The opening sequence for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, the Prime Video original series, is one of the most visually striking title sequences to premiere on television this year. A series of wispy veins of granite, pebble, and ichor emerges through the screen into a latticework of complex symbols inspired by J.R.R. Tolkiens' writing, merging into a sequence that feels both ancient and timeless in its execution.
Katrina Crawford and Mark Bashore of the Seattle film studio Plains of Yonder submitted five ideas to the showrunners.
Bashore said in an interview with Polygon that his universe was glued directly to Tolkien's music, and that his world was founded on sound and music. One of the first things we said when we showed the showrunners some pictures was, What if we created a title sequence that spanned the world of sound?
Crawford, Bashore, and their group drew their inspiration from the study of sound wave phenomena and their visual representation, coined by 20th-century natural scientist Dr. Hans Jenny. The most common and best-known iteration of cymatics is the Chladni plate, invented by the 18th-century German physicist Ernst Chladni.
Bashore told Polygon that the concept of cymatics was well-known. However, we encountered numerous instances of panic early on when trying to figure out how to make this happen. So we would place sand on this rig and play different tones through it. Gregorian chants, angel music, rock and roll you name it. And the sand would shift and move according to the sound.
From the initial proposal to the final edit, the opening title sequence took a total of seven months to complete. The result is a combination of live-action footage and CG animation, with an emphasis on emulating the inherent imperfections in cymatics.
Real cymatics is frenetic, buzzy, and almost feral-looking. We [were] always compositing it back in over and over again, according to Bashore. Even on the most CG-heavy shots, we were always compositing it back in.
Crawford used a line from Leonard Cohen's Anthem There is a crack in everything/That's how the light gets in as another inspiration for the opening title sequence. It's almost like Tolkien's rephrasing; there's this different side to everything that makes everything beautiful.
The Rings of Power's title theme is a must-see title sequence for any film or television series. Bear McCreary composed the series' music; Howard Shore is well-known for his work on Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The opening visuals for The Rings of Powers are heavily influenced by Tolkiens' real-life experiences, with Crawford directly citing the godlike Ainur as an influence that bridges the gap between the sequences' real-life inspiration and the world of the series. So that feeling of awe and wonder is very powerful and that very much inspired us in thinking about how we could portray that in the sequence.
When the dwarven princess Disa speaks to Elrond about the dwarven ability to interpret meaning from songs sung by the mountains of Khazad-dum, the notion of resonance arose in the second episode of the show. These parallels, however, were not planned.
Crawford told Polygon that this was a happy coincidence; we saw nothing while making the sequence; we saw no scripts, nothing. All of our ideas came from Tolkiens' writing.
Crawford sees similarities between the title sequence and the opening sequence of episode 4, The Great Wave, in which Numenorean queen regent Miriel dreams of the destruction of her homeland. That entire scene about transitions and impermanence connects right back into the theme of our sequence and the theme of Tolkiens' writing. Something may be forever, but it isn't permanent.
In the days leading up to the premiere of The Rings of Power, anticipation for every aspect of the show, including the title sequence, reached a fever pitch. So much so that a sequence of the series characters, originating from an Entertainment Weekly cover story, became viral.
When it kind of caught fire and became this great funny thing, Bashore told Polygon. And it's hilarious. The greatest I saw was someone who described it as walking through downtown Portland at 11 p.m. If they ever develop a Lord of the Rings comedy series, that would be an excellent main title.
Crawford and Bashore are both relieved and thrilled by the reception of the actual title opening. We finished this process quite a while ago, according to Bashore, because it has to be translated into 60-something languages and so on. So it's great to finally have it out there.
Crawford and Bashore are most ecstatic about achieving an abstract and expressive opening for such a well-known television series, especially one with a long history as The Lord of the Rings.
Crawford says that we want to respect the fact that audiences can skip the intro button on a show like this. There are individuals who come to this program without knowledge of Tolkien, and there are others who come to the program who are professors of Tolkiens world. Do you feel a sense of epic timeliness when you watch the sequence? If yes, then we did our job.