Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Set Visit Reports and Factoids

It seems the press moratorium has been lifted on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey as several media websites have posted reports on their visit to the set of the movie this past June, along with interviews with Sir Peter Jackson, Sir Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, and Richard Armitage. Based on similiar information popping up in both sites, I think the interviews were done in a conferencing type environment and not one-on-one. Below are links to the reports found so far with a few noteworthy highlights.

Dark Horizons: Set Visit | Peter Jackson | Ian McKellen | Martin Freeman | Richard Armitage
Collider: Set Visit | Peter Jackson | Ian McKellen | Martin Freeman | Richard Armitage | Richard Taylor (VFX)

- By using the Lord of the Rings Appendices, Jackson hopes to add more detail to back story and avoid arbitary actions. "Things shouldn't be arbitrary in movies," says Jackson. "I always get frustrated if suddenly something happens and it has no particular reason for happening."

- An example is explaining why Gandalf chose Bilbo to begin with (him a more adventurous child Bilbo), something not explained in The Hobbit novel.

- Weta created 8000 digital paintings as concept art for film (LOTR trilogy only had 500) with 350 in the art department to create the look of Middle-Earth for the film. Example extends to previous locations like Rivendell which has a "brighter, richer look" than in Fellowship of the Ring.

- Due to 3D cameras and 48 frames-per-second filming, the sets and props were often made of real material (ex: glass instead of plastic) with greater detail as fake would more likely show. Also sets had to have an "almost psychedelically vibrant" colors so could be later toned down to something more natural.

- While Gandalf's costume remains almost the same, the dwarves were designed to create "iconic silhouettes" while dressing them in ways to reflect their classes and backgrounds.

- Dwarf costumes custom made around foam fat suits with water cooled vests.

- 800 weapons created just for the 13 dwarves to meet different filming needs so have soft weapons (for stunts, hero weapons (basically real), cut off weapons (visual effects, etc) and so forth.

- Each dwarf has six wigs and 8 beards that cost around $10000 each to make (aka $140000 per dwarf). The Galadriel, Frodo and other Elven wigs were brought out of storage from The Lord of the Rings.

- Make-up basically had to be done from scratch each day using flat gel that looks like skin. Kili took 30 minutes while Bombur took longest at 105 minutes. The skin color also had to almost appear sunburned because of the 48FPS cameras were making them yellow in color. The sun burn looked with the de-"redding" from the cameras results in a natural look in final film.

- Slip on silicone legs, arms and hands made it much easier to put on the Hobbit feet and whatever else a Middle-Earth character needed.

- Around 800 Elven ears made for the film.

- Due to 3D camera, the force perspective trick used in The Hobbit was no longer an option. To get the different sized characters played by actors of not so varied heights to look "right", a new technique called "Slave-Mo-Co" (slave motion camera) was used.

- Slave-Mo-Co has two sets. The real one and a small green screen one. The green screen cameras are "slaved" to the regular set ones so that a very tall Gandalf can be transposed into the seen next to the "smaller" Hobbits. McKellen would act to poles and a sound piece in his ear and vice versa on the other set.

- McKellen hated the experience so used as little as possible, "I think because my reaction was so strong to it, it was very difficult and bewildering, Peter has managed to cut down the number of times we've done that since."

- Jackson: "I think people in the Tolkien world have rationalized it as the ring doesn't really gain its power until Sauron comes back and actively starts to look for it … We're taking that approach. But we are very gradually building up the effects of the ring within the movie. So the first time he puts it on it is simply a magic ring, but each time he puts it on the effect of it gets to him [Bilbo] a bit more. He's in a shadow world, but not quite the nightmarish one that was in Lord Of The Rings."

- McKellen: "When Gandalf leaves the dwarves to get on with their job, you get to discover why he is supporting them. That involves an overview of Middle Earth, which Wizards and High Elves get involved with. So I think that will lead on very well, out of the story of 'The Lord of the Rings', because it's quite clear that Middle Earth is at stake."

- Freeman: "It has gone from horrendous to okay, because the RED cameras and the 48 frames and the 3D and all that … they would break down quite a lot. It would seem to be like once every hour, and that was genuinely difficult and was happening in the early parts of the shooting."

- Freeman on "Slave-Mo-Co": "What was good about it actually, was that it meant you rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed to billy-o, like you were doing a play actually. It was getting so precise, with Ian as Gandalf in another room looking at twelve tennis balls with our pictures on, and us looking at fourteen different bits of tape in the room for where he would be. It's a really magnificent achievement. I've seen that scene cut together, not even finished, you can't see the join. You just can't see the join."

- Richard Armitage at 6'2", had to wear lifts so would be taller then the other dwarves despite being "shrunken" to a 5'2" height for screen version.

- Armitage on Thorin: "I think he's thinking less about the gold and more about his people and his own personal agenda with his grandfather, his father, and his nemesis Azog who slaughtered his grandfather … I think the burden of taking his people back to their homeland, which is so massive, makes him a lonely figure."

- Armitage: "I think we did something the other day on a rig where I was in the mouth of a Warg, being shaken around. Pete always wants to push it further, so it got to the point where I was being severely shaken around, but you watch playback and it looks fantastic, so you think, 'Okay, get me back in there and do it again. Shake me harder'"

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