Barad-dûr - Rock on into the sculpting...

Barad-dur Weekend setup
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  • Barad-dur Weekend setup


Once the basic form was blocked out and it was a matter of going over it with different styles and techniques to see what it looks like and how long it will take. I should have been a harder ‘team leader’ but it was good to let both Steve and Leonard go and just play for a while to get a ‘look’ that worked best. They went over sections several times until we were all happy with the results and style.



Above, Steve is working on the open plains, out the front of Barad-dur. This is a distinctly different style to the rest of the rock and a favourite detail for all of us. To do it to actual scale would make it fairly indistinct at this small size so Steve and Leonard played with it enhancing and adding to the texture to make it far more interesting.



These last few images are the last day of the working year for 2011. The short yearly break is on us again... time goes so fast and we barely seem to have had the last one.



Most people are taking advantage of a little time off but I prefer to keep going. It is very much quieter in the workshop, so nice and peaceful.... a sigh of relief and I will ease my way through it. For me, it is how I relax by making something and being somewhere quiet makes it better.


This is another work in progress set up we do on Fridays and gives us a positive note to leave on, for the weekend. Leonard and Steve have done a great job setting this piece into a landscape but they both have a lot more to do yet to get the sculpting finished. After those two leave... I have to pull this apart again, because we could get an earthquake that would see the tower topple to the floor. We had a good shake up last week that would have had this in pieces if I left it assembled.


Don't miss the first two articles by Dave:


In our series of articles from David Tremont about the making of Barad-dûr - Fortress of Sauron, it is the sculptors' turn.

The most important part of an environment collectible is the... well, the environment. More so for Barad-dur, as the rock mountain, lave moat and rocky plains are very much Barad-dur as the tower itself. Both Leonard Ellis and Steve Saunders were tasked with sculpting all the organic forms around the tower. The entire model had to come apart for production and so the first thing to do was for the three of us to work out how and where it would break. The rock texture made it easy to hide joins along the natural seems.

A long time ago... so long ago... Daniel Falconer and I made choices on the layout, how it would be presented. Once a good deal of the model was blocked out, we got a better idea of what it was actually going to look like on the base. We have been very excited about being able to look down into the lava pit which means the base plate has to be very thick and Daniel has not been happy about having a big slab of black sided base plate. We can’t have rock detail down the side as Barad-dur is not sitting on a Mesa or Butte... it is on the flat plains so the model has to be a bit of a ‘Borg core sample’ (as Daniel puts it). Daniel went away and did a few beautiful sketches of varying concepts and Richard made the call on what it should be.



Above is the sketch and then the model on a cardboard mock-up but what is not shown is Daniel and myself pacing around it arguing over increments of movement and trying to get the best compromise. We can’t have the lava pit as deep as the studio model... just not practical as it would have a base close to 100mm thick... that is one big slab of polystone. It is compromised to half that height but, after all, it is filled with lava and we still have all the detail of the tower visible. The plains will be the ‘Borg core sample’ and the mountain rock will wrap around it and overhang part of the base plate. It is great that Leonard and Steve can do the sculpting as they are now familiar with the layout and how this thing goes together as well as technical requirements so can bowl on into the rock sculpt and be able to make adjustments as they go.



Leonard is blocking out the base plate showing the plains heading away from Barad-dur. As you can see above, it looks absolutely massive but the footprint is still smaller than Rivendell and has to be this height to get a nice depth into the lava pit. This was done in the sculpting room and I dropped in a couple of times to get a few shots and, apparently, I looked like a dad taking baby pics.



The plasticine used is very hard which allows for finer detail to be sculpted into it but becomes very difficult to apply so we use Crock-pots (aka slow cooker) to heat the plasticine to either a liquid or soft paste. This is then scooped out and applied as needed and cools quickly to hold the form and allows for rapid build up without the pain of trying to apply and smooth out something as hard as a rock.... especially in winter. Often the task for the first person into the workshop, of a morning, is to turn on the crock-pots to warm them up.



Steve Saunders, like Leonard is from South Efrica.... Africa and joined Weta..... some time ago. He now oversees the sculpting side of the collectibles between working on any movie work that comes through here. He has been looking forward to working on this model, from the start and visits regularly to see how it is going and to.... hopefully start.



When Steve came on board the first thing to do was to get familiar with the model and the rock detail and how to do it in such a tiny scale. It is way too small to do an exact replica, the detail would not be seen and would take months to do.... not practical. So, like all the collectibles, it becomes an artistic choice and a style is set to give the sculpture an interesting look.


Tags: environment