the vfx show #160: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Mike Seymour, Mark Christiansen and Jason Diamond return from Middle Earth to discuss the visual effects in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Show Notes:

Director: Peter Jackson
Cinematographer: Andrew Lesnie
VFX Supervisors and Companies:
Joe Letteri -- Senior visual effects supervisor -- Weta Digital
Eric Saindon -- Visual effects supervisor -- Weta Digital
Chris White -- Visual effects supervisor -- Weta Digital
Dave Clayton -- Animation supervisor -- Weta Digital

Brainstorm (1993)

Peter Jackson, 'The Hobbit' Director, On Returning To Middle-Earth & The Polarizing 48 FPS Format

Human saccadic eye movements

Stu Maschwitz: Me on 24p and Movies at High Frame Rates


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  • Stephan Garbin

    “Out of the frying pan – into the fire” IS in the book, title of chapter 6 even.

  • Hey thanks for the heads up – I should have known that – LOVE that you did !

    Mike

    • Stephan Garbin

      Hey Mike,
      You’re welcome 🙂 . Great podcast as usual and fantastic coverage of the work on the hobbit here on fxguide. Love you guys!

      PS: Really appreciate you’re differentiated opinion on the HFR. I’m 21 and only minded it the in the first few shots in Bag End where seemed like Bilbo was walking strangely (sped-up / jerky). However I saw the 24 FPS projection first and thought exactly that same about those few shots (as did my brother). After that it was absolutely spectacular.
      I think the majority of people just say ‘It looks like TV’ because they noticed something different, couldn’t described it and so used the view that was spread in the press after the first screening – pity because as you said it implies ‘bad’ quality.

      • kate

        obviously what a movie looks like varies due to how the projectors are but..
        I wanted to like HDR 3D but it didn’t work –
        The problem I think is like jumping from chemicals to digital – suddenly stuff that used to work doesn’t
        the 3D issues reminded me of the first 3D movies – distinct layers, very crisp, everything felt way over bright
        It was really obvious what was computer effect and what wasn’t, slightly less so for minitures
        annoyingly HDR seems to have kicked everything back into the uncanny valley
        I am absolutely certain it will get better, much more subtle, when i saw promethius I saw a film that really understood how to use Z space subtley.
        maybe if the HDR was at 72 frames it would be better – but for me it needed much better grading, and the compingg looked terrible as the distinct levels on Z scale which detracted from the film for me

        • Stephan Garbin

          Hey kate,

          first of all, we are not discussing HDR (High Dynamic Range) but HFR. I have absolutely no idea what issues you are referring to with the 3D as it is EXACTLY the same as the 3D technology used previously;in fact there is a technical argument for improved quality with a 48FPS projection because it reduces motion blur and other artefacts that are more visible in 3D than 2D by virtues of its higher temporal sampling rate. In The Hobbit this is distinctly visible in the fast-moving camera moves, especially in the prologue. Its worth noting that HFR has got absolutely nothing to do with brightness. Also, 3D naturally presupposed variations in depth – in any regard that is up to the Stereographer / Cinematographer. What exactly are ‘distinct levels’ supposed to be?
          As regards your comments of making the effects stand out: There were no miniatures used in this film at all, so you are obviously seeing what you want to see. I also think that being able to notice every single effect it is an absurd claim to make: Compositing in the bag end shots at the beginning is for example totally unnoticeable. I also highly doubt you would be able to tell exactly what was CG in every shot. It think this claim originates from the fact that The Hobbit has a lot of VFX in general.

          How do you imagine HFR “will get more subtle”? There isn’t really any room to play around with as with 3D – It is not an artistic thing in that sense. Your ‘solution’ of jumping to an even higher framerate is illogical considering the rest of your post – would that not even increase the supposed problems you mention?

          • Stephan Garbin

            sorry for the typos guys 😀

      • kate

        on the looks like TV issue

        its looks like compositing on BBC TV shows of the 1970’s and 80’s 0 – really hard lines that made me feel like I was watching something shot on screen then composited in at the last minute.
        When I took my glasses off despit ebing more fuzzy it looked a lot better

        • Stephan Garbin

          This is ridiculous. A 3D projection is unwatcheable without the glasses… that it is supposed to improve compositing to take them off makes NO sense.
          As for compositing I would like to refer you to the bag end shots again and generally point out that the compositing is fantastic throughout the whole movie. Maybe you should check out the VES award nominations for this year; you’ll find The Hobbit is nominated for ‘Outstanding Compositing’ amongst other things…. [http://www.visualeffectssociety.com/11th-Annual-VES-Awards-Nominees].

          PS: I don’t see ANY connection between compositing in the 70’s / 80’s, “hard lines” and the Hobbit…

  • Jason Levy

    I just watch The Hobbit for the first time which was on 2D blu-ray and agree with Mikes assessment of the rolling whites in the exterior shots of the movie. In the podcast, I was disappointed that no one mentioned the jarring compositing of Radagast riding his sled of bunnies against the background of the open field. It was by far the worst composite I noticed in the movie. Lastly, I also felt that many of the instances of the digital doubles’ animation seemed too rubbery.

    Here are two screen grabs from the scene mentioned with Radagast
    http://screencapped.net/movie/lotr/albums/hobbit1/thehobbit-007469.jpg
    http://screencapped.net/movie/lotr/albums/hobbit1/thehobbit-007534.jpg