Amazon's The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power will go back to Peter Jackson's original trilogy by relying predominantly on practical effects and prosthetics instead of computer-generated imagery (CGI) in bringing the Orcs of Middle Earth to life.
Jackson's The Lord of the Ring films used practical effects and prosthetics but made the switch to CGI for The Hobbit - a move that till today, is still heavily criticised by fans.
Executive producer Lindsey Weber and prosthetics department chief Jamie Wilson assured fans that a more practical approach for Orcs was used on the Amazon Prime Video series.
"When they are up close to the camera, Orcs are really practical and almost exclusively," Weber said. "And the places where the visual effects team help were in more numbers when we need larger quantities than you could amass on a film set anywhere in the world. That's what they sort of, when they come in and do some of, work their magic. We did a lot of planning so that we knew in advance which performers would be closest to camera."
Wilson added, "We did decide from the outset that we would try and make this a very real show. So, therefore, we tried to use real prosthetics and everything and minimise the visual effects, because there are hundreds of productions that are heavy on visual effects, and you can see it, that the human eye is getting better and better and knows what is real and knows what isn't, because we are just getting so deloused with all this product that you begin to know."
Although the team relied predominantly on practical effects, they couldn't entirely get rid of CGI. After all, there's only so much a human being can do, especially when it comes to certain stunts and action sequences.
"A lot of [VFX work comes in] when you get into stunts and action, some of the stuff the human physically can't do. So therefore it turns into a visual effect. So there was a lot of that. Also, a lot of stuff with prosthetics is beasts and creatures that then need further enhancements or whatever," said Wilson.
"We [worked] really hard to make our prosthetics really thin and more comfortable for our performers and all of that," added the executive producer Weber. "But there are times when they're wearing things, teeth for example, and all sorts of other stuff that do make that hard. And over time, as you're shooting, those things can just take on a little wear and tear as the day goes along."
Another exciting piece of development is that The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power will also introduce female orcs for the first time.
The origin of Orcs has long been a thorny issue within the Tolkien mythos. While the movies establish that "they were elves once, taken by the dark powers, tortured and mutilated," the books are far less certain. It's unclear whether The Second Age will expound on this, but Weber and Wilson does say that the Orcs in the Rings of Power will be much fresher than the battle-scarred versions shown in Peter Jackon's trilogy.
"The way I described it to my team, it's a bit like these are the baby versions," said Wilson. "They're not actually babies, but it's them coming out from the darkness. So this is early on. So for example, if you go to past films about them, you'll see them and they're quite battle damaged and scarred and all that kind, because there's been lots more battles."
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This article was first published in Geek Culture.