Watch Benedict Cumberbatch Don a Mocap Suit in a Behind-the-Scenes Featurette for THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG

     February 21, 2014


Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is due out on Blu-ray on April 8th, but you can get a sneak peek behind the scenes of the film with a look at a new featurette.  Featuring Benedict Cumberbatch in a mocap suit, this look at Weta’s movie magic shows Cumberbatch’s contributions to bringing Smaug to life.  While it’s certainly entertaining watching the actor writhe around in his goofy-looking suit, the real wonder is reserved for the attention to detail that went into every digital inch of the legendary dragon.  Hit the jump to watch the featurette.

hobbit-desolation-of-smaug-martin-freemanCheck out Cumberbatch in his mocap suit for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (via THR).  Here’s what David Clayton of Smaug’s Oscar-nominated VFX team from Weta Digital had to say about recording the performance:

“Using our motion capture stage, we recorded his performances, which focused on the conversation with Bilbo sequence. Having Benedict in a mocap suit was lots of fun — for us, and hopefully for him too — and seemed to help get him immersed and hone in on the character.

“The translation of performance from Benedict to Smaug wasn’t a one-to-one match like you’d get from a humanoid creature. They have very different physiologies,” Clayton explained. “As animators we had to transpose the elements of Benedict’s performance that were critical to the shot, such as head nuances and facial expressions. We then built up the majority of his motion with keyframe animation (meaning that it was animated by hand).

“Smaug needed a formidable presence, so we worked hard to craft impressive poses for his massive body, wings and tail. He also covered a full range of moods — from supreme arrogance to paranoid suspicion, from curiosity to violent rage. Adding to his versatility as a character was the creation of his hands. We achieved this by adding a thumb and extra forefingers to Smaug’s wings.”

  • Steven

    Fucking epic.

    • Nomis1700



    So much detail! I’m impressed it’s STUPENDOUS!

  • Tyler

    I was half-expecting him to rise up out if the treasure and say “Hello John.” Bet this will be a good movie.

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  • TrekBeatTK

    I really kind of hate that they mo-capped Smaug. As is mentioned, it’s very different translating humanoid movement to a non-humanoid character, and as far as I’m concerned they went too far. In what way? It was the mo-capping (and probably Cumberbatch’s use of his arms) that led to changing Smaug from a four-limbed (or six-limbed) dragon, to the clawed-wing “wyvern” design. Why does it matter? Because Tolkien drew him with four legs. He appears on the map with four legs. He appeared in Unexpected Journey with four legs. Heck he appears on the DOS poster with four legs. It just ticks me off.

    And I know that Rankin/Bass did the same thing, and I otherwise LOVE that Smaug, but here I feel like they went too far with it.

    • The Flobbit

      I disagree. In fact, absolutely none of Benedict’s mo-cap was used in the final film. He just did it to get into the character. The final Smaug was excellent, terrifying, and memorable.

      Secondly, it just makes sense that Smaug was the wyvern style. The fell beasts were wyvern-style. Every animal that Smaug could have been based on: dinosaurs, crocodiles, birds, bats, etc, ALL have four limbs, not 6.

      • TrekBeatTK

        Smaug is a creature of fantasy imagination. Tolkien imagined him with 6 limbs. To argue against the creator and say “but that’s not REAL” is foolish in a world of magic rings, and spiders who couldn’t possibly exist at that size.

        And while the actual mo-cap may have featured very little in the final animation of Smaug (as it was mostly done key frame), it’s erroneous to say it had no effect. The visual effects team has stated that they went back and redesigned Smaug specifically after watching Cumberbatch.

        There’s really no reason they couldn’t have given him smaller, short forelimbs so he can crawl on his belly like an alligator.
        For me, the final Smaug ended up being just one more dragon who looked a lot like all the other dragons we’ve seen in recent fantasy movies.

      • The Flobbit

        Tolkien imagined him with 6 limbs, but this is a FILM adapted from Tolkien’s novels by a DIRECTOR who has creative license over the material to change WHATSOEVER HE CHOOSES. Therefore, Smaug must be judged on his own merits, and not on the merits of Tolkien’s vision.

        Secondly, none of the Mo-cap was used in the film. Benedict did it to get into character, and yes, it may have influenced the visuals, but on the whole I doubt it’s impact was that great.

        Crawl on his belly? Rather than writhe and fly and lash like he does in the film? You have to understand that a dragon with legs like that would never have worked in the film. It would be too much to animate – too much to make look perfect.

        For me, Smaug ended up the highlight of the film, the most astounding CGI animal I’ve ever seen, the greatest dragon to ever grace the screen, and a terrifying presence.

        Name one dragon better than Smaug in a film. Saphira from Eragon? Draco from Dragonheart? Please…! Anyways, you have valid points. I just…don’t agree with them.

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  • Flash

    Mr. Sherlock did a wonderful job.

  • Marineboy

    Great physical acting – from the best drama school in London : L.A.M.D.A!

  • Joe M.

    Photo Real my ass. Smaug (and a lot of other stuff; like the gold statue) looked CG’d to death and fake/video game-ish as hell.

    • The Dude Abides

      Yea it totally looked NOTHING like a real dragon. How has WETA even won awards? Bunch of amateurs if you ask me…

  • Norrtron

    Off topic, but why did Disqus take away the downvote counter? Did too many peoples feelings get hurt?

    • The Flobbit

      It’s absolutely stupid. I hate Disqus!

  • tarek

    Wasn’t impressed by the dragon. He looked harmless.

    • The Flobbit

      Dragon looked and felt terrifying.

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