The Sound Design of 'The Lord of the Rings'

Turns out understanding how they designed the screams of the Nazgûl only makes them creepier.

Lord of the Rings Sound Design
Warner Bros.

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay about the sound design in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.


When I hear the phrase “behind the scenes,” I think of Peter Jackson‘s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The special features on those DVDs were what got me passionate about the filmmaking process. And, back then, one of the things that hadn’t occurred to me was the labor and creativity that goes into designing how films sound.

Pulling from the Blu-ray commentary tracks, the video below cobbles together the voices of various members of the sound design team (including David Farmer, Ethan Van Der Ryn, and the late Mike Hopkins. If you’re the kind of person who likes to peek behind the veil of movie magic, this feature-length highlight reel is an absolute treat.

My personal favorite breakdown is the story of how they designed the spine-tingling shrieks of the ringwraiths in the eleventh hour thanks to the terrifying vocal abilities of co-writer of the Lord of the Rings movies (and Jackson’s wife) Fran Walsh.

Given the compilation is, uh, long, I thought I’d take a page from Rob Hunter’s Commentary Commentary column and entice you with some amusing context-free selections:

  • “The team got all these bottlecaps together and put them onto two by fours and strapped them onto our feet…it was a great day.”
  • “For the fellbeast, from the beginning, I kinda knew that I wanted it to be a donkey.”
  • “Since we didn’t have sixty thousand skulls at our disposal…”
  • “Maybe we can have them playing a little jug band off-screen…an orc jug band.”

Feeling enticed? Of course you are! Press on then to the full video below.

Watch “MASSIVE sound design breakdown of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy“:

Who made this?

This video is by INDEPTH Sound Design, a YouTube channel that does, well, in-depth deconstructions of cinematic sound design. Mike James Gallagher runs the channel which aims to educate its audience on the philosophies and techniques of sound design. You can subscribe to them on YouTube here. And you can follow them on Twitter here.

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(Senior contributor)

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