The second day was not as crowded as the first, but there was still a sizable bunch. On schedule for today and LotR was a presentation on the main stage by some of the designers. I was there quite a bit before that, so I headed over to the Dymocks and Weta Workshops booth, and was pleased to find Daniel Falconer there again. We chatted about his work as one of the key designers of armor, weapons and creatures for LotR.
You can read about Daniel and the design team in The Art of The Fellowship of the Ring and see him in the extended dvd's crew interviews. Like the others I have met from Weta, Daniel is a charming and interesting chap. After a bit Warren Mahy and Ben Wootten, two others from the design team, joined him. Someone asked them to sign something and soon there was a steady stream of folks seeking their autographs.
About that time Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger showed up, and Richard was immediately mobbed, Richard was quite gracious about signing autographs, however was soon time for the presentation. Richard introduced the three designers, telling us they had been with him for some of his work on Hercules and were part of LotR from the very beginning.
Richard felt that the imagination and enthusiasm of these young New Zealanders was critical to get the look and feel that he and Peter wanted, so he battled others who believed he should get industry experienced designers. And in the end, I think all of our happy he stood fast. Daniel, Warren and Ben took the stage after that and did a fabulous presentation.
First they talked about the different parts of Weta Workshops, telling about how it was unusual to have one company do all the diverse bits for a movie. As most of you know, Weta took care of everything from creature design, to the construction of armor, to the digital effects in LotR. Again, this somewhat odd arrangement came from Peter's and Richard's desire to make sure the world had the right look and remained cohesive, instead of looking like one bit came from somewhere and the next bit from somewhere else.
After a few more explanations, they put on this brilliant tape that is a conglomeration of different work Weta did before LotR (commercials, past movies by PJ, some excerpts from Contact, etc.) followed by scenes from FotR. Next they walked us through the design process using the cave troll. It was fascinating to see all the different concept sketches they showed (I think about 10) and know that there were hundreds more that Peter looked at and said what he liked and didn't like in order to help them create the final product.
After the drawing got close to a final look, they modeled marquettes so that the creature could be seen in 3-D. Once they had a final design, they made a huge ultra detailed model that was then scanned into the computer for the digital team to work with.
They talked about how Ben's degree in zoology came in useful when designing creatures, because creatures in a movie have to do more than look cool, they have to live and move and look realistic. They have to be able to be modeled in a computer with a skeleton and muscles, and their clothes and weapons have to make sense. Long pointy spikes on weapons and armor may look nifty, but in real battle they would be useless, breaking off, or getting the weapon stuck in the first enemy killed, or worse yet, tangling up the wearer and causing his own death. Daniel, Warren and Ben then did a short Q&A.
There were several questions about armor and time periods for the design cycle. They answered that the design cycle varied, taking 16 weeks for the Urak-Hai armor (the 1st armor that they designed) and only 4 for the Rohan armor, and that all the armor had distinct icons, shapes and colors that defined the different cultures. Unfortunately, they ran out of time. They ended with the LotR:TTT preview from the extended dvd. All in all, it was another brilliant day.
Getting to learn about how the design team went about their work, and hearing their tales was fun and interesting. I was once again happy that I live in a place were there is access to so many of the people that helped create these amazing movies.