Gollum is real. So is Shelob. And Middle-earth did exist - just a long, long time ago. At least that's what Weta Digital, the visual effects house behind The Lord of the Rings trilogy, wants you to believe. Its mantra for the final installment: photorealism. The Return of the King, which opens in theaters December 17, will feature almost 50 percent more f/x shots than The Two Towers and will be composed of more data than the first two movies combined. Churning out scenes like the destruction of Barad-dûr and the Battle of Pelennor Fields (with thousands of bloodthirsty CG Orcs) took 3,200 processors running at teraflop speeds through 10-gig pipes. Wired has all the details.
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WETA BY THE NUMBERS
HUMANPOWER IT staff: 35 Visual f/x staff: 420
HARDWARE Equipment rooms: 5 Desktop computers: 600 Servers in renderwall: 1,600 Processors (total): 3,200 Processors added 10 weeks before movie wrapped: 1,000 Time it took to get additional processors up and running: 2 weeks Network switches: 10 Speed of network: 10 gigabits (100 times faster than most) Temperature of equipment rooms: 76 degrees Fahrenheit Weight of air conditioners needed to maintain that temperature: 1/2 ton
STORAGE Disk: 60 terabytes Near online: 72 terabytes Digital backup tape: 0.5 petabyte (equal to 50,000 DVDs)
OUTPUT Number of f/x shots: 1,400 Minimum number of frames per shot: 240 Average time to render one frame: 2 hours Longest time: 2 days Total screen time of f/x shots: 2 hours Total length of film: Rumored to be 3.5 hours Production time: 9 months