Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy explodes onto Blu-ray April 6th with a brand new nine-disc collection
Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy, one of the most magical, intensely spectacular epic adventures in motion picture history, can now be seen as never before when all three of Peter Jackson's visual masterpieces explodes onto hi-def Blu-ray for the first time this April 6th. To celebrate this upcoming release, we caught up with Richard Taylor, who is the co-founder and co-director of the Weta companies in Wellington, New Zealand, and responsible for the visual effects seen in all three films. Richard is the Creative Director of Weta Workshop and its affiliate businesses (Weta Ltd, Weta Productions and Pukeko Pictures). He has been awarded five Oscars, four BAFTAs and numerous other achievements for Weta's success in the disciplines of make up, costume and visual effects. You can learn more about Richard at his website Wetanz.
Here is what Mr. Taylor had to say in support of this beautiful new nine-disc collection:
Upon its initial release, the Lord of the Rings trilogy was such a breathtaking spectacle to behold. How do you personally feel it has stood up throughout the years?
Richard Taylor: I can't speak specifically to the Blu-ray. It hasn't gotten here yet. With respect to the effects in the movie, the work you do in any film is done at a certain time during a certain period in your career. Ultimately, its disingenuous to yourself and the team that surrounds you if you're too nitpicky about the look itself. I feel the work has stood up incredibly well over the years. The audience understands that they are watching a film made at a particular period in time. This was the technology. This was our technical capability at the time. We have to be proud of what we did.
I recently watched these films on TV, before they were transferred to Blu-ray. And the effects still surpass a lot of the new films coming out today. Where is the evolution headed in this new digital age? Compared to ten years ago, when you were just starting out? Star Wars, for example, looked dated ten years after its release. Lord of the Rings really doesn't.
Richard Taylor: There is no doubt that the computational powers of modern day technology is progressing film imagery to a whole new level of clarity and fidelity. The work that you see in movies today has surpassed so much of your expectations from even ten years ago. Ultimately, I think it comes down to the skills of the filmmaker. And how they use the tools that are available to them. Peter Jackson is not only an accomplished filmmaker at a significant level. But he is his own visual effects supervisor. He has such an incredible knowledge and understanding of film technology and filmmaking, especially when it comes to visual effects. It's all in how he wields those tools. All tied together, this has assisted hugely to these films holding up to the tests of time. Weta Digital is at the top of the game in this particular world of filmmaking, and they know how to get the best out of the incredible artists that gather around them.
What sort of digital clean-up work did you need to do on all three films to prepare them for this upcoming Blu-ray release?
Richard Taylor: Honestly, I don't know the answer to that. We have not been asked to play any part in that work. I can only image that it's the same as what we originally saw. I could be wrong there. I am unfortunately the wrong person to ask.
How has the advent of 3D changed what you do? We always hear rumblings of these three films getting retrofitted for the format. Will we ever see that happen?
Richard Taylor: Possibly. I have mixed views on it. Although I would love to view this world in 3D. As an audience member, I love the intriguing qualities of Middle Earth. I love getting to explore that. And being immersed within it would be interesting. At the same time, the movies are accomplished pieces of filmmaking in their own right. Another side of me wonders if they should be seen in any other way than their original format. It's an interesting debate. In regards to the beginning of your question, the way that film is changing requires a whole other level of technology, capability and skill. Regardless of the format upon which it is presented, it all comes down to quality, storytelling, and beautiful design. The films will only be as good as the level they fulfilled an audiences expectations. Audiences today are very sophisticated filmgoers. They want a very high level of intelligent content. Whether its 2D or 3D, storytelling and quality is at the crystal heart of making these films.
Is there anything that you are capable of doing now that you weren't able to do back then, heading into this world again for The Hobbit?
Richard Taylor: That is something I haven't reflected on. You make a movie in that moment with the best abilities that you have accessible to you. In reflection of that question, there have been huge advancements in the technology and the computational power of computers. There are physics-based realities that you can now create. The illusion of total realism. But I feel very strongly that Weta crafted a film that felt appropriately Middle Earth with the technology that was available at that time. It makes for an enjoyable viewing experience. Its nothing I want to reflect too hard on.
I have to image that over the years, especially when they were coming out in theaters for the first time, that you saw all three films numerous times. Have you had a chance to step away for them for awhile, and come back to view them with a fresh set of eyes?
Richard Taylor: Interestingly, I haven't seen the movies a number of times. Not for a lack of wanting too. Life being what it is, I haven't had the chance to sit down and watch them. It is something I am hoping to do. As my son is keen to go through our back catalogue of films that we have worked on over the years. This will be a very enjoyable thing. I can watch them through his eyes, if you like. That doesn't stop the fact that we look back incredibly fondly on our experiences on the trilogy. We reflect on them often. Amongst ourselves and within our team here at the workshop. We were just in a meeting yesterday where we were discussing some technology that we developed on Lord of the Rings. We will be using those developments to forward the discussions today. It brings up a whole pile of revere about how enjoyable the original experience was.
Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy arrives on Blu-ray for the first time on April 6th. Be sure to check Richard out at his website: Wetanz.