Weta Digital’s Sr. Visual Effects Supervisor Joe Letteri Talks THE HOBBIT, How They Didn’t Use Miniatures, Creating Worlds Digitally, and the Next 2 Movies

by     Posted 1 year, 313 days ago

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At the recent New York City press day for Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I was able to land an extended video interview with Weta Digital’s Sr. Visual Effects Supervisor Joe Letteri.  During our wide ranging conversation we discussed turning The Hobbit into three films, how performance capture technology has reached a new level in terms of integrating CG characters into live-action filming and creating worlds digitally, the process of creating an effects-heavy scene, his thoughts on tweaking previous movies effects, how much have they worked on the dragon Smaug, how they didn’t use Miniatures on The Hobbit, and more.  In addition, when discussing the next two Hobbit films (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and The Hobbit: There and Back Again), Letteri  said the biggest task left is to stage the Battle of the Five Armies.  In the book, it’s mostly about the dialogue but they are going to make it a big action scene.  He also compared the Battle of the Five Armies to the Battle of Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers.

Hit the jump to watch.  And if you missed Letteri talking about Weta’s work for Man of Steel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Wolverine, Iron Man 3, and the Avatar sequels., click here.

Joe-Letteri-Weta-DigitalJoe Letteri Time Index:

  • Talks about unveiling The Hobbit for the fans and turning one book into three movies.
  • 1:00 – Likes that performance capture technology has reached a new level in terms of integrating CG characters into live-action filming and creating worlds digitally.
  • 3:15 – Walks us through the process of an effects-heavy scene, from the idea in the script to the finished product.  Uses the troll scene as an example, which developed over 18 months.
  • 5:20 – Letteri thinks the movies exist as a part of their time, and doesn’t want to go back in and tweak the effects.  But he understands why Lucas “modernizes” the early Star Wars movies because the effects were created in a pre-digital age.  The Lord of the Rings movies were created with digital effects, so they should hold up better on Blu-ray.
  • 8:20 –  Production was already underway when the third Hobbit movie was announced, so Letteri and his team pushed back some of what they had been working on and should be right on track for the next two movies.
  • 9:20 – So far they have only worked a bit on the dragon Smaug, based on the demands of the movies.  Smaug will come into the forefront more over the next two movies.
  • 10:40 – The biggest task left is to stage the Battle of the Five Armies.  In the book, it’s mostly about the dialogue.  On screen, they are going to make it a big action scene.
  • 12:20 – Compares the Battle of Helm’s Deep to the Battle of the Five Armies.
  • 12:50 – The most difficult scene to design in The Hobbit was the goblin caverns.  “There is no traditional floor plane.  There’s no horizon line.  Everything exists in three dimensional space.”
  • 13:50 – They decided to not use miniatures mostly because of the stereo.  Using miniatures locks in the perspective, but creating everything digitally allowed more camera freedom.

Peruse all our recent coverage of The Hobbit below:

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