Realism in a Digital Age: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Written by: Chris Huiyuan Zhang




As a milestone in history of cinema, The Lord of the Rings not only gives us the character Gollum whose look is achieved by the motion capture technologies and live-performance by Andy Serkis, but also the many lifelike and convincing landmarks in The Lord of the Rings such as Minas Tirith or Mordor which were also shot in both built set and blue screen studios.

The reason why the world is so enchanting yet so convincing to us, is partly thanks to Peter Jackson’s decision of choosing between CG building and built sets in different shots. Although there were limited technologies to be used back in the filmmaking of The Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson chose to shot the many battle sequences that are consisted of mostly close-ups and medium shots that were shot in sets rather than in front of a green screen, and when he used CG images, it shows the viewers the magnificence of a landmark. The wide establishing shot can be found in every introduction of a major location throughout the three installments. The details of these shots are shocking even at today’s standards, viewers immediately immerse themselves into the world they have been read since childhood.


“Digital visual effects blend such disparate image sources as live action and animation, still and moving photographic images, paintings in 2D and 3D,  and the objects modeled in computer space and textured with photographic or painted details. Digital toolsets conjoin these various image categories, deriving from real locales and synthesizing new ones. So what, then, is real” (Prince, 147)

Moreover, New Zealand is truly a land of many wonders, the many establishment shots and the involvement of building life size Hobbiton surely creates a disorientation for viewers, but also with the mixture of reality and CGI landmarks, Middle-Earth is more enchanting and attractive than ever. There is not a single night goes by, that I do not dream of Bag End, and when I am 50 years old, I am expecting a knock from Gandalf to take me on a quest to save the world!


1. Prince, S. (2012). Digital Visual Effects in Cinema: The Seduction of Reality. 1st ed. Rutgers University Press.



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