<I>The Rings of Power</I>: Creating the mixed media main title sequence
Issue: September/October 2022

The Rings of Power: Creating the mixed media main title sequence

The main title for Lord of The Rings: The Rings of Power is a mix of animation, visual effects and cymatics. Setting out to portray a universe both primordial and timeless, Plains of Yonder (www.plainsofyonder.com) teamed with Nexus Studios (London), 37 Films (Madrid) and MakMac (Barcelona) to create the mesmerizing intro. Taking inspiration from J.R.R Tolkien’s Ainur – immortal angelic beings that sing such beautiful music that the world is created from their very sound – the concept was developed by Katrina Crawford, Mark Bashore and Anthony Vitagliano of Plains of Yonder.

Showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, along with executive producer Lindsey Weber, challenged the team to create an opening sequence that was “simple, stark and beyond anything we would have thought of.” The sequence contains a dozen hidden symbols that reflect themes and storylines in the show — some hidden in plain sight — others are far more subtle.

The nature of the project required a mix of disciplines. On one hand, the real nature and accidental movement of sand, while also employing the flexibility of computer generated Imagery. Production was structured into different teams, including production and animation handled by Nexus Studios’ animation director Fernando Cózar and VFX supervisor Germán Diez; live-action by 37Films; and 3D generalist and particle simulation by MakMac. The type was custom-made from an original hand-drawn font by calligrapher Daniel Reeve. The intro is also the only part of the series that is paired with a score from Howard Shore.

All of the simulations for the show's intro were done in 3DS Max using Tyflow. The team used Foundry’s Nuke for 2D compositing. Adobe After Effects was used to create for mock ups, while style frames were created in Photoshop. The edit was completed in Premiere. SideFX Houdini was also called on to calculate the plate size and the maths behind the cymatics, which represent vibration phenomena. 

“The main objective for this project was to create a piece where you are not able to identify what is real or CG, which I think is the beauty of mixing different disciplines,” explains Fernando Cózar, animation director for Nexus Studios. “I think we accomplished that well.” 

“We set out to make something primordial and timeless, something worthy of Tolkien’s imagination, and sobering that would delight his deepest followers,” add Plains of Yonder’s Katrina Crawford and Mark Bashore.