Weta Digital’s Sr. Visual Effects Supervisor Joe Letteri Talks THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG, MAN OF STEEL, DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, More

     December 13, 2013


About a year ago I landed an extended video interview with Weta Digital’s Sr. Visual Effects Supervisor Joe Letteri for Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  During our wide ranging conversation we talked about everything from how performance capture technology has reached a new level in terms of integrating CG characters into live-action filming, to how they didn’t use miniatures on The Hobbit, and so much more.  With the second installment in the trilogy (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) now in theaters, a few days ago I landed a new video interview with Letteri here in Los Angeles.   He talked about the technical advancements they made to create Smaug, how they decided to visualize Smaug’s speech, the time required to render visual effects like the billion coins in Smaug’s vault, just how many people worked on the film, the Desolation of Smaug extended edition, and so much more.

In addition, with Weta working on other projects, we talked about Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel (Weta did the incredible opening on Krypton), whether Weta will be doing some of the effects on Batman vs. Superman, the Tintin sequel, Matt Reeves’ Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, what it will take for motion capture to be recognized as a legitimate art form, and more.  Hit the jump to watch.

the-hobbit-poster-martin-freeman-1Joe Letteri:

  • Talk about positive reception to the first movie.
  • 0:45 – Explains the technical advancements they made to create Smaug.
  • 2:00 – How they decided to visualize Smaug’s speech.
  • 2:50 – Leterri and the visual effects team would present a few versions of different work to Jackson.
  • 3:30 – Describes the long development process and converting two films into three.
  • 5:30 – A team of 1000 people worked for a year on this movie.  They train as many New Zealanders as they can and bring in people from around the world.
  • 6:30 – Talk about the time required to rendering visual effects like the billion coins in Smaug’s vault.
  • 7:40 – Confirms there is an extended version in the works that is being planned out right now.
  • 9:00 – Can’t tease the third movie too much yet, but says it was a blast to see it being filmed.
  • 9:40 – Leterri worked on the opening of Man of Steel on Krypton.  Says Zack Snyder is very specific about design.  Says he’s had talks about working on Batman vs. Superman.
  • dawn-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-poster11:40 – Has no update on a Tintin sequel.
  • 12:20 – Talks Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.  Says there is more focus on the apes in the sequel, so they are working on the details of animating the apes’ physicality and expression.
  • 14:00 – What it’s like to collaborate with Apes director Matt Reeves, who has a good sense for the story and the characters.
  • 15:00 – Has several projects in the works at the same time, “overlapping in a steady way” to transition from one project to the next.
  • 15:40 – Predicts technology advancements that he expects in the field.
  • 17:30 – Talks about the last sequence he worked on for Desolation of Smaug.
  • 18:20 – Describes how he approaches the big technical challenges.  The river simulations and gold coin simulations were tricky because of so much detail.
  • 19:40 – What it will take for motion capture to be recognized as a legitimate art form.


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