The opening sequence for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, the Prime Video original series, is one of the most visually stunning title sequences to premiere on television this year. A series of wispy veins of granite, pebble, and ichor morph and flow across the screen into a complex complex pattern inspired by J.R.R. Tolkiens' writing, coalescing into a sequence that feels at once both ancient and timeless in its execution.
Katrina Crawford and Mark Bashore of the Seattle-based film studio Plains of Yonder pitched five ideas to the showrunners.
Bashore said in an interview with Polygon that his music was glued directly to the Tolkien universe, since sound and music are fundamental to his world. One of the first things we said when we showed the showrunners some pictures was, What if we made a title sequence that was inspired by the world of sound?
Crawford, Bashore, and their colleagues drew their inspiration from the field of cymatics, the study of sound wave phenomena and their visual representation. The most common and well-known iteration of cymatics is the Chladni plate, a device invented by the 18th-century German physicist Ernst Chladni to visualize vibration modes.
Bashore told Polygon that the concept of cymatics was well-known. However, we had numerous moments of panic early on while trying to figure out how to get this done. So we started at the kitchen table. We would put sand on this rig and play different tones through it, such as Gregorian chants, angel music, or rock and roll. You name it. And when we looked at the footage, we realized that we were on track.
From the first draft of a proposal to the final edit, the opening title sequence took a total of seven months to complete. The result is a mixture of live-action footage and CG animation, with an emphasis on emulating the inherent imperfections in cymatics.
Real cymatics is a mixture of intensity, buzzy, and almost feral-looking. Bashore told Polygon. Even on the most CG-heavy shots, we were always compositing that back in.
Crawford used a phrase from Leonard Cohen's Anthem There is a crack in everything/Thats how the light gets in as another inspiration for the opening title sequence. It almost resembles Tolkien's rephrasing. That's how you build things, and that's what makes it beautiful.
The Rings of Power's title theme is naturally inseparable from its musical score; this is especially true for one designed to visualize sound itself. Along with the series' score, which was composed by Bear McCreary, the composer of The Rings of Power was known for his work on Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The opening images for The Rings of Powers are heavily influenced by Tolkien's real-life stories, as well as his own culture. Theyre also very clear about the Ainur's ability to sing, thereby bridging the gap between the real-life stories and the world of the series. So that feeling of awe and wonder was very inspiring to think about how we could best represent that in the sequence.
When the dwarven princess Disa speaks about the dwarven ability to deduce meaning from songs sung by the mountains of Khazad-dum, the notion of resonance came to mind in the second episode of the show. These similarities, however, are unlikely.
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 derived from Tolkiens' writing.
Crawford notices similarities between the title sequence and the opening sequence of episode 4, The Great Wave, where Numenorean queen regent Miriel fantasizes of the destruction of her homeland. That whole scene about transitions and impermanence comes back to the point of our sequence and the theme of Tolkiens' writing. It's always a stretch to the universe.
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 montage of the series' characters, originating from an Entertainment Weekly cover story, became viral.
When it kind of caught fire and became this big funny thing, Bashore told Polygon. And it is hilarious. The best one I saw was someone describing it as walking through downtown Portland at 11 p.m. If they ever do a Lord of the Rings comedy series, that would make an excellent main title.
Crawford and Bashore are both relieved and excited by the reception of the actual title opening. We finished this thing quite a while ago, according to Bashore. It's so nice to finally have it out there.
Crawford and Bashore are most ecstatic about imagining an abstract and artful opening for a high-profile television series, especially one with a long history as The Lord of the Rings.
We want to respect that existing knowledge and intelligence when it comes to a show like this, Crawford says. There are people who come to this show who have no knowledge of Tolkien, and there are people who come to the show who are professors of the Tolkiens world. Do you feel a sense of epic timeliness when you watch the episode? If yes, then we did our job.