funke (Visual Effects DP) ‘’I think to be a good modeller, you have to be a born story teller. If you know the story you’re telling, if you know how old a building is, what it’s history is, who’s lived in it and who’s living in it now, then there are many many things you can do to explain that visually.’’

Everything Weta need to know about the buildings seen in TTT are depicted in detail as we all know by Tolkien himself, making the visualising of specific buildings and its history easy to find out, all the material is there in the books.

The initial design for Helm’s Deep was done by Alan Lee (conceptual Artist and Set Decorator) and was the first thing he began working on when he joined the project.

The minautre they designed, originally only for wide shots, was around in the days when Miramax we’re financing the film – so 1998! PJ would record and send videos to Harvey and Bob Weinstein of the structure which was about 7 metres tall and 20 metres square. Weta had never done rocks on this scale before – to create the rock effect, they took rolls of industrial grade tinfoil which they hung in massive sheets and carefully moulded to the Helm’s Deep Model to give the detailed effect.

Back in 1998, PJ was working on a battle plan where he brought what seems like the world’s supply (around 40,000) of toy soldiers and would record with a small camera his ideas and would act like he was a commander looking down over his troops. Helm’s Deep was built on 35th scale because the plastic toy soldiers we’re the perfect size to match the scale. For some background on scale models, see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scale_model
Later on, they had to touch up the miniature so that it could be shot from inches away. Mary Maclachlan (Weta Minature Builder) designed a stamp, which when pressed with different amounts of pressure would give the impression of different stone depths for the Deeping Wall and the Hornburg.

Along with the 35th scale miniature they also built a one quarter scale model of Helm’s Deep – being one quarter the size of the real Helm’s Deep. This was big enough for a person to be able to crouch and walk through the front door. I know we all want one in our Garden. The ¼ scale model was used in the background for some of the battle scenes where the Uruks attack the Deeping wall as well as the wall explosion. The wall explosion was a onetime shot; they packed it with charges and shot it with many cameras’ so to extend the action by cutting them together. It was not meant to be rebuilt and blown up again.

Barad Dur:
I love saying Barad Dur in a deep menacing voice and pronouncing every little sound, Baaraah Duuuuurrrrr, why not try it, try to roll those R’s people!

Let’s start with another quote: John Howe (Conceptual Artist) ‘’Barad Dur is a perversion of Numenorean architecture. Some sort of ungodly Gothic Cathedral, arrogant, slightly uncomfortable and partly organic.’’ An awesome example of a Gothic Catherdral: Barcelona's Sagrada Familia - if you haven't been to see it, then you should.

John Howe originally did an illustration of a part of Barad Dur for a Tolkien Calendar, which Peter and Fran had up in their office as reference. Here’s the image for ya’ll.

PJ asked John Howe to draw the rest of it and to depict the summit. So he started with the original drawing and worked his way up from there, adding a page after page until he reached the top and designed the two spires for the housing of the Great Eye.

The miniature for Barad Dur stood 27 feet in height and wouldn’t even fit in Weta’s construction stage is was that big, so they had to build it in parts and put it together elsewhere as it would hit the ceiling. If the real Barad Dur stood at 2000 feet tall then to build an appropriate scale for shooting, as close as PJ wanted to, then the miniature would have to be 10th scale, meaning it would have to have been 200 foot tall. Something to scare those door to door insurance salesmen away. So ultimately they built it at 166th scale, which was around 6 foot tall.

The miniature for Barad Dur was based on being built by Orcs over hundreds of years, so one host of Orc’s would build one section and then another host years later would replace, fix of build on top of that, like a large crude jigsaw puzzle (get your orders in for Christmas NOW!). They made parts of the structure from blue Styrofoam – a common material used in prop, film and theatre designing. They would use hot wire to cut the foam into shape. Interestingly, my girlfriend uses the same material and uses a hot wire to shape thedesign but on a much larger scale, Weta seem to have adapted the process to design much smaller props.

Barad Dur has such micro detailing because it needed to stand up to such scrutiny when filming – shot’s of up to 2 inches away. That’s some painstaking detail. Alex Funke said that it was a gorgeous set to shoot as you ‘’can’t light it wrong’’ as it casts great shadows, that is until you start moving the camera around the structure. A shot in the movie has the camera spinning 270 degrees around the tower until it reaches the Great Eye with the Black Plains and Mount Doom in the background, so they setup a key light that would always stay in front of the camera, so that the camera chased the light around the tower and would keep Barad Dur in backlight.

That’s it for today, better get on with some work I supposed. Wednesday will be a discussion on The Black Gate and Fangorn Forest – where the real treebeard awaits us!

Any questions? Any views? Any medical problems you need answering?


(This post was edited by Trevelyan on Oct 18 2010, 1:34pm)


Oct 18 2010, 3:47pm

Post #2 of 11 (1286 views)
*mods up* -- this is great, and what a punchline! [In reply to] Can't Post

You've outdone yourself, sir. This was a hoot to read, and that last link is priceless!

I thought I knew a lot about the bigatures but I was dead wrong -- this is a treasure trove of stuff here, thanks for taking the time to capture so much of the Appendices feature.

Some random comments in reply...

They used tinfoil? Really?
They blew it up? Really?
Love the bit about Peter and his toy soldier army...he's a big kid at heart.
Barad-dur was 27 feet tall? Did they build two of them -- one that was 6 feet too?
I have new appreciation for my styrofoam cups now..

Sometimes I wonder about the environmental impact of the films -- lots and lots of stuff that probably is not biodegradable had to be created. I wonder if thousands of years from now archaelogists will find pieces of Helm's Deep in a NZ dig and wonder how four feet people could build something like that..

Helm's Deep totally works for me as an environment -- it looks and feels just as real as Edoras IMHO...and Barad-dur, well, I do think they got the twisted Gothic cathedral idea across. It's like beautiful architecture that has been corrupted. Just looking at it gives me the creeps!

Thanks for a fun first installment..looking forward to the rest of your posts this week!



Oct 18 2010, 4:32pm

Post #3 of 11 (1281 views)
Cheers [In reply to] Can't Post

Indeed, industrial grade tinfoil, so massive rolls of the stuff - it shows clips of them smoothing it over the Helm's Deep miniature.

The effects team rigged charges to the back of the wall and simply blew it up - only the small scale model though. It looks as though they used the smallest modle to blow the wall, with the 1 1/4 scale model as a digital in the background. I like watching the deeping wall explosion to see a few Orc's go flying really high and then see them land somewhere in the distance.

Elsewhere on the EE DVD's it does talk about Peter Jackson playing with Toy Cars and whatnot under his house....infact it's on the ROTK Appendices as there was a Spider under his parents house that he used for the design of Shelob, I seem to remember.

No, maybe I mis-worded that, the Barad-dur bigature was 6 feet, for the shots PJ wanted they would have had to make a 200 foot one, they instead made a hyper detailed 6 foot one.

A Barad-dur shaped stryofoam cup perhaps?

(Gotta run....replay with some other bits later or tomorrow).

I think the real Treebeard might be making a return a few times this week.


Peredhil lover

Oct 18 2010, 6:07pm

Post #4 of 11 (1458 views)
Bigatures [In reply to] Can't Post

Have to agree, bigatures is a much more fitting term. How can you call something 'miniature' when it's so much higher than you? Wink

Anyway, I remember my awe when I got my first glimpse of these things. Before LotR I had never been interested in movies and moviemaking very much and had absolutely no knowledge how things were done. So I was totally in awe of these bigatures, and to see the immense detail they did there was amazing. I always wanted to have Imladris Cool

I love that story about Peter and his toy soldiers. He's really still a kid at heart, and that's so endearing. And what a great way to work out the battle moves! I'm not overly visual in that regard, so I can imagine it's easier to plan everything that way - and much more fun than a few sketches or just doing it digitally or however that is normally done.

Anyway, I'd really like to sneak through that door and to walk around and look at everything closely. It's such a pity it got destroyed and that they had to take the large scale one down again after filming in that quarry.

Must have been fun for John Howe to expand his old drawing in that way. And both he and the miniature builders did an amazing job, as with all of these models. Barad Dur was certainly the most hideous one - but so impressing in its hideousness! They must have had a lot of fun to make it looking so disgusting in comparison to the other sets - can you imagine a higher contrast than Barad Dur and Imladris, for instance? Do you know if they had any real examples for Barad Dur, as they used for other cultures like Rohan? Somehow I can't imagine that anyone would build that ugly in real life.

Love that last link to the "true Treebeard" Laugh

It's so much fun to revisit everything; I *really* need to find time to watch the DVD again!

I do not suffer from LotR obsession - I enjoy every minute of it.

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Oct 19 2010, 9:28am

Post #5 of 11 (1259 views)
Revist. [In reply to] Can't Post

I was never one for playing with toy soldiers when I was a kid but I can see no better way to visualise attacking a fortress than if you have a small scale model of the fortress with legions of toy soldiers – Tania Rogers from Weta mentions that there was a method to his madness – because it showed the guys from Weta the scale that the Heml’s Deep Battle would take, the sheer numbers – like water on stone as Theoden says.

There wasn’t any mention of cultures used to inspire Barad Dur during this section – nor do I remember it being mentioned elsewhere, though John Howe does say it’s a perversion of Numenorean architecture – so for one that would mean trying to match it in grandeur (but not appearance), and the Orc’s would just use whatever they could find – namely Iron and Steel and other such metals and leather perhaps? And because it’s built by the Orc’s it must take form in an Orcish design – namely even hurtful to look upon it.

Yeah every so often I sit down and watch a chapter of the appendices on a night and then work my way through them over a few weeks – did this only recently. If you don’t have time of fancy settling in to watch the movies (because I can only watch the Extended Edition DVD’s and only in full – I couldn’t watch an hour of the film and then turn off, If you’ve started you just can’t stop until the end), then the appendices are great. It keeps my LotR obsession topped up.


Peredhil lover

Oct 19 2010, 9:47am

Post #6 of 11 (1281 views)
True [In reply to] Can't Post

To use these toy soldiers gave the Weta guys a better understanding what Peter wanted, no doubt. That makes sense.

Hm ... when Barad Dur was a perversion of Numenorian architecture, then it would probably have a certain resemblance to Gondor, as that one was of Numenorian origin as well. Thanks!
Though now I am beginning to wonder how much sense of stability the Orcs have when they build something. For the tower had to be quite solid to survive all these Orc quarrels undamaged WinkEvil

Same here - I just seldom have time to sit down for over three hours and watch a whole movie nonstop. The extras are a bit easier, because they are shorter. And they are as worth watching as the movies themselves. This discussion here might just be the excuse I need to do it again Cool

I do not suffer from LotR obsession - I enjoy every minute of it.

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Oct 19 2010, 1:09pm

Post #7 of 11 (1283 views)
Can't think of a subject line....as normal. [In reply to] Can't Post

Barad Dur would have been built by Sauron and his Orc's long ago - after Sauron was defeated by the Alliance, was not Barad Dur destroyed? At least a part of it, the foundation's we're still there - being tied to Sauron and unable to be fully destroyed because the ring was still around. But my guess was that Barad Dur's size and grandeur was a taunt to Gondor. Minas Morgul, which was built by the Numenoreans is very similar to Minas Tirith - though it's been deserated by The Witch King.

Yeah, 20-30 minutes a night on the appendices is do-able.


Peredhil lover

Oct 19 2010, 3:43pm

Post #8 of 11 (1229 views)
That subject line could have been from me ;-) [In reply to] Can't Post

Can only seldom think of one, so I often use the beginning of the post for it. Glad to know I'm not the only one Laugh

I do not suffer from LotR obsession - I enjoy every minute of it.

TORn Link Collection
TORn Travelling Journal website


Oct 19 2010, 4:27pm

Post #9 of 11 (1237 views)
sfgsertq345ertge [In reply to] Can't Post

Why do we even need to set a subject for EVERY post?

I blame the real Treebeard.


Arwen's daughter

Oct 19 2010, 4:32pm

Post #10 of 11 (1245 views)
Subject lines are important [In reply to] Can't Post

because it gives those of us who read these boards in Threaded Mode something to click on so that we can actually open up and read your post. Smile

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Oct 20 2010, 8:24am

Post #11 of 11 (1357 views)
"And then I said..... [In reply to] Can't Post

......something not that great really."

Hense trying to make the subject line interesting so people actually click on it? Trying to tease people and temp them in.



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