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Weta Workshop Meets Weta Digital
The Academy Award for Best Visual Effects received by the effects team from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring has proved both an encouragement and a challenge to WETA Digital to raise the bar for the second film. On top of the greater effects demands envisioned by Jackson for digital characters and massive battles was an increased familiarity with Tolkien's world and the continuing evolution of WETA's proprietary software.

Because of such creatures as Treebeard and Gollum, The Two Towers features 800 visual effects shots, compared to the 560 shots in The Fellowship of the Ring.

Visual effects supervisor Jim Rygiel notes that with The Lord of the Rings trilogy, there is no real post production. "The making of the effects is not treated as post production," he says. "It's actually part of the process itself, which is a very interesting way to work. We're all playing off each other."

To create the creatures that populate and, in many cases, stage massive battles in The Two Towers, WETA Workshop provided maquettes of each creature to be created digitally. The device that is used for scanning the maquettes in 3D was created in New Zealand and was initially used for measuring size and space of meat carcasses for the New Zealand butcher industry.

While the dimensions and proportions would be scanned for the digital artists to use for reference, "motion trees" were created on the motion capture stage to provide a library of movements, techniques, attacks, etc. for the characters to portray in battle. "Each of these characters has its own selection of military moves, its own repertoire of military performances to undertake, and all these elements have to be woven into the characters with great subtlety and the appearance of complete determination on the part of the digital character to closely complement the live action actor such that there is no opportunity to see the difference," comments Taylor.

The revolutionary Massive software written by WETA Digital's Stephen Regelous animated the groundbreaking Prologue from The Fellowship of the Ring and steps into the fore with The Two Towers. Regelous created the program in the spirit of the continuing push into artificial intelligence technology. "I wanted to create it using artificial life-inspired approaches rather than what would typically be done for a crowd system," he explains. Massive works in creating "agents," with their own randomized characteristics and the ability to make their own decisions in a crowd situation. "For these agents to respond naturally to their environment, it's important that they have senses the same as we have. They have vision, sound, a sense of touch through collisions. They can see their environment."

Each agent also has its own personality traits, i.e. boldness, aggressiveness, cowardliness, etc. "Then there are parameters that affect how dirty they are, how tall they are, how weary they are – so there are many ways that each of these agents can behave and be unique entities," Regelous says.

Jackson sees the Massive agents as not animated creatures at all. "They simply mass in armies and then we press a button and they just go fight themselves," he says. "They'd make up their own decisions about how they would want to fight."

"Each of these guys has an AI brain," explains Massive technical director Geoff Tobin. "One p

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