Building Edoras

By Shamus
on Feb 27, 2007
Filed under:
Pictures

A quick note: I re-worked the last panel of the most recent comic. I don’t even know if anyone will notice, but I just in case you do: No, you’re not going crazy, it was changed.

But while I was looking at that last panel I was struck by the sight of Edoras:

Edoras, Lord of the Rings

They really built that town. It wasn’t made with CGI. What amazes me is that they did it so that it can withstand a wide shot like this. Where are the tracks from the construction vehicles? Heck, just the people traveling to the site on a regular basis should have left a visible scar. I can only assume that stuff is on the other side of the hill, along with the trucks of food, mobile shelter, transport, generators, equipment, crew, and all of the other stuff needed to support all of the extras in that shot.

This place is in the middle of nowhere. I know the main actors probably got there via helicopter, but a helicopter didn’t bring all of those people, and they didn’t walk. They didn’t come by bus, because there aren’t any roads.

It really is amazing the millions of dollars that were spent on making that minute or so of footage.

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12There are a dozen comments.

From the Archives:

  1. Dr-Online says:

    Someone has to say it.

    “It’s only a model”

  2. Hamish says:

    Heh. They only built the hall on top of the rock, the village at the bottom is CGI, IIRC. While it is probably one of the more isolated places in the South Island, It’s still within a couple of hours drive of a couple of major towns and only an hour or so further to one of NZ’s biggest cities. I haven’t watched many of the “making of” DVD features, but I think most of the cast and crew stayed on site.

    Google maps doesn’t have particularly hi-rez imagery of the area, but look up “Mt Potts Station, New Zealand”

  3. Hamish says:

    You can actually see the outcrop they used for Edoras just WNW of the arrow marker for Mt Potts Station.

  4. AutumnHeart says:

    I went out to the site last year as a tourist (they run 4WD tours out to there) and the cast and crew apparently were largely based at a sort of summer-only holiday camp / town that is about 20 min away.

    They did really build the hall and large parts of the town (though not the interiors) but there are tricks happening with the scale – the hill isn’t actually as high as those buildings make it look. The flat plain surrounding the hill was 5-20 cm deep in water when we were there – it’s at least partly the bed of a braided river – so it wouldn’t exactly work for keeping horses in real life!

    The surroundings really are that speccy though. And I’ve never been anywhere so windy in my life.

  5. TheRedTide says:

    I just went and checked the bonus features, and they never said that part of it was CGI, but I’m pretty sure that all the cottages near the bottom (minus a couple for close ups) weren’t physically made. But just having the Golden Hall and stables makes your point anyway — they had to make it from steel, which means hauling a crane out there. The most amazing thing to me was how conscious they were to leave everything the way they found it; “and now it’s just the sheep and the wind.” PS, hi Shamus, this is my first post.

  6. Dan Morrison says:

    In order to get permission to film there (NZ National park land) they had to remove EVERY SINGLE SOD, tussock and moss-covered rock from the affected areas, kept them in a makeshift garden or something for a month, then put them all back again.
    There is apparently not a trace left on the landscape.

    My brother is a lighting technician and did rigging for the whole series.

    I’m pretty sure no-one stayed on site, but the buildings did house the unit gear, makeup rooms etc. I believe the great hall was the catering zone. No interiors.

    (ps, I’m building a website for PJ this month :-) … no, I can’t tell you more ’till it’s released. It’s not directly movie-related, so no big gossip.)

  7. phlux says:

    If I recall correctly there were a million bureaucratic hoops they had to jump through in order to film there. They had to leave the place exactly as they found it, and they were only allowed to build a single lane dirt road, which I don’t think you can see from this shot, but you can in a couple of others. It only makes sense that the town would have SOME sort of road leading into it, after all, so they didn’t exactly need to do a lot to cover it up. maybe just rack over the tire tracks and dig some wagon-wheel ruts.

  8. Ryan says:

    Tangentally – On the cast commentary of Fellowship of the Ring, Sean Bean mentions that most of the crew would take a helicopter all the way to the spot for filming Mt. Caradhras. Sean, however, would always ask the pilot to stop a ways out and he would walk the last few miles in all his gear.

  9. Woerlan says:

    All of the houses are real. Externally. Inside is a different matter. But that’s not the point. They built everything, and afterward, they had to return everything the way they found it. The amount of work they had to do to maintain environmental standards, just for a minute or so of usable footage, is a testament to the excellence of this film.

  10. Dave says:

    It makes me think the same thing as the wide shots of Minas Tirith: where are the farms? What do these people eat?

  11. Jaquandor says:

    That IS amazing — as is the fact that they built The Shire a year in advance of the filming there, just so it would look weathered.

  12. Telas says:

    IIRC, they built the hall, took the shots in a couple of days, then had to tear it down almost immediately. Something to do with the weather or a deadline…

    Related: Hobbiton was built months in advance, and extras were paid to “live” there so it looked “lived-in”.

    Also related: The scenes at Helm’s Deep were an absolute nightmare to film. They filmed at night over the course of 3-4 rainy days, and the haggard look of the actors is not makeup. Apparently Viggo really took charge and kept the actors and extras (NZ soldiers, IIRC) motivated through the filming.

    This is all in the commentary tracks, so its veracity may not be entirely accurate.

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