The Art of Film Magic – 20 Years of Weta

Weta Work­shop and Weta Dig­i­tal, the ef­fects wizards be­hind The Lord of the Rings and Hob­bit films, com­bine in this lav­ish boxset

ImagineFX - - Reviews -

Au­thors Luke Hawker and Clare Burgess with Brian Si­b­ley eta Work­shop: Cel­e­brat­ing 20 Years of Cre­ativ­ity makes up half of this lov­ingly pro­duced – al­beit ex­pen­sive – boxset, along with Weta Dig­i­tal: 20 Years of Imag­i­na­tion on Screen. The for­mer looks at Weta Work­shop, re­spon­si­ble for prac­ti­cal ef­fects, cos­tumes, sets and make-up, while the lat­ter cov­ers the visual ef­fects wing of Weta, which brought Gollum to life and de­liv­ered the five armies for the fi­nal Hob­bit movie.

About half­way through the Weta Work­shop book there’s a pho­to­graph of a sil­i­cone du­pli­cate of a character’s head from Ely­sium, with most of their

WFe­bru­ary 2015

Pub­lisher HarperCollins

Price £60

Web face miss­ing, re­placed by a gore-filled hole. Flick the page and the tone changes to Jane and the Dragon, a cute New Zealand chil­dren’s TV se­ries for which Weta pro­vided con­cept art and mo­tion cap­ture fa­cil­i­ties. Some­where in the jux­ta­po­si­tion be­tween ex­treme vi­o­lence and fam­i­lyfriendly fan­tasy sits Weta. This is the stu­dio that switched from the bloody Brain­dead and Bad Taste to epic block­busters The Lord of the Rings and The Hob­bit with­out los­ing too much sleep in the process.

Both tomes do a grand job of telling Weta’s story. In the late 1980s young di­rec­tor Peter Jack­son joined forces with part­ners Richard Tay­lor and Ta­nia Rodger to cre­ate the spe­cial ef­fects for his film Meet The Fee­bles. Work­ing out of a tiny Wellington flat, they cre­ated some con­vinc­ing splat­ter ef­fects and formed a for­mi­da­ble filmic three­some.

While Heav­enly Crea­tures and The Fright­en­ers gave Peter et al the op­por­tu­nity to hone their skills, it was The Lord of the Rings tril­ogy that pro­vided Weta with its best show reel yet. Both stu­dios were at the top of their game: the visual ef­fects depart­ment pushed things for­wards

Avail­able Now with Mas­sive (soft­ware for gen­er­at­ing large crowd scenes) and the pho­to­re­al­is­tic ren­der­ing of Gollum, while the spe­cial ef­fects team cre­ated “bi­ga­tures” (large-scale minia­ture mod­els of key lo­ca­tions), and cos­tumes and pros­thet­ics for the hordes of ex­tras play­ing hu­mans and orcs.

To­gether, th­ese two vol­umes pro­vide de­tails of ev­ery nook and cranny at the ef­fects house. If you’re will­ing to stump up the cash, they’re pretty much the only be­hind-the-scenes or mak­ing-of books you’ll ever need.

Peter Jack­son wanted the di­nosaurs of Skull Is­land to look more evolved than those from his­tory.

Weta pi­o­neered the 3D tech­nique of sub­sur­face scat­ter­ing, which sold the look of Gollum’s wet skin.

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