September 22, 2022 By Vaseline

The Rings of Power title sequence contains secrets about the show

The opening for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Prime Video’s original series, is one of the most visually striking title sequences to premiere on television this year. Over the course of 90 seconds, a series of thin veins of granite, pebble and secretion morph and flow across the screen into a latticework of intricate symbols inspired by JRR Tolkien’s writings, merging into a sequence that feels simultaneously ancient and timeless Execution.

The sequence, co-directed by Katrina Crawford and Mark Bashore of Seattle film studio Plains of Yonder, was one of five ideas her team pitched to showrunners.

“It was directly connected to the Tolkien universe, with sound and music being fundamental to its world,” Bashore said in an interview with Polygon. “One of the first things we said when we showed the showrunners some images was, ‘What if we did a title sequence built from the world of audio?'”

To achieve this, Crawford, Bashore and their team drew inspiration from cymatics, the study of sound wave phenomena and their visual representation. Shaped by the scientist Dr. Hans Jenny in the 20th century, the most common and well-known iteration of cymatics is the Chladni plate, a device invented by the German physicist Ernst Chladni in the 18th century to visualize vibrational modes.

“The concept [of cymatics] was really popular,” Bashore told Polygon. “But of course early on we had several moments of panic trying to figure out how to do it. So we started at the kitchen table. Katrina built this really simple scientific rig out of cheap parts and an iPhone, and we would put sand on that rig and play different sounds over it. Gregorian chants, angel music, rock and roll – you name it. And the sand moved according to the sound. As we watched the footage, we knew we were on to something.”

The opening title sequence took a total of seven months from initial proposal to final editing. The result is a combination of live-action photography and CG animation with an emphasis on mimicking the imperfection inherent in cymatics itself.

“True cymatics is kind of frenetic, kind of lively and looks almost wild. And we [were] I always mix and match those,” Bashore told Polygon. “Even on the most CG-heavy shots, we pushed to reinsert more of that erroneous, wild motion.”

Close up of lines of sand forming into the trunk and branches of a tree.

Image: Plains of Yonder/Amazon Studios

A long shot of two symmetrical, horizontal trees side by side.

Image: Plains of Yonder/Amazon Studios

Crawford cited a lyric from Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem” – “There is a crack, a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in” – as further inspiration for the opening title sequence. “We love this quote and it fits both what we wanted from the sequence and the creation myth of Middle-earth. It almost feels like a restatement of Tolkien. There’s this dissonance built into the music that exists alongside the harmony. That’s how you build things; There are these different sides and this duality brings beauty. We loved that.”

Of course, every memorable title sequence is inseparable from its score; this is especially true for one designed to visualize the sound itself. Unlike the series whose score was composed by God of War Composer Bear McCreary, the title theme of The Rings of Power was written by Howard Shore, best known for his work on Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Aside from Shore’s score and the concept of cymatics, the visual elements are for The Rings of PowerThe opening sequences are heavily infused with the lore of Tolkien’s universe, with Crawford directly citing the godlike Ainur as an influence bridging the gap between the sequence’s real-world inspiration and the world of the series. “If you read the origin story, Tolkien writes very clearly that you have Eru Ilúvatar, that godlike father who created the Ainur and tells them to take their powers and bring their own kind of personality and things into the universe. They build and harmonize and weave the universe together through song. So that sense of awe and wonder is really cool and really inspired us to think about how we could represent that in the sequence.”

A wide shot of concentric, rippling circles formed out of sand and dust.

Image: Plains of Yonder/Amazon Studios

A closeup of a sand that bends and forms into circular patterns.

Image: Plains of Yonder/Amazon Studios

The concept of resonance came up accidentally in the second episode of the series when the dwarf princess Disa was talking to Elrond about the dwarven ability to summon meaning from “songs” sung by the mountains of Khazad-dûm. These parallels, as uncanny as they are, were not planned.

“It was just a happy coincidence; We didn’t see anything when creating the sequence,” Crawford told Polygon. “We haven’t seen any scripts, nothing. We based all of our ideas mostly on Tolkien’s writing itself.”

Crawford sees parallels between the title sequence and the beginning of Episode 4, “The Great Wave”, in which the regent of the Númenórean Queen Míriel dreams of the destruction of her homeland. “This whole scene about transitions and impermanence ties directly into the theme of our sequence and the theme of Tolkien’s writing. We form something and then it’s immediately crushed, and it may have taken eons for something to form, but there’s always a bend in the universe. Something may be ‘forever’, but it doesn’t last forever.”

Anticipation for every aspect of the show, including the title sequence, peaked in the days leading up to the premiere The Rings of Power. So much so that a montage of the series’ characters, taken from an Entertainment Weekly cover story, was mistaken for the opening and went viral.

“Someone sent this to us when it kind of caught fire and became this big humorous thing,” Bashore told Polygon. “And it’s hilarious. The best I saw was someone describing it as going through downtown Portland at 11pm. If they ever do a Lord of the Rings comedy series, that would be an excellent lead.”

Ultimately, Crawford and Bashore are relieved and delighted to receive the actual title opener. “We finished this thing quite a while ago because it has to be translated into over 60 languages ​​and so on,” Bashore told Polygon. “So it feels good to finally have it out there.”

Ultimately, Crawford and Bashore are most proud of having created an abstract and artful opening for such a high-profile television series, especially one with such a rich and established history as The Lord of the Rings.

“We try to be very respectful of the fact that the audience can click the ‘skip intro’ button. We want to respect that existing intelligence and knowledge when it comes to a show like this,” Crawford says. “There are people who come to this show not knowing anything about Tolkien, and there are people who come to the show who are professors of Tolkien’s world. Do you feel a sense of epic timeliness as you watch the sequence? Are you ready when the show actually starts? If that works, then we’ve done our job.”