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A Town of Men
The race of Men arrive for the first time in the Trilogy in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" not in a fortress built by Kings, but in a decaying city of wood structures build on water by regular people. "With Lake-town, we are seeing a new world--the world of Men," notes Fran Walsh. "Going into this new environment has that sense of excitement and adventure of entering the unknown."

Its designs evolved out of references in the book to the kinds of Celtic villages occupied by the lake-dwellers of Switzerland. "We also drew inspiration from the astonishing wooden architecture you find in Russia," John Howe says. "And underneath the wood you find that it's sitting atop the ruins of an ancient stone city."

A favorite among a number of the cast and crew, the Lake-town set was built at two locations: a sprawling set on the backlot that spanned over 25,000 square feet and took twelve weeks to build; and multiple versions of a multi-level set within Stone Street's K Stage, which spanned nearly 13,000 square feet at its apex.

Set decorator Ra Vincent notes, "It was about layering architecture and objects. We built really big sets so you could look through a tangle of stuff, and there was so much activity--boats traveling through shots, people going about their business of fishing and working."

Each Lake-town set consisted of about 40 different buildings, assembled on castors so they could easily be moved. Openings were also strategically placed within each structure so that they could be hooked onto a crane and relocated. Because it is winter in Lake-town, the entire set was covered in snow made of Epson Salt, with wax sheets of film ice floating on the water pool circulating below. Supervising art director Simon Bright comments, "Lake-town was complicated because we built it within a wet set, so we had the logistics of 'tanking' an entire set."

Shooting on the sets presented numerous obstacles for the camera crew. "We were supposed to use the exterior set at night only, but inevitably we ended up doing dusks, dawns, days and nights there, which was challenging," director of photography Andrew Lesnie notes. But he relished capturing the unique atmosphere of the town, noting, "It's a bit twisted, and bent and buckled, full of canyons, subterranean areas and squares, which is tricky for cameras but a wonderful environment in which to compose each shot. When we push the lens down a long, narrow canal, you can feel the tight spaces around you, especially in 3D."

For Jackson, it was important to infuse the Lake-town sequences with a unique feel and sense of its people. "We wanted the set itself to tell you about the situation these people are living under, so it has a faded glory and sadness about it," he says. "It feels a bit like Charles Dickens's London, but we also wanted to create a mysterious, shadows-in-the-fog, almost film noir effect in Lake-town."

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