In the News: The Press On-Line - Special-effects Experts Unveil Tricks

Special-effects experts unveil Tricks
The Press On-Line - November 24, 1999

WELLINGTON -- Special effects experts on The Lord of the Rings movies have built models up to 8m high in warehouses in the Wellington suburb of Miramar.

The trilogy's visual effects director, Alex Funke, at the weekend unveiled some tricks and techniques being used by Peter Jackson's Weta special effects teams.

Mr Funke, speaking to the Screen Producers and Directors' Association conference in Wellington, said The Lord of the Rings was the holy grail of film-making and required more than 1000 special effects shots.

Mr Funke was the effects cinematographer on blockbusters The Abyss, Waterworld, Starship Troopers, and Total Recall -- for which he won an Oscar.

He said Weta -- the visual effects company based at director Jackson's Camperdown Studios -- was building and filming miniature models. The footage would be superimposed onto live action shots.

It is understood the partial set built in the stone quarry on Haywards Hill is for the scenes involving the battle at Helm's Deep fortress. A complete miniature set has also been constructed.

Mr Funke said some of the models were 8m tall.

"We have warehouses full of them. We have a huge space -- about 3000sq m -- for our use." Mr Funke said an almost constant cloud of smoke would be used in special effects shots to give viewers the illusion of depth.

Almost every effect shot had been previewed on computers. In many cases they would be shot using cameras with technology that was 50 years old, he said.

Data takers made sure the work of different camera crews and the special effects teams corresponded.

Despite revealing some tricks of the trade, Mr Funke would not show any clips of the scenes filmed so far.

"I would love to show you some rushes (film clips) of the Lord of the Rings, but security being what it is, I can't."
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