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THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE 5 ARMIES

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM


    Eredor, Lonely Mountain…

    Hobbit Bilbo Baggins [Martin Freeman] helps the Dwarves of Erebor reclaim their underground kingdom and treasure…

    Photo by Mark Pokorny ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM


    Bag End…

    Bilbo Baggins [Martin Freeman] in his home in the Hobbiton shire…

    Photo ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM


    Bag End…

    A sketch Set Decorator Ra Vincent SDSA rendered for the pantry in Bilbo’s house…

    Photo ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM


    Bag End…

    Part of the pantry dressed…

    Image ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM


    Bag End…

    Dwalin [Graham McTavish], one of the Company of Dwarves, raids Bilbo’s pantry!

    Photo by Todd Eyre ©2012 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM


    Bag End…

    Bilbo Baggins [Martin Freeman], a Hobbit and Dwalin [Graham McTavish], an Eredorian Dwarf, have differing points of view…

    Photo by James Fisher ©2012 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM


    Bag End…

    The HOBBIT trilogy starts and ends here with Bilbo Baggins [Martin Freeman]…

    Photo by James Fisher ©2012 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM


    Old Took’s party…in the Shire…

    One of Vincent’s sketches for the party where Bilbo first meets Gandalf, the Grey Wizard

    Image ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM


    Green Dragon market…in the Shire…

    Another of Vincent’s set sketches, with the signature round doors and windows of Hobbit dwellings...

    Image ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM


    Green Dragon market…in the Shire…

    Vincent’s crew dressing the set…

    Photo ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM


    Green Dragon market, detail...

    Hobbiton tobacco booth…and apple seller’s booth being set up…

    Photo ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM


    Hobbiton tobacco booth, detail…

    Vincent sketched details for the set dressers and prop makers…

    Image ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM


    Troll cave…

    Vincent’s sketch for the myriad elements of the troll cave, a mixture of skeletons, stolen treasures and mundane objects…

    Image ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM

    Lake-town…

    An overview of the sprawling waterside village, huge portions of which were built sets, completely dressed interiors and exteriors…

    Photo ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.


  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM

    Lake-town…

    Bard the Bowman [Luke Evans] outside his workshop…

    Photo ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM

    Bard’s workshop, Lake-town…

    Set dressing sketch for the bowman’s workshop…

    Image ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM

    Bard’s workshop…

    The bowman’s workshop dressed…

    Photo ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM

    Lake-town exterior…

    A sketch for one of the many wooden walkways and wharf-side areas that were created…

    Image ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM

    Lake-town exterior…

    [Luke Evans] as Bard the Bowman and John Bell as his son Bain along a walkway…

    Photo by Mark Pokorny ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM

    Lake-town exterior…

    Another detailed sketch of the set dressing…much of which is destroyed in THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE 5 ARMIES…

    Image ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.


  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM

    Bard’s house, Lake-town…

    Bard reveals to the Dwarves the Black Arrow which came from their forges inside the Lonely Mountain

    Luke Evans, Richard Armitage, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, William Kircher, Graham McTavish. Photo ©2013 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM

    Bard’s house, interior…

    Bard’s children deal with unwanted visitors while waiting for their father’s return…

    Peggy Nesbitt, Mary Nesbitt, John Bell. Photo ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM

    Lake-town evacuation…

    Tauriel [Evangeline Lily], head of the Mirkwood Elven guard, rescues Bard’s children from the burning wooden town torched by the terrifying Dragon, Smaug, in a devastating rain of fire…

    Sigrid: Peggy Nesbitt. Photo by Mark Pokorny ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM

    Lakeside…

    Tauriel [Evangeline Lily] and Legolas [Orlando Bloom], Prince of the Mirkwood Realm, come to the aid of the displaced residents of Lake-town…Half a mile of beach was dressed with their effects!

    Photo by Mark Pokorny ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM

    Mirkwood, throne room…

    The woodland Elven sanctuary lies beneath a giant oak…

    Photo ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM

    Mirkwood…

    Captain of the Guard Tauriel [Evangeline Lily] reports to her liege Thranduil [Lee Pace], King of the Silvan Elves of Mirkwood…Read below for details of the stunning woodwork…

    Photo ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM

    Mirkwood…

    The Woodland Elves had a much more earthy and serious aesthetic than their ethereal cousins, the Rivendell ElvesBilbo [Martin Freeman] discovers the wine cellar…

    Photo by Mark Pokorny ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM

    Rivendell…

    Sketch for the banquet hall of the ethereal Elven world of Rivendell

    Image ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM

    Rivendell - banquet hall…

    Although Rivendell figured most prominently in the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, Gandalf, Bilbo and the Company of Dwarves briefly visit in the HOBBIT trilogy, so a few new sets were created…

    Image ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM

    Rivendell – sleeping quarters…

    Vincent’s sketch shows flexible accommodations…

    Image ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM

    Rivendell – sleeping quarters…

    Guests could find comfort in the airy Elven stronghold…

    Image ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM

    The City of Dale…

    One of Vincent’s sketches for the “before” the devastation…The cosmopolitan mountainside city had 36 fully dressed standing sets, comprised of the interiors and exteriors of houses and battlements, the King’s Palace and the Great Hall

    Image ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM

    The City of Dale…

    Tolkien described Dale as the “orchard city, colorful and abundant with foliage…\"
    Note the set details which are directly from Vincent’s sketch, including awnings and draperies, carts and flags…

    Image ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM

    The ruins of Dale…

    Bard [Luke Evans] and the other Lake-town survivors take refuge among the abandoned ruins still charred from the Dragon’s rampage more than a century earlier…

    Photo by Mark Pokorny ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM

    The ruins of Dale…

    Bard [Luke Evans] tries to defuse a crisis which the Elven forces may escalate…this is only part of the vast set...

    ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM

    The ruins of Dale…

    Thranduil [Lee Pace], sets up a base of operations within a giant elegant tent erected inside Dale’s Great Hall, furnished with finely crafted chairs, pelts, candle-sticks and platters. Gandalf [Ian McKellan] brings a warning…

    ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM

    The ruins of Dale…

    Inside Thranduil’s graceful tent, Gandalf [Ian McKellan] tries to prepare for the ensuing battle…

    Photo by Todd Eyre ©2014 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM

    The ruins of Dale…

    Bilbo [Martin Freeman] wonders if he can face what he must do, with the ring’s help…The charred branches reveal the history of the city…note the metalwork…beautiful touches of a once-great city…

    Photo by Mark Pokorny ©2013 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM

    Eredor…

    In the labyrinthine halls, Balin [Ken Stott] tells Bilbo [Martin Freeman] that Dragon-sickness is named for the creatures that cannot resist gold, but has an equally corrosive effect on the Dwarves who hoard it…

    Photo by Mark Pokorny ©2013 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM

    Eredor…

    In the hidden armory deep in the Lonely Mountain, Bilbo [Martin Freeman] faces his friend, Thorin Oakenshield [Richard Armitage], king of the realm,
    “You are changed, Thorin. Is this treasure worth more than your honor?”

    Photo by Mark Pokorny ©2013 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

  • set decorator
    Ra Vincent SDSA
    set decorator
    Simon Bright
    production designer
    Dan Hennah
    Warner Bros. & MGM

    Bag End…

    Director Peter Jackson: Looking back on 16 years of exploring Middle Earth and the remarkable legacy the filmmakers now leave behind, Jackson reminds us, “Bilbo tells Gandalf, ‘It is the last road.” The opportunity to come back and tell the rest of the story has been a tremendous honor for all of us, but we now hand it off to the people for whom these films were made.”

    Photo by James Fisher ©2012 Warner Bros. & Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. All Rights Reserved.

 

“This was the last move in a master plan, a plan long in the making.”   —Gandalf the Grey Wizard

 
THE HOBBIT trilogy tells a continuous story set in Middle Earth 60 years before THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, which Academy Award-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson and his team first brought to the big screen.The tale of Bilbo Baggins [Martin Freeman], the Hobbit who embarks on a wondrous and dangerous adventure in The Wild with Gandalf [Ian McKellan], the Grey Wizard, and with the Dwarves of Erebor and their king Thorin Oakenshield [Richard Armitage], grew in the telling to birth the resonant themes that are woven throughout the Tolkien canon—the bonds of friendship, the nature of honor and sacrifice, the corruption of wealth and power, and the quiet courage of the unlikeliest of heroes, which may hold even the greatest forces of evil at bay.
 
“Everything we’ve seen—who these characters are, what each of them is fighting for—leads to this moment,” Jackson imparts. “I think it’s the most powerful and emotional of the three HOBBIT films, and honors each character with whom we’ve gone on this journey.” To bring these worlds to life, Jackson has relied on the creativity and skills of Production Designer Dan Hennah, Set Decorator Ra Vincent SDSA, Set Decorator Simon Bright and the massive teams of artisans, craftspeople and crewmembers they oversaw.
 
The community that has evolved during the making of these films and the first trilogy, LORD OF THE RINGS, sprung from the heart of many who had settled in New Zealand… an alternative lifestyle in contrast to consumerism and materialism, in keeping with the some of the worlds Tolkien envisioned…artists and artisans emphasizing a gentle imprint on the environment, an appreciation of nature and an openness of spirit. Set Decorator Ra Vincent SDSA reflects that mindset. He talked with SET DECOR about some of the specifics of making the latest and final film of the series, as well as the entire trilogy.
 
SET DECOR: Please tell us about your role as set decorator in the making of THE HOBBIT: The Battle of the Five Armies…and all of the fantastic realms of the HOBBIT trilogy…
 
Set Decorator Ra Vincent SDSA: Through discussions with production designer Dan Hennah and director Peter Jackson, I devised color schemes and designed furnishings for sets to create the worlds of the Hobbits, Elves, Dwarves, Wizards, Men and Goblins
 
One of the greatest things about my job as set decorator is that I was privileged to work with some of New Zealand’s most talented artists and crafts people over the 4 years we worked on this project. And in a lot of cases it was the same people we had worked with 10 years earlier on the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. It’s been a fantastic journey to go on with our friends and peers. Many of us began in our early twenties, so have come through marriages, births of children and, unfortunately, the passing of some good friends. It has been a big part of our adult lives and we have made some lifelong friendships.
 
SET DECOR: Other than the stunningly beautiful, uncluttered countryside, why has New Zealand been a perfect setting for the creation of the films?
 
Vincent: New Zealand was the best place to make the films because the industry here is so young and we didn’t put any limitations on ourselves as to what we could achieve.  There was a real feeling of pride and unity…it felt like the whole country was behind the project. And of course this is where Peter Jackson lives!
 
SET DECOR: Please tell us about sharing and capturing the spirit of these films…
 
Vincent: We were really just responding to the book, which captures the notion of stepping out into the unknown and of somebody as small as a Hobbit accomplishing big things, things he never imagined he would be faced with. So we, in turn, were conceiving worlds we had never imagined and creating them using new techniques and methods we’d never used before.
 
SET DECOR: Is it true that all three HOBBIT films were filmed together?
 
Vincent: Yes, all three films were filmed together over three years…and we had one-year prep. The biggest consideration in that first year of prep was the building and planting of Hobbiton through the winter so that it would be in full bloom when we would be filming there in the summer.
 
SET DECOR: Please tell us about collaborating with Production Designer Dan Hennah…
 
Vincent: I was fortunate enough to work with Dan on the LOTR trilogy and KING KONG before starting on the HOBBIT trilogy. We have an easy way of working in that we have a similar aesthetic and an open dialogue about the way we think things will eventually look.
 
Dan is a great storyteller and is very visual with his instructions, which I think I respond to well. He allows everyone within the Art Department to contribute their ideas, promoting creativity and working to people’s strengths. 
 
SET DECOR: You and Simon Bright share set decorator credit…please tell us about working together and how you split responsibilities…
 
Vincent: The process of designing a set environment and its furnishing in a place like Middle Earth is such a holistic thing that every detail becomes part of the negotiation, so the architecture speaks to the furnishing and the environment becomes a complete design process. Simon and I collaborated on budgets, time frames and design elements on all three films to keep the department running smoothly. 
 
SET DECOR: Please tell about your crews and your work methods…
 
Vincent: A lot of our crews were craftspeople from outside of the film industry. The reason for this is we wanted to create as much hands-on reality in our environments as possible and keep the integrity of the materials with which they are created.
 
We wove our own fabrics, made our own ceramics, built our furniture from exotic timbers, and all of our glassware was hand blown.
 
The difference was, instead of having a big prop-making department, it became more like a village of artisans working together to a VERY tight schedule!
 
SET DECOR: You do detailed sketches for your sets…please tell us about this…
 
Vincent: Through discussions with the designer we come up with an idea of what our finished product wants to look like and what I will do is take the very early construction plans and do a dressing layout and then a dressing illustration. The illustration serves to describe very broadly the styles of furniture required and the quantities of objects needed to furnish an environment. It also instructs the palette of the set and the relationship of the objects inside it, plus it helps me form a budget.
These illustrations are then given to the scenic artists, to the set dressers involved in gathering the elements and to the props designers who extract each element from the drawing and draft them up for the makers.
 
SET DECOR: You were a sculptor for the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. Did you do any sculptures for this film/this trilogy?
 
Vincent: During the pre-production phase I sculpted some maquettes for Erebor because the aesthetic that we had talked about was very difficult to describe in any other way than to make some 3-dimensional forms. The geometric nature of the dwarves environment related directly to the soft furnishing designs, the furniture, prop and hand-prop designs…and sculpting these forms was the best way to create a dwarven visual language.
 
SET DECOR: Tell us about the artists you employ…How many…for what elements?
Vincent: So many people were involved, a partial list would include….
·      Boatbuilders
·      Glassblowers
·      Ceramic Artists – potters
·      Farriers
·      Painters both fine art and prop painters
·      Basket makers
·      Weavers
·      Printmakers
·      Cutlers
·      Jewelers
·      General prop makers
·      Swing gang
·      Set dressers
·      Props designers
·      Calligraphers
·      Fabric dyers & makers
·      Breakdown artists
·      Machinists
·      Saddlers
·      Sewers
·      Mold makers
·      Sculptors
·      Furniture makers
 
SET DECOR: Beorn’s house is an example of the fabulous details involved in these sets…The interior was a major set in THE HOBBIT: The Desolation of Smaug, and we revisit the exterior in THE HOBBIT: The Battle of the Five Armies. Please tell us about the creation of this set…
 
Vincent: Beorn’s house was built as two different sets, we went to an incredible location in Queenstown called Paradise and built the exterior of Beorn’s house and gardens. The set was massively over scale to make our main cast look like little dwarves in the realm of a giant shape shifter. Beorn, in story terms, is about 9 feet tall, and our Dwarves average about 4 feet. So to get a 6-foot actor to look like he’s 4 feet tall in a house that belongs to someone more than twice his supposed size means you need to make everything 2x bigger than life.
 
Beorn’s bedding was knitted using double-sized knitting needles from wool that we handspun on an adapted spinning wheel.
 
From his hand carved wooden furniture to the oversized cutlery everything was built double size. The interesting thing about over-scale set dressing is that you really start to notice the vast gaps in-between objects…this, I think, gives more emphasis on the objects’ positions on set.
 
SET DECOR: Speaking of scale, please tell us about Bag End, Bilbo’s house. We visited it in the previous films, but in this one we see most of his possessions either spread about the yard being auctioned, or carried off by villagers and the interior completely ransacked! Please tell us about the before and after of this delightful set!
 
Vincent: Bag End was the first set we shot when we started film one of the HOBBIT. It was a familiar starting point for the cast and for the art department. Building Bag End from scratch was great because we had good reference to use from the previous LOTR set build, but because we were about to shoot these films at a higher frame rate and in super high definition we had the opportunity to make every single detail in that house immaculate.
 
On those first few days, we shot the start of the film in that interior set, and then only knowing vaguely what would happen three years and two films later, we shot the end of the auction scene in that same week as well!
 
For the exterior auction scene, which was built 300 miles away in Matamata (Hobbiton), we took the contents of that set and distributed it around Bilbo’s front yard and down the path…
 
SET DECOR: Devastation seems a bit of a theme for the last of the HOBBIT film trilogy. Lake-town, which was introduced in the second film, is destroyed in this one. This is a wooden village on the water, with inter-connected boardwalks, waterways and wharves, all completely outfitted in great detail. Please tell us about set decorating for both…the tightly rambling village and the fiery destruction of it!
 
Vincent: Almost all of the dozen or so Lake-town sets that were built had a dual purpose. The areas that we visited in the second film feature in the third, and we get a chance to go a little deeper into some of those hero buildings like the mayor’s barge house and the cell tower that is built off the side of the town hall. And, of course, we revisited Bard’s house. Many of these sets were both interior and exterior sets at the same time. This meant that we could build an actual town as big as our biggest sound stage would allow and shoot anywhere the director felt on the day. Some buildings were already prepped with fire board and breakaway components a whole film in advance.
 
SET DECOR: Afterwards was the flight of the Lake-town refugees…Please tell us about putting those scenes together…and then at the foot of the Lonely Mountain, the ruins of Dale [the hillside city which the dragon Smaug had also destroyed], which became their new shelter…
 
Vincent: One of the loveliest location set builds was the shores of Lake-town, shot on location in Twizel, deep in the south Island of New Zealand. Lake Pukaki was chosen because of the snow-covered alpine mountains so close to the icy waters of a huge freshwater lake…crystalline water and sky.
 
We loaded 9 twin-trailered trucks with set dressing and sent them 350 miles south of Wellington to Twizel, where a team of fifteen set dressers and swing gang on a remote part of the lake dressed half a mile of beach with the remains of Lake-town and the makeshift tents of the Lake-town survivors.
 
The City of Dale was built on a huge site half a mile from the studios in Wellington.
Of the thirty or so buildings that we built for that set, more than half also had interiors. We built the city as “good”…a pretty mountainside town… for the introduction in film one, and then basically went about destroying it for the third film. Everything from the set to the set dressing went through bonfires and flamethrowers to turn them into nothing but destroyed charcoal. (That is one of the benefits of making all of your own set dressing!)
 
The snow was an amazing added effect against the blackened buildings, and made you feel cold in the middle of a summer day of filming.
 
SET DECOR: The elvin world of Mirkwood, the Woodland Realm of the Silvan Elves is quietly spectacular! Please tell us about the set decoration for this world, an underground counterpoint to Riverdell
 
Vincent: Thranduil’s realm had a few nice design rules that we decided on early in pre-production. His kingdom was as if it were beneath a huge oak tree. The furniture was carved from the living roots of the tree, and through that timber ran beautiful amber veins.
 
We had developed a method for pouring amber into cavities in timber and then cutting tabletops and woodturning bowls and cups from the resin and wood.
The Woodland Elves had a much sharper earthy and more serious aesthetic than their more ethereal cousins, the Rivendell Elves.
 
Their fabrics were made from heavily devoréd materials and textured in beautiful camouflage ways. As well as colors of the forest, they also had an affection for white gems, and we often added silver thread and silver gilding to their objects.
 
The lights that decorate Thranduil’s realm are huge resin lamps, which helped impart a honey warmth to the set and really showed off the timber.
 
SET DECOR: Erebor, the dwarves kingdom inside the Lonely Mountain, which Smaug had captured for his own domicile, is huge within…Please tell us about the fascinating “ancient” equipment the dwarf community had created…and, of course, the stash of gold!
 
Vincent: Erebor’s gold mountain was made with approximately 240,000 brass and gold plated embossed coins.
 
There were five different styles of coin, which were carved into the punches of a sheet metal perforating machine. The young sheet metal apprentice spent a good month punching these. We spun over one thousand brass goblets and bowls and used hundereds of kilograms of crystal to enhance the sparkles.
 
Something that also helped lift the effect of the gold was the use of some colored fabrics, these were subtle but they helped you see the brilliance of the gold.
 
The main treasure set was built 40-feet by 70-feet long and 20-feet high.
Built over scaffolding and sheets of molded rubber mats, the gold was heaped a good ten inches thick. The upkeep on this set was never-ending. Every time somebody walked on it, the gold would slip and gradually make its way down to the bottom of the pile!
 
SET DECOR: Was there set decoration involved in the sets for the frightening exteriors of the ruined fortress & catacombs of Dol Guldur and the Dwarven outpost of Ravenhill, which has become the battle station of the evil Orcs?
 
Vincent: For Dol Guldur, the set decoration team made the rusty steel traps and torture devices, and distributed 150 skeletons. We also painted oak and beech leaves different shades of black to help with the wind effects on the set.
 
At Ravenhill, we used destroyed Dwarven furniture and several tons of shredded black fabric, which came from hundreds of old police uniforms.
 
SET DECOR: Tell us about working with the visual affects department and CG…
Did you provide sample elements, sketches, fabric samples, miniature sculptures, etc for them to have actual pieces to work with/from?
 
Vincent: The biggest CG component was the need for set extension, which were the areas in the background where we were limited by studio space. Each environment was designed by Dan and we built as much as possible, and then the visual artists took the design and completed set extensions where necessary, under our direction.
 
For CG characters, a lot of this was done with motion capture on physical sets, we provided digital versions of a lot of set dressings and props so that they could be incorporated into scenes by the digital effects team.
 
SET DECOR: Do you have a favorite set among all of these incredible ones?!!
 
Vincent: My favorite set was Lake-town. We were able to develop a whole culture through architecture and objects. In each Lake-town set, anywhere you went you were 100% immersed in that environment, there weren’t any ’backs’ of sets the houses were finished inside and out and dressed in minute detail.
 
SET DECOR: What were some of the most interesting aspects about the set decoration for this film, this trilogy?
 
Vincent: The most amazing thing about decorating Middle Earth was that we were only ever limited by our imagination, and for that we had a great story to follow and some magnificent artists interpreting those words.
 
The ability to make anything you want makes the job both easy on one hand and incredibly challenging on the other because, like watercolor painting, you need to know where to stop.
 
SET DECOR: What was the most rewarding aspect of working as a sculptor on the first trilogy and as a set decorator on the second trilogy…
 
Vincent: After spending so many years on the ground as a sculptor and being surrounded by Middle Earth, when I returned to it for the HOBBIT, it felt so familiar and exciting to be back. 
 
SET DECOR: What did you learn from the first film that you applied to the others?
 
Vincent: The first film really set up how we could work together as a crew. There were at times up to 120 people working in the set dec/props department and after a year of working together we really started to understand one another and could have continued producing work indefinitely.
 
SET DECOR: What have you learned from making these films?
 
Vincent: That these films were a rare event that will never be repeated. The LORD OF THE RINGS was an amazing experimental time in cinematic history, and the HOBBIT mustered everything it could to be even better. Most movies don’t have that amount of pressure behind them to succeed.
 
SET DECOR: What inspires you?
 
Vincent: My inspiration comes from my children and the natural world. All of life is to be lived and if its in a creative way then all the better.

 
 

 

 

 


film decor archives

BATMAN v SUPERMAN: Dawn of Justice 2016-05-09
MILES AHEAD 2016-04-11
THE BIG SHORT 2016-04-04
THE MARTIAN 2016-02-15
BRIDGE OF SPIES 2016-01-22
TRUMBO 2015-12-19
SECRET IN THEIR EYES 2015-12-06
SPY 2015-08-02
TERMINATOR: GENISYS 2015-07-20
JUPITER ASCENDING 2015-02-24
SEVENTH SON 2015-02-24
BIRDMAN 2015-02-01
SELMA 2015-01-21
A MOST VIOLENT YEAR 2015-01-09
WHIPLASH 2014-12-21
GET ON UP 2014-08-05
CHEF 2014-06-28
x-men: days of future past 2014-06-13
the amazing spider-man 2 2014-05-03
nebraska 2014-02-25
lovelace 2014-01-08
inside llewyn davis 2013-12-21
saving mr. banks 2013-12-12
rush 2013-10-07
prisoners 2013-10-01
world war z 2013-07-15
star trek into darkness 2013-06-06
lincoln 2013-01-03
the master 2012-11-17
cloud atlas 2012-11-11
the bourne legacy 2012-10-11
lawless 2012-09-24
the amazing spider-man 2012-09-08
the avengers 2012-05-22
good deeds 2012-03-28
hugo 2012-01-27
the help 2011-12-18
twilight: breaking dawn, part 1 2011-12-13
my week with marilyn 2011-12-04
the ides of march 2011-10-20
what's your number? 2011-10-11
contagion 2011-10-03
cowboys & aliens 2011-08-14
super 8 2011-06-21
the conspirator 2011-05-15
limitless 2011-03-26
little fockers 2011-01-14
the next three days 2011-01-05
the social network 2011-01-04
agora 2010-08-28
knight & day 2010-07-02
sex & the city 2 2010-06-02
sherlock holmes 2010-02-08
the lovely bones 2010-01-26
inglourious basterds 2010-01-10
cirque du freak 2009-11-12