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Designing The Two Towers
From the earliest preproduction sketches to the final mix, Peter Jackson and his team's dedication to depicting Tolkien's world as realistically as possible bled into every aspect of the massive production of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

In the earliest months of preproduction, Jackson brought on conceptual artist Alan Lee, who created the seminal illustrations of Middle-earth for Harper Collins' award-winning illustrated edition of The Lord of the Rings, to work with production designer Grant Major in bringing Tolkien's world to vivid life. Likewise, John Howe, who is regarded as one of the most successful Tolkien illustrators in the world, has also been working with the design team since the beginning.

Lee and Howe's works of art formed the backbone for design throughout production and heavily influenced the overall look of Middle-earth in Jackson's trilogy. "Middle-earth has to be a very real place," comments Lee. "It's definitely not a fantasy. It should feel as real as possible, and I try to achieve that as much as possible and concentrated very heavily on the landscapes as I was illustrating the books."

Lee remained on set throughout production, giving input and picking up a paintbrush to add an authentic finishing touch to a set.

Academy Award nominated production designer Major oversaw the creation of such life-sized exterior sets as the breathtaking Edoras, the Rohan capital poised at the top of a hill surrounded by vast plains and backed by a spectacular row of mountains. Realism and exquisite detail was a consistent priority, from the insignia of the Rohan riders to the fall of bark on the living trees of Fangorn Forest.

Having worked with Jackson on earlier films from Meet the Feebles to Heavenly Creatures, WETA's two-time Oscar winner Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger continue to oversee several aspects of The Lord of the Rings production – Creatures, Miniatures, Armour and Special Make-up Effects.

With huge castles, towering fortresses and entire civilizations to be realized, all three films were storyboarded before production began by storyboard artist Christian Rivers. The combined illustrations and storyboards were ultimately assembled into an animatic previsualization of The Two Towers which rigorously informed the work of every department – from the production design to cinematography to the groundbreaking physical and visual effects work performed by WETA Limited.

Before a single 35mm frame was shot, WETA created the major structures and landscapes of Middle-earth entirely in miniature, through which Jackson maneuvered using a miniature "lipstick" camera, in order to conceptualize what would eventually be shot in live action on full-size sets. Once the sets were completed and shooting was to begin, it was as if he had already been there.

In their 65,000 square foot WETA Workshop, Taylor and his team created over 48,000 separate items – from prosthetic limbs to hand-forged swords; 2,000 stunt weapons; 1,600 pair of Hobbit feet; and 200 handcrafted Orc masks. WETA was also responsible for the design, manufacture and operation of the creature animatronics.

The crew numbered 148 at the height of production, with another 45 technicians on set dressing 500 actors in WETA product with over 200 background players in full body prosthetics.

One of the biggest challenge

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