It's likely an impossibility that any miniature aficionado overlooked the arrival of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings film trilogy. The effort put into the films by Jackson's Weta Workshop is astounding in every aspect, but the effect is lost on many moviegoers who are so immersed in the world of Middle Earth that they are unaware of the fact that much of what they see does not exist in the way they see it. Much has been made of Weta's use of digital effects in creating the effects for the film. Many assume that everything they see is composed of computer creations, but this is not the case.
Luckily, the interest in this film has been so pronounced that the special edition DVDs include many hours of extra features, including details on how the special effects were created. Each of the three films has a segment outlining the creation and filming of the miniatures used for that film and the depth of the coverage goes much deeper than you usually see in DVD special features. The segments outlining the miniature work actually coins a new word to describe the work done by Weta - "bigatures." When you see the scale of some of the miniatures created for the films, you'll understand just how apropos that word is. Whether creating a forest city filled with tree houses, a tower for the evil wizard or a city built into the side of a mountain, the miniature artists excel at using detail to bring their miniatures to life.
In some cases, unusual building techniques are employed. The Tower of Isengard, for example, was imagined as being built of carved black obsidian. To get this effect in miniature, the team utilized carved wax, which on screen has the exact effect they desired. In addition to examining building techniques, a good deal of attention is focused on how the miniatures were shot and composited with live-action elements to achieve a seamless imaginary world.
Although the special edition DVDs of the films have great behind-the-scenes footage, they also feature extended editions of the films themselves, adding a great deal of additional story to be amazed with. Each extended movie spans two DVDs and each film's special features two additional discs. If you enjoy special effects in general, beyond an interest in miniatures, this is an excellent set of movies to turn to. There are hours of behind-the-scenes info, enough to keep you interested for a long, long time.
Although Weta is best known for the Lord of the Rings films, they have produced effects for numerous films. Their Web site has a section detailing miniatures they have constructed, along with a photo gallery of some of their best work. The link below will take you directly to the miniatures section.