The Rings of Power creative team considered using Star Wars Volume technology – but decided not to for an important reason.
Speaking exclusively to , visual effects producer Ron Ames revealed that talks had been held about whether the Prime Video series should utilize the award-winning technology pioneered by Industrial Light and Magic (ILM).
For those unfamiliar with the technology, the Volume – otherwise known as StageCraft – is a virtual production set comprised of a giant wall of LED screens. It allows filmmakers to shoot scenes with a mix of visual effects and live action, with the LED screen wall used as a CGI backdrop that actors and sets can be filmed in front of.
Essentially, StageCraft replaces the use of green screen technology, allowing actors to “interact” with the world around them and get a sense of the scale and size of the CGI environment they should exist in. The wall screen can also be real-time real-time while a scene is being filmed.
The technology was initially designed for The Mandalorian, the first Star Wars TV show. However, it proved to be so revolutionary that StageCraft was used in several Disney properties such as the Marvel movie Thor: Love and Thunder. It has also been loaned to other studios for certain projects, including the DC superhero film The Batman.
ILM was one of two major visual effects studios – Weta FX being the other – that The Rings of Power team hired to produce the high fantasy show’s 9,500 visual effects scenes. Given the close working relationship between ILM and Amazon Studios’ Lord of the Rings TV series, it’s no exaggeration to suggest that ILM’s LED wall-based volume technology could have been used.
However, Ames confirmed that the Prime Video show’s executive team decided not to use Volume and primarily film on location. The reason? To ensure the series felt real and maintained the natural aesthetic that Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film trilogy possessed.
“We use virtual production in general,” explained Ames. “But we didn’t use LED walls because we chose to film on location. Using Volume would have been complex for us. If you look at our images, it’s wide and expansive. Trying to contain that in an LED wall would have been impossible.”
Ames’ reasoning is correct. StageCraft is a powerfully impressive tool and it has certainly made filming certain movies and TV shows much easier than before. After all, it allows actors to perform in environments they can physically see – something that would have helped Sir Ian McKellen on the set of The Hobbit. In 2013, the legendary actor revealed that he almost stopped acting because he was unable to familiarize himself with the green screen technology used in that movie (opens in new tab).
However, StageCraft clearly has its limitations. As Ames revealed, canvas wall boundaries are restrictive after a certain point and lack the authenticity that a fully constructed set or real-world location does. The team behind Andor, the latest Star Wars Disney Plus show, chose not to use the Volume for similar reasons, opting instead to film in real locations or in detailed, fully realized sets in which actors can live and run.
Amazon’s Lord of the Rings then made the right choice by not using StageCraft. It’s a series already packed with visual effects – Ames thinks about 70% of the high fantasy show contains some element of technological innovation – so implementing Volume would make it look even more visually hygienic than it sometimes is.
For more exclusive content on The Rings of Power, find out how the explosive finale of Episode 6 came to life. Alternatively, read whether the show’s cast knows who is really playing Sauron and the Stranger’s true identity.