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LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING

The Liberation Army & Costumes
As large and intricate as the live action sets were, the physical element represented only a fraction of what would appear in the final film after being married with miniature and digital elements.

Miniatures director of photography Alex Funke lovingly calls the film's miniatures unit "The Miniature Liberation Army." "We have a nice, compact little unit that rotates around 30 key people," Funke describes. "Then, we bring in extra people or actual model makers, because the workload in the art department is always the one that fluctuates the most."

Alan Lee also oversaw the work as his sketches became miniature sets that seemed to take on a life of their own. Guided by Funke, who won Oscars for his effects on Total Recall and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, the unit filmed an unprecedented 64 miniature sets, some of the most complex ever rendered. Miniatures for The Return of the King include Sauron's tower of Barad-dûr, the Dunharrow Plateau, the Black Gate, Cirith Ungol, Minas Morgul and the Crack of Doom, among others. Funke and his team – including miniature cinematographers Chuck Schuman and David Hardberger -- constantly consulted the book for reference.

The majority of miniatures were built on the stages at Stone Street Studios, sized to "somewhere between twelfth and fourteenth scale," only a fraction of the size they are meant to represent. With every set being so massive, even at this scale, the miniatures barely fit inside the building (a phenomenon that inspired these constructs to be instead called "Bigatures"). All the detail work on the miniatures was completed under the lights and cameras that would record them – painting, decorating, dressing and detailing. "It's very labor intensive during the first part of setting up a shot," Funke describes.

The most challenging miniature was the complex city of Minas Tirith. "Our only way of creating the full-size city was to build a giant miniature," comments Jackson. "It's wonderfully detailed. And we have our cameras getting really close to the models for microscopic detail."

Weta Workshop built a 72nd scale miniature of Minas Tirith to represent the 700-foot seven-tiered city, with over 1,000 architectural houses dotting the streets. Sections of the city were built at a larger 14th scale, enabling Funke's team to actually walk through the streets. Miniatures supervisor Paul Van Ommen oversaw the final detailing of each miniature. "The colors, the little plantings and washing lines ultimately add the fine edge of reality that will allow the city of Minas Tirith to come to life and feel as though it's been populated for thousands of years," describes Richard Taylor. "One of the greatest benefits of building a miniature is that it will capture the textural surfaces that reflect the reality of our own world. You can create these architectural structures, these organic places, these mountainsides, at a level of reality that is still sometimes difficult to create digitally. But ultimately, it is a combined effort because the digital department then takes those elements and seamlessly places them in the picture plane."

With each film, Oscar-nominated Ngila Dickson and her team started from scratch in designing, developing and hand-making the myriad costumes for each of the three films in the trilogy. Dickson sees her work as not deriving from fantasy, but creating clothes that could have existed thousands of years ago. At the earliest stages of preparati

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