Trevor Hogg chats with Matt Aitken about a shape-shifter, Elves who live underground, and the awakening of a dragon named Smaug....
“We grew fast at the beginning of Weta Digital and by that stage there wasn’t the expertise within the country to grow the company as fast as we had to,” explains Weta Digital Visual Effects Supervisor Matt Aitken who was one of the native New Zealanders working for the company during the production of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. “But since the time of Rings we have been actively working recruiting local graduates. We have our own in-house training program and the percentage of the crew that is Kiwi is growing all of the time.” The opportunity to pursue visual effects as a career enabled the Oscar nominee to merge his different interests. “I pursued Mathematics as my first degree and have always been interested in technology and early computer programming when I was in high school. At the same time I was making movies in my spare time, and studied Fine Arts in high school and Art History in college. Computer Graphics for film brought everything together for me in way that was incredibly exciting; I’ve found that to be grounding. The last piece of production code I wrote was the foliage system for the Ent characters in the second Lord of the Rings  film. I’ve moved on but that knowledge informs everything we do here day-to-day. For all of the artistry that we do here there is a technological input into it. I find it incredibly useful.” Aitken worked as a Digital Model Supervisor for the initial visit to Middle-earth by filmmaker Peter Jackson (Heavenly Creatures). “I remember a watershed moment for us was Dwarrowdelf and the environment around Balin’s tomb which was inside the mountain for the first Lord of the Rings film; it was the first entirely digital environment that we had created for a film.”
Production stills © 2013 New Line Productions, Inc. Courtesy of New Line Productions.
Many thanks to Matt Aitken for taking the time for this interview.
To learn more make sure to visit the official websites for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and Weta Digital as well read our filmmaker profile on Peter Jackson.
Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada.