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Behind the scenes at Weta Workshop. (aka "I'm holding Narsil!")
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Ataahua
Forum Admin / Moderator


Dec 11 2014, 8:59pm

Post #1 of 26 (1105 views)
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Behind the scenes at Weta Workshop. (aka "I'm holding Narsil!") Can't Post

On Wednesday I was one of 10 people on a tour of Weta Workshop, and it was geek heaven.

We started in the boardroom, which is worth a visit in itself - both long sides of the room are mirrored shelves that hold one each of all of the collectable statues and busts from LOTR and The Hobbit, and many from other Weta-involved projects (including Daleks from Dr Who, Narnia figurines, the Wot-Wots, Jane and Dragon, and other projects I didn't recognise). The are all from Richard Taylor's personal collection - and who should pop in to chat with us but Richard himself! It turns out that he interrupted a meeting he was in with a film studio to spend 10 minutes with us (to the increasing agitation of his PA, who after five minutes kept gently reminding him that he really should be somewhere else). :D

He is such a generous and humble man. It was a thrill to have him greet us. :)

Then we went on a tour of the workshop itself - past Richard's toy-strewn desk, down stairs and down a hallway of LOTR and Hobbit weapons. Matt, our guide, said the workshop would be a great place to be in a zombie apocalypse because of all the weapons around. :D

Then came the highlight of the tour for me: more than half an hour with master swordsmith Peter Lyon, who is possibly the only living person to have swords in the collection of the Royal Armoury in the UK. He talked us through swordmaking and the painstaking work of putting the silver filigree into Sting's hilt, and he had swords there for us to hold. There were three versions of Narsil: the hero sword in spring steel (which was surprisingly heavy), the aluminium version (lighter) and the polyurethane stunt sword (lighter again). There were also Eomir's sword (surprisingly short and just beautiful), Theoden's and the King of the Dead's (suitably corroded), as well as King Peter's and a centaur's (frickin *huge*) from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

Peter's a patient, quiet man who I think must lose himself in his work. He said it takes 80 hours to make each of the replica swords for sale, and his attention to detail is unceasing.
In fact that was the biggest thing that struck me while at the workshop: the ongoing concentration and immensely detailed work that these artists do. Richard said that when he's hiring he looks for passion most of all - talent is fourth on the list - and I think you would have to have passion and drive to keep you focused on work that involves hours and hours of concentration.

We also saw the new machines that cut molds much faster than the artists could during LOTR (which Matt said were great "until the robots become sentient, rise against us and kill us all"). A little bit of my geek heart died when I saw them. I completely understand the necessity of greater efficiency and lower costs, but for me it lessens the artisanship at every step of the process. But then, I'm sure they helped immensely with The Hobbit films: for LOTR the workshop had two and a half years of pre-production but with The Hobbit they had seven weeks (what with Guillermo leaving, PJ starting and then PJ falling ill just before filming started). Even so, they worked 18-hour days for more than a year to have ready everything that was needed.

The afternoon was spent in the boardroom, first with a makeup artist who put elf ears on three people (one of them my friend, who rocked the ears to the BOFA advanced screening that evening) and showed us two prosthetic Bombur arms: one unpainted and one painted up with dirt and wrinkles and whatnot. What didn't come across in the DVD extras was how freaky it is to touch these - the texture of the latex is quite unnerving.

Then another chap took us through the overall design of Middle-earth across all six movies. Among his designs was Nori's starfish hairstyle. They had done a lot of the Dwarves by that stage and Pete wanted something different and kept pushing them to be bolder, so this man (I'm sorry that I don't remember his name) drew the hair design we know so well, thinking Pete would never go for it. Of course he did, and the designer thought "Damn" - but when he saw it on screen he realised how well it worked amid all the other designs.

He also said that Ori and Balin's beards were switched pretty late in the design stage.

All up we were at the workshop for four and a half hours. They were very generous with their time and I absolutely loved getting to see their workplace and meet some of the people who have put so much of themselves into these films. I was a very lucky Tolkien fan. :)

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauronís master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded beggar with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


Ataahua's stories


Lily Fairbairn
Half-elven


Dec 11 2014, 9:34pm

Post #2 of 26 (809 views)
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How cool! [In reply to] Can't Post

When we were on the Cruise to Middle-earth three years ago this month we, too, got to see the Weta boardroom and talk with Richard. It and he are everything you said and more. Geek heaven! But since they were heavily into The Hobbit at the time, we weren't allowed into any of the workshops.

We did get to heft some replica swords the day we went to "Edoras". In my avatar I'm holding a version of Narsil, which is, yes, very heavy, so much so I was proud of myself for getting it up in the air!

What a wonderful day for you. I'm so glad you got to go. Thanks for the report!

Where now the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the hand on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?
Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing?
They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow....


SirDennisC
Half-elven


Dec 11 2014, 10:19pm

Post #3 of 26 (818 views)
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Thanks for a great report you lucky devil! [In reply to] Can't Post

Well done and well deserved, I'm very happy for you!

Did you happen to mention that you volunteer at TORn? What did they think of that?



sador
Half-elven


Dec 11 2014, 10:40pm

Post #4 of 26 (818 views)
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Good for you! [In reply to] Can't Post

So I understand that you've been practicing, eh?
The polyurethane for chopping spam, the aluminum for police duty on the Hobbit Movie board, and the spring steel is for trolls?

I'm glad you've had such a great time - and thank you for the report!


Silverlode
Forum Admin / Moderator


Dec 11 2014, 11:18pm

Post #5 of 26 (809 views)
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This lovely shade of green is my natural color. [In reply to] Can't Post

Wow, that all sounds fascinating. Richard Taylor always seems to go above and beyond for the fans, and it sounds like he'd much rather have hung out with your group than talk to studio suits. And who can blame him?

I knew the pre-production time was short, but seven weeks? Yikes. They pulled off daily miracles, obviously. I think it's hilarious that the original doubtful fan-reaction to Nori's hairstyle was shared by the guy who invented it. Laugh

Thanks for that report!

Silverlode



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"Dark is the water of Kheled-z‚ram, and cold are the springs of Kibil-n‚la, and fair were the many-pillared halls of Khazad-dŻm in Elder Days before the fall of mighty kings beneath the stone."



a.s.
Valinor


Dec 11 2014, 11:19pm

Post #6 of 26 (791 views)
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this is so TOTALLY cool. Wow. // [In reply to] Can't Post

 

"an seileachan"


Through any dark time, I always remember Frodo's claim on the side of Mt. Doom that he "can manage it" because he must.
Sometimes, I have to manage it, too, as do we all. We manage because we must.




Ataahua
Forum Admin / Moderator


Dec 11 2014, 11:23pm

Post #7 of 26 (810 views)
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No I didn't. [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Did you happen to mention that you volunteer at TORn?


However during the presentation on the Middle-earth design one of the tour group asked if the fans really got into these details. My friend and I just grinned at each other. Cool

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauronís master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded beggar with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


Ataahua's stories


(This post was edited by Ataahua on Dec 11 2014, 11:23pm)


Ataahua
Forum Admin / Moderator


Dec 11 2014, 11:24pm

Post #8 of 26 (793 views)
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Hmm, you're giving me ideas... :D / [In reply to] Can't Post

 

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauronís master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded beggar with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


Ataahua's stories


Magpie
Immortal


Dec 12 2014, 12:50am

Post #9 of 26 (790 views)
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lovely report [In reply to] Can't Post

thanks so much for sharing that experience with us.


LOTR soundtrack website ~ magpie avatar gallery
TORn History Mathom-house ~ Torn Image Posting Guide


Meneldor
Valinor


Dec 12 2014, 1:59am

Post #10 of 26 (788 views)
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I'm not jealous. [In reply to] Can't Post

Not at all.


Am I fooling anyone?
Didn't think so.


They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters, these see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep. -Psalm 107


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Dec 12 2014, 3:00am

Post #11 of 26 (805 views)
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Wow. [In reply to] Can't Post

What an incredibly awesomely geeky tour. Christmas came early for you! Cool Have your feet touched the ground yet?


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"I desired dragons with a profound desire"





Ataahua
Forum Admin / Moderator


Dec 12 2014, 3:44am

Post #12 of 26 (795 views)
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Yes, sadly. [In reply to] Can't Post

About an hour after the BOFA movie I started coming down with a filthy cold. I feel absolutely awful, but I have fabulous memories to console me. :)

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauronís master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded beggar with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


Ataahua's stories


cats16
Half-elven


Dec 12 2014, 5:01am

Post #13 of 26 (782 views)
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How wonderful! [In reply to] Can't Post

Such a great experience for you all! A four hour vlog session in person...can't get much better than that. Wink

Thanks for sharing. You've inspired me for my own report.



Join us every weekend in the Hobbit movie forum for this week's CHOW (Chapter of the Week) discussion!




(This post was edited by cats16 on Dec 12 2014, 5:02am)


Kerewyn
Rohan


Dec 12 2014, 10:41am

Post #14 of 26 (774 views)
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Revisit! [In reply to] Can't Post

Oh wow, Ataahua, this brings back great memories of the Weta visit our Wellymoot group did in-- was it 2006? And we also then started in the boardroom, and had Richard Taylor drop in to talk to us. And I remember Daniel took us through the workshops, though a lot was out of bounds due to King Kong being in production at the time. I recall holding swords, and also being thrilled to hold Narnia Lucy's small leather cordial flask.

But how amazing to hear directly from Peter Lyon! And was it Paul Tobin who spoke to you, and had Nori's hair design? I'm looking in the Chronicles book and there's a piece from him saying "I'm probably the guy responsible for Nori's hair, so send your mail to me!"

You're so very lucky to be able to visit Weta at this time of all times. I am hoping to be in Wellington in February, and secretly have my fingers crossed. Wink

Was the tour quite a general tourist group then? (or a work / community thing?) For someone to ask whether fans really get into the details - suggests to me the tour group wasn't fully comprised of Ringers per se. Wink



"Then the bells shall ring in gladness at the Mountain King's return... but all shall fail in sadness, and the lake will shine and burn."

(This post was edited by Kerewyn on Dec 12 2014, 10:45am)


entmaiden
Forum Admin / Moderator


Dec 12 2014, 3:41pm

Post #15 of 26 (758 views)
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Richard's assistant is an amazing person [In reply to] Can't Post

I had the chance to meet her (and Richard) at Comic-Con one year. She is constantly on the clock because Richard will talk all day long and bounces from one thing to the next. She has the unenviable job of keeping him on somewhat of a schedule, and she does it with grace and a bit of steel Wink.

As you can imagine, Richard is pulled in a million different places and everyone wants a bit of his time. He is so generous with everyone, especially fans, and that makes it hard to run a business!


entmaiden
Forum Admin / Moderator


Dec 12 2014, 3:43pm

Post #16 of 26 (759 views)
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How wonderful! [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm so glad you got to go, and thank you for telling us about it in so much detail!


NottaSackville
Valinor

Dec 12 2014, 8:47pm

Post #17 of 26 (740 views)
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Oh bummer [In reply to] Can't Post

But I'd trade for Weta tour + nasty cold any day.

Thanks for your report, sounds very awesome :)

Happiness: money matters, but less than we think and not in the way that we think. Family is important and so are friends, while envy is toxic -- and so is excessive thinking. Beaches are optional. Trust is not. Neither is gratitude. - The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner as summarized by Lily Fairbairn. And a bit of the Hobbit reading thrown in never hurts. - NottaSackville


Eledhwen
Forum Admin / Moderator


Dec 12 2014, 9:14pm

Post #18 of 26 (745 views)
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So jealous [In reply to] Can't Post

But so glad you were able to go - it sounds amazing!

Storm clouds


Ataahua
Forum Admin / Moderator


Dec 12 2014, 10:09pm

Post #19 of 26 (745 views)
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Oops, I'm a bad fan. [In reply to] Can't Post

I meant of course that I held the reforged Anduril, not Narsil.

I'll go sit on the Mediocrity Bench for a while.

Blush

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauronís master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded beggar with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


Ataahua's stories


Meneldor
Valinor


Dec 12 2014, 10:28pm

Post #20 of 26 (740 views)
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We'll let it slide just this once [In reply to] Can't Post

but only because the professor wouldn't have been able to tell the difference either.


They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters, these see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep. -Psalm 107


Ataahua
Forum Admin / Moderator


Dec 13 2014, 6:01am

Post #21 of 26 (739 views)
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The tour [In reply to] Can't Post

was thanks to a competition my friend won through Air New Zealand - he flies a lot through work so he had the chance to enter, and invited me along when he won. Weta is doing tours but I was never clear exactly where they go - I'm pretty sure we saw areas that aren't covered in the publicly available tours but I'm not certain. We got talking to one couple and found out they hadn't seen any of the movies, which made me wonder why they entered this competition.

It does sound like it was Paul Tobin from the Chronicles book. He was great to listen to.

And yes, I was thinking of our Wellingmoot tour during this visit. :) Picture the weapons walls that we saw and times it by four - there are weapons walls everywhere now (I picked out Fili's daggers). Given the weapons, marquettes, statues and armour around the place, much of it at height, I wonder how safe it is in there during an earthquake!

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauronís master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded beggar with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


Ataahua's stories


grammaboodawg
Immortal


Dec 14 2014, 2:22pm

Post #22 of 26 (713 views)
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*applause!!!* Oh Wow! [In reply to] Can't Post

I am SO SO SO HAPPY you got to do this! After all these years with TORn and the end of these incredible films coming to a close... for you to see the heart of their creativity is so perfect!

What really astounds me is how much time they gave you and how much they shared with you. The references I always hear from everyone who comes in contact with Weta are passion, hard work, and striving for detail.

Thank you so much for this. I'm still just shaking my head in awe :)

*warm hug*



6th draft of TH:AUJ Geeky Observation List - November 28, 2013
4th draft of TH:DOS Geeky Observation List - May 15, 2014



sample

"There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West."

I'm SO HAPPY these new films take me back to that magical world!!



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Loresilme
Valinor


Dec 15 2014, 3:27pm

Post #23 of 26 (694 views)
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What a great report! [In reply to] Can't Post

I loved reading this, Ataahua! I felt (almost, lol) like I was there! (Ah, maybe someday.)

Reading this was especially touching in light of the "old", er shall I say, classic :-) interviews you posted on OT, with PJ and Richard Taylor:
http://newboards.theonering.net/...i?post=807766#807766


Quote
The are all from Richard Taylor's personal collection - and who should pop in to chat with us but Richard himself! It turns out that he interrupted a meeting he was in with a film studio to spend 10 minutes with us (to the increasing agitation of his PA, who after five minutes kept gently reminding him that he really should be somewhere else). :D


To see how far they've come, yet Richard still makes it a point to spend time with fans who come to see their work.


Quote
Richard said that when he's hiring he looks for passion most of all - talent is fourth on the list - and I think you would have to have passion and drive to keep you focused on work that involves hours and hours of concentration.


Given the hours and the deadlines and the enormous stress they are under, it would have to be the main requirement that the person has such love and passion for what they are doing that they would want to do it no matter what. Now that the studio is so well known and successful, maybe it's easy for people today to say, oh but they have the great opportunity of working on a huge blockbuster... however - remembering those original interviews from "before" - they had that same passion and love then, working the same crazy long stressful hours on a shoestring in (seemingly) unheated warehouses :), but with no assurance whatsoever at that time, that anything they were working on was even going to be seen. Who could know :).

I loved the story about Nori's hairstyle. To think that it was just the wildest thing he could throw it out there, and it ended up working perfectly :-).

This also caught my attention:

Quote
the texture of the latex is quite unnerving.


Is it really? Is it cold or mushy or ....? I'm kind of curious to know what it feels like. Also did they mention anything about the glue they used in this trilogy? I wonder if they made any changes after John Rhys-Davies had such trouble with the glue used in LOTR.

I'm so glad you had this chance to visit them. It sounds like such a wonderful experience. Thanks for writing such a detailed post about it - I really enjoyed reading it :)!


Ataahua
Forum Admin / Moderator


Dec 15 2014, 6:44pm

Post #24 of 26 (685 views)
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The prosthetics artist said some people could be allergic to the glue, but not many. [In reply to] Can't Post

That's as much as he said about it.

As for the latex, it's hard to describe. It's very soft, squidgy rather than rubbery, and the pieces we handled did look like hollowed-out arms - especially the one that had been painted up to look like skin and dirt.

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauronís master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded beggar with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


Ataahua's stories


Loresilme
Valinor


Dec 15 2014, 6:57pm

Post #25 of 26 (701 views)
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Unnerving as in [In reply to] Can't Post

a bit *too* real Crazy, eh!?



Quote
very soft, squidgy rather than rubbery, and the pieces we handled did look like hollowed-out arms - especially the one that had been painted up to look like skin and dirt.




Quote
The prosthetics artist said some people could be allergic to the glue, but not many


I guess poor JRD was just out of luck - like Orlando and the problems he had with the contacts Unsure.


Thanks again Ataahua - sounds like a trip to always remember HeartSmile!

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