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[Movies] Visual Effect Supervisor Talks The Hobbit
Posted by Joseph Lee on 12.12.2012

In an interview with Coming Soon, visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri talked about working on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

His film credits include The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, King Kong, Avatar and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Here are highlights:

On the challenges of working on The Hobbit: "It was both. We had a lot of techniques going that we always keep progressing forward, new advancements in how you do eyes, how you make skin look like skin, hair, cloth, how you build a mountain, how you build a tree, all those things that have now just become part of the toolkit that we need because we obviously could be asked to create anything. Having said that, there's still a lot of work that goes into making this. You take a scene like the goblin cavern and you have to build this big three-dimensional landscape and anchor it with places people can walk around in and do all this action it's not that much different than building a live action set. Even if you have the tools to do it, it's still not the push of a button. There's still a lot that has to be crafted by hand and all put into position and lit and choreographed to make it all work. It's a bit of both, but we knew going into it that we wanted it to be big. We wanted it to be like we were returning to Middle-earth in the best possible way."

On if the software was capable of doing 48 frames per second: "It wasn't two years ago but by the time we started, we made sure that it was. We talked with everyone that needed to be involved, both for in-house software and anything we were working with externally, like talking to Foundry, to let everyone know this was coming, just like we did with stereo when we did "Avatar." When we started rigging everything up, we just started prototyping it and showing them what we did and we got them to add that into the released versions of the software, so the same thing happened here. Again, we were ready to go when the production started."

On the evolution of motion-capture: " I think the evolution as far as the motion capture was sort of what described it, taking us all the way back to the digital out of it in a way and you just went back to the live action but you still couldn't be thinking about doing those two slave camera systems I think without having gone through the whole experience of doing it digitally. Not that it couldn't be done and not that you couldn't think about it, because I know people have talked about experimenting with this idea before, but I think the practical production experience we gained of going through this step by step on these different films made it tractable to just say, "Okay, this is not really a huge leap from what we did last time, this is just the next step." So there was less fear involved for everybody to take that on board and try to shoot the film that way."

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens in 2D, 3D and 3D IMAX theaters on Friday, December 14.


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