Making a Lord of the Rings series requires a unique and sometimes frustrating technical challenge: Sometimes really big people and really tiny people have to be in the same situation at the same time. Take for example, a series of sequences that happen in the second episode of Prime Videos The Rings of Power. Nori, who belongs to a race of Hobbit ancestors called the Harfoots, is supposed to be about four feet tall. This unknown figure, essentially a Wizard, is likely to be seven.
Executive producer Lindsey Weber said the notion of scale difference hasn't been encountered much in the other roles they have done. It's also inherent to Tolkien. It's part of the film. So we knew we had to get it right. It's not as difficult as it sounds at times. But hopefully the end product and magic trick will be worth it and very Tolkienian, according to Weber.
What were the artists' methods of executing it? From using very tall stand-ins and very short stand-ins to utilizing a technodolly camera crane that would be programmed to rotate around the actors with mathematical specificity when they looked at a tennis ball against a green screen, showrunner JD Payne explained. That could require complicated CGI, such as using large props for smaller characters like Harfoots and dwarves or getting hand doubles.
According to co-showrunner Patrick McKay, the scene with Nori and the stranger was an extremely complex sequence to shoot, which included a slew of different techniques. The towering man falls from the sky and lands in a steaming crater, where he appears almost terrifying to speak. For one, the production constructed two different sized craters in an hangar in Auckland, New Zealand, one that would make Kavenaugh appear small, while another that would fit Weyman.
The Lumiere brothers used to refer to the crater as the corona before they decided they should rename it something else.) But sometimes it's as simple as a double rolling down a slope only to be replaced by the actor at the end. And then again between Nori and the stranger in that scene there were four different actors.
It's true that everything needs to be stitched together in post, but it does make the experience on set seem less enjoyable. Markella Kavenaugh was screaming and there was a seven-and-a-half-foot tall actor standing looming over her from one angle, McKay said. I remember standing there and it was a little bit of: Pinch me, Im in Middle Earth, but it was also like, Oh my God, are we making the coolest show on the planet right now?
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is now available on Prime Video.