Friday, February 12, 2016
The Argonath miniatures for the Peter Jackson film The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
The Argonath are based on artist John Howe's design and were built to 1/60 scale -- making them about 8 feet tall. Howe wanted the Argonath to be realistic sculptures, so his images showed their lower areas having been hewn directly from rock. Their upper areas, however, were crafted from rock quarried nearby and then put into place with block and tackle. The final models also reflect these choices.
The models were crafted from urethane, and then aged using actual sharp stones. But even so, the Argonath were not a very complex model with lots of detail. Instead, Weta Digital created 3D environmental projections which layered detail onto the models and the surrounding water and land. Much of what you see on film is not real, but CGI projected onto the models. The quarries from which the Argonath were mined and the surrounding hills of the Emyn Muil were created with 3D environmental extensions -- a process similar to matte paintings but permitting 3D filming and 360-degree filming around the extensions.
Laser-imaged and etched copies of the Argonath models accompanied the Lord of the Rings Exhibit when it toured the world.